In an ordinary year, not all that much happens at the annual Munich security conference. NATO defense ministers murmur earnest platitudes. Experts furrow their brows. But this is not an ordinary year.
This year, the normally staid audience laughed out loud at the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who seemed, at one point, to question the legality of German unification. Some of the room also applauded loudly when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor — just back from an apparently fruitless peace mission to Moscow — restated her view that “there is no military solution” to the conflict in Ukraine. But when Malcolm Rifkind, the former British foreign secretary, asked her how she would stop Russia without military force, another part of the audience applauded. Even watching online, the conundrum in the room was clear: Everyone agrees that the Russians were lying, and no one believes Russian promises of a cease-fire. But nobody agrees on what to do about it. Read on »