Almost a year after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the three-day Munich Security Conference will be about how this war can be ended. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opens the meeting of government representatives and experts from almost 100 countries with a video address (from 1.30 p.m.). Afterwards, Ukraine’s two most important allies in the European Union will talk to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and French President Emmanuel Macron.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said right at the beginning of the conference that he still considered a victory for Ukraine in the war against Russia to be possible. “Yes, that’s why we support them,” he said when asked. The war may end at the negotiating table, but we know that what happens at the negotiating table is entirely dependent on strength on the battlefield.

“That’s why military support is currently the only way to guarantee a lasting and just peace,” he added. Russian President Vladimir Putin must understand that in negotiations he must accept that Ukraine will survive as a sovereign and independent nation.

Stoltenberg is therefore also pushing for further commitments to supply main battle tanks to Ukraine. “I have called on the Allies to do everything in their power to deliver modern weapons – including armored vehicles and main battle tanks,” said the Norwegian on Friday at the Munich Security Conference. He was responding to the question of what his message was to countries like Sweden, Denmark and Spain, which have not yet made a firm commitment to supply main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Who is there in Munich

A total of 40 heads of state and government and almost 100 ministers are expected at the world’s most important meeting of politicians and experts on the subject of security policy. The US delegation, led by Vice President Kamala Harris, is larger than ever with around 60 senators and members of the House of Representatives. But the boss himself is not there. US President Joe Biden, who has been in Munich very often in other functions in recent decades, will only come to Europe next week for a visit to Poland.

Many other NATO countries are also prominently represented. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also coming to Munich, as are Poland’s heads of state and government: President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

But the security conference is not just a western class reunion either. The appearance of a guest from the Far East is awaited with particularly great excitement: the top Chinese foreign politician, Wang Yi, will be speaking in Munich on Saturday.

Who is not allowed to be there

The Russian leadership is not invited for the first time since the 1990s. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has long been one of the regular guests. He was also invited last year, when 150,000 Russian soldiers had already deployed in the border area with Ukraine. Lavrov then canceled himself. Four days after the conference, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

This time Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin’s government is excluded from the outset. “It’s too bad for us to offer these war criminals in the Kremlin a stage for their propaganda at the Munich Security Conference,” explains conference leader Christoph Heusgen – a former foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).

Heusgen didn’t want Iran to be there either. “We also don’t want to offer a forum to a regime that so fundamentally violates basic human rights,” he says. Heusgen deviates from the idea of ​​his predecessors that Munich should offer a forum for dialogue even in extremely difficult times – also domestically. For the first time, not all parties represented in the Bundestag are invited to Munich. The AfD must stay outside.

What to expect in Ukraine

What is certain is that western Ukraine will again demonstratively back its fight against the Russian attackers. It will be about what further military support can look like. Who is ready to support Scholz’s tank alliance? Should fighter jets, warships and submarines also be supplied? Are there red lines? And if so: which ones?

Topic also: What chance does diplomacy currently have? So far, there are hardly any ideas for this. Ukraine sees the withdrawal of Russian troops as a prerequisite for negotiations. She is also referring to Crimea, which Russia took over in 2014. The West does not want to act over the heads of the Ukrainians. This limits the scope. Ideas like that of Brazilian President Lula to set up a “peace club” to mediate are not taken seriously by most.

What is on the sidelines of the official program

The security conference in the Hotel “Bayerischer Hof” is above all a huge contact exchange. What is discussed in the corridors, in the salons and back rooms of the luxury hotel is often more important than what is happening on the open stage.

Chancellor Scholz uses his stay in Munich, for example, for a whole series of talks on the sidelines of the conference. With French President Emmanuel Macron and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic he wants to talk about the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, with Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda to revive the so-called “Weimar Triangle” – a discussion format that has existed between the three countries for more than 30 years .

Scholz is also meeting with US Vice President Harris and Wang Yi today. One of the most exciting questions ahead of this conference is whether the Chinese Politburo member and Harris or US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet later. There is massive tension between China and the US over the launch of a Chinese balloon that was spotted over US territory.

Was Pistorius will

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius wants to make every effort to go beyond the target of two percent of gross domestic product for defense spending in the Federal Republic. “Of course, that will still have to be agreed in the coalition. But everyone must be clear: the tasks that lie ahead of us will not be able to be fulfilled with just under two percent,” said Pistorius. He led alliance and national defense as well as international missions. “All this will cost money and we all agree: each of us would rather spend more money on other things. But the reality is what it is.”

In Munich, he himself will first talk to the German armaments industry and representatives of Poland about ammunition and spare parts for the Leopard 2A4 main battle tank, which Warsaw is handing over to the Ukraine, according to the motto “first things first”.

Which doesn’t become an issue

The federal government once considered presenting a new national security strategy in Munich. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Scholz have not yet been able to reach an agreement. So the topic falls flat. Efforts to break the blockade on NATO’s northern expansion to include Finland and Sweden must also take place elsewhere: Turkey will not be represented by government figures due to the devastating earthquake.