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NIAS Europe Monitor
Munich Security Report: Six takeaways 

  Padmashree Anandhan

The report covers various security challenges at societal, regional, and issue-based but forecasts only the impact on Europe and transatlantic countries.

On 14 February, the Munich Security report was released as a precursor to the annual Munich Security Conference. The report covered various issues from the rise of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, worsening security in Mali and the Sahel region, conflict in the Red Sea, the gap in supply chains, and the growing global inequality. As per the report: “There can be no doubt about it: 2021 could not in any way be characterized as a year of geopolitical optimism. New crises hit the headlines on a more-or-less monthly basis, contributing to the sensation that a growing wave of crises was threatening to overwhelm us.” Overall, the report highlights the “collective helplessness.” The stated issues have threatened the existence of liberal democracies and how the international community fails to address the challenges despite the availability of resources. 

The following six takeaways could be identified from the report.

First, the retreat of the US from Afghanistan. The withdrawal has resulted in the emergence of new challenges and a repeat of previous problems in Afghanistan. The political, social, and economic conditions have become uncertain, leading to the rise of humanitarian crises and civil liberties. The neighbouring countries and Europe face the after-effects, including the threat of terrorism, drug trafficking, and forced migration. The report draws three critical lessons from Afghanistan. One, despite the costly efforts of the US, peace has not been achieved, and the process of nation-building remains a complexity. Two, the rise of security challenges for Europe and transatlantic countries. Three, the geopolitical effects of intrusion and withdrawal from one country.
 
Second, the challenge of the international community in Mali and the Sahel. There has been increased involvement of international actors in Mali. However, the uncooperative government and the deployment of Russian mercenaries have stirred the fear of instability. To prevent the escalation of violence and terrorism in the Sahel, the report urges the external actors to invent new approaches to place security at the forefront, draft provisions for cooperation, human rights, better governance and the rule of law.
 
Third, the Red Sea as a conflict hotspot. The Red Sea region is the centre of global trade; with an increase in the engagement of regional and international actors, it has become the centre of the crisis. Developments in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Gulf and the rise of conflicts in Ethiopia and Yemen have questioned the West's capacity. In the fight against piracy, the West has been able to win, but the larger question of installing democracy and ensuring security in the extended Europe region is impossible. Conflict in the region and the inability of the West to involve deeply into the crisis shows that certain conflicts are out of reach.
 
Fourth, the crisis in eastern Europe. The report analyzed the stance of Russia, NATO and the EU in addressing the security threat. It established the Russian desire to bring back its lost superpower status in the post-cold-war period. Its target was to make the international powers recognize the Russian sphere of influence. Through this, it will result in setting off the European security order and drawing it last for an individual country to decide its security plan. This will break the EU shield and enable Russia to annex its lost territories. The report recommended to deal with the Russian aggression, opting for a “dual-track approach” would be beneficial as it combines both policies of strength and commitment to dialogue. The report concludes with the current situation by saying the threat seems to have increased and the possibility of aggression is more than ever.
 
Fifth, the vulnerability in supply chains. The nature of supply chains is complicated with various choke points and specialization. It is essential for any country as it sets the base for economy, security and technology. In COVID-19, the supply chains have become the spots for tussle and manipulation. With competition amongst the US, China, Europe, and other countries brimming, it has become a risky sector, as countries exploit its vulnerabilities. From observing the risk factor present in supply chains, the report suggests cooperation amongst high-performing economies to strengthen and make them more viable.
 
Sixth, the issue of global inequality. After the problem of supply chains, the increase in the income gaps amongst countries is another pandemic-induced challenge for the global community. The tier system explicitly shows the existence of income inequality and with the pandemic, it has only worsened human living conditions. When it comes to addressing global inequality, the international community fails, and this is aggravated to disturb societal peace and security. The pandemic exposed the income gaps as countries were forced to face the global threats of Covid-19 and climate change. The report warned that it is a huge challenge in controlling such threats at present of income disparity. With the continuity of the pandemic in such vulnerable countries and the inability of the developing countries to use low-carbon methods, such global threats will be a challenge for the rest of the world. Hence, meeting income inequality will be the first challenge to address this global threat. Finally, the report recommends reworking the SDG of goals, which involves “renewing domestic social contracts and initiating a global economic transformation toward sustainable and inclusive global growth. Getting back on track to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals would be the first important step.”
 

About the author
Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Assistant at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. Her areas of interest include Western Europe and Maritime Studies. 

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