Germany Munich Security Conference
US Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, shake hands prior to a bilateral meeting at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. The 59th Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, 2023 at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich. (Thomas Kienzle/Pool Photo via AP)

Munich Security Conference To Focus On War In Ukraine, Trump’s View Of NATO

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on February 16 is due to open the 60th Munich Security Conference at a critical time as the U.S. presidential election campaign heats up with a rematch between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden looking likely and with a major U.S. military aid package for Ukraine bogged down in the House of Representatives.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to address the conference on its opening day.

On February 17 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will make his first in-person appearance at the conference since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He addressed the 2023 conference virtually.

An estimated 50 world leaders are expected to attend the annual event that bills itself as the world’s leading forum for debating international security policy. The governments of Russia and Iran have not been invited.

It will be an encore for Harris, who spoke at the conference in 2022 and 2023, but the stakes are different this year. She faces the task of reassuring allies that Washington remains committed to defending their security after Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, questioned defending NATO allies who failed to spend enough on defense from a potential Russia invasion.

Harris plans to pledge that the United States will never retreat from its NATO obligations, and contrast Biden’s commitment to global engagement with Trump’s isolationist views, a White House official was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“The vice president will recommit to defeat the failed ideologies of isolationism, authoritarianism, and unilateralism…[and] denounce these approaches to foreign policy as short-sighted, dangerous, and destabilizing,” the official said.

Harris is expected to meet with Zelenskiy during the conference, according to the White House.

She will be joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who just completed a visit to Albania, where he reinforced what he called an “extraordinary partnership” between Washington and Tirana.

The U.S. vice president will also express confidence that the American people will continue to support the Biden administration’s approach to Ukraine.

Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on economic and military aid from its Western allies, has been facing a shortage of ammunition and military equipment on the battlefield and is now facing intense fighting for the eastern city of Avdiyivka.

Kyiv is also desperate for a replenishment of supplies of air defense systems to protect its civilians and infrastructure that are hit almost daily by Russian shelling and drone attacks.

Harris is certain to be asked about a $95.34 billion military aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan that the Senate, led by Democrats, approved on February 13 but that may never be put up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representative because of Trump’s opposition to it.

Israel’s war on Hamas — which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union — and the larger crisis threatening the Middle East are also sure to feature prominently during the conference.

Israel’s President Issac Herzog, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Jordan’s King Abdullah II are also attending the security forum.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

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