The Munich Security Conference is supposed to be an annual lofty gathering of global politicians, and military and intelligence experts. Theoretically, they discuss serious security matters under a cool professional eye in an informed setting.
Yet, in these times of doom and gloom, what the 54th conference yielded was another Russophobia show -- a direct connection to the "Russiagate" soap opera in Washington.
In fact, the 2018 Munich Security Report was entitled, To The Brink -- And Back? In it, the Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger did not mince his words. "The world has gotten closer -- much too close! -- to the brink of a significant conflict," he said.
That was not a particularly subtle code for Cold War 2.0, which could fast develop into a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. The report also singled out the doctrine of the United States President Donald Trump as the work of a "hostile revisionist power," attacking the "building blocks of [the] international order."
But then, when the talks began, ingrained perceptions took over with Russia as a lethal threat to NATO, and vice-versa.
A graphic illustration was supplied by Nicholas Burns, the former US Ambassador to NATO. "Will NATO strengthen itself to contain Russian power in Eastern Europe given what Russian has done illegally in Crimea, in the Donbass, and in Georgia?" he asked.
"I think the answer is positive. The NATO defense ministers have determined that they increase their findings. We have troops in Poland and three Baltic countries. I think NATO is unified. We have to continue the sanctions against Russia," he added.
Naturally, there was a reaction to this sort of rhetoric. Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Senate, put forward his country's case.
"The only approach that Russia thinks is right is that security is indivisible," Kosachev said. "It must be shared by everyone. Cooperation in the field of security should not be divided into blocks."
"NATO's continued existence provokes new threats, rather than overcoming them. This conference has always been anti-Russian. Unfortunately, they try to blame Russia for all the problems facing the West," Kosachev added.
There was certainly a long list of Russia-bashing statements, featuring the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and the US National Security Adviser General HR McMaster. Even the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, accused Russia and China of trying to "undermine" the European Union.
All that was left for the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to do was to stress that recent indictments, alleging that the Kremlin interfered in US politics, were evidence-free "blather." Indeed, Russiagate has been debunked, among others, by the distinguished investigative journalist Robert Parry on Consortiumnews.com.
NATO, of course, does nothing without Washington's approval. The much-hyped Russia-NATO showdown is quite an uneven affair. The 2017 Russian defense budget was around $70 billion, which is one-tenth of the US budget.
This year, NATO's Aegis Ashore System, which is capable of firing Tomahawk surface-to-surface intermediate-range cruise missiles, will be deployed in Poland. The EU country will also host Anaconda, the largest NATO military exercise since the end of the Cold War, featuring at least 100,000 troops.
Munich did nothing to appease Cold War 2.0 fears. In fact, it brought back distant memories of those long forgotten days of "Soviet Commies eating children for breakfast."
The appalling mediocrity of those intervening speaks for itself.
Munich also happened just as the International Institute for Strategic Studies released its Military Balance report, where once again Western security agencies show their disbelief regarding Russia and China's military advances.
And yet Munich did absolutely nothing to center the discussion on the frightening prospect of the latest Israel versus Iran crescendo degenerating almost by inertia into a Hot War. So, in the end, we had nothing remotely similar to "moving back from the brink."
Voltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher and writer, liked to quip that those who make you believe absurdities make you commit atrocities.
The collective failure of these security "experts" comes as the Eurasian century is increasingly taking shape -- deeper than transatlantic or transpacific moves. The numbers don't lie. While "experts" talk and demonize, the New Silk Roads are taking shape.
So, let Cold War 2.0 dissolve into what it should always have been -- an empty shell.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)