Last year, mere days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dozens of officials from Western nations met in Munich for a security conference in which they discussed the West’s appetite for intervening. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, attended in person and chastised the West for failing to deter Russian aggression over many years.
This year, as officials including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken convene for the event, they hope to show a resolute front against Moscow as the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion approaches.
But the war is expected to last at least another year, and the crowing about unity, while generally merited, will be tested. Few expect a sudden breakthrough by either side, and the cost of sustaining the Ukrainian fight against a larger foe is also expected to create new strains among allies.
One of the ongoing conversations in Munich will be over how the war should end: Is full Ukrainian sovereignty over all of its territory even possible? If not, can there be negotiations? Is Mr. Putin even interested in negotiations?
Then there are worries among Europeans that the next American leader may not be President Biden, and that a Republican may not have the same devotion to the trans-Atlantic alliance and the war in Ukraine that Mr. Biden does.
Ms. Harris, who will deliver a speech on Saturday, is expected to reiterate the Biden administration’s commitment to defending Kyiv for “as long as it takes,” as President Biden has said.
“My guess is that the mood will be one of unity and determination,” said Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Mr. Daalder said that Western leaders saw little prospect for worthwhile peace talks unless Ukraine can achieve more territorial gains.
In a likely preview of U.S. messaging at the event, Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters in a Wednesday briefing that the Western coalition had dashed Mr. Putin’s hopes of swift victory. “Putin thought he would break the West and roll over Ukraine. He was wrong,” Ms. Donfried said. “One year on, our commitment has not waned.”
A main event of the Munich conference will be remarks by Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, who will talk about Beijing’s foreign policy outlook, China’s Foreign Ministry said last week. The Chinese state news media has portrayed his presence at the event as a sign of China’s moderating influence in a forum that would otherwise be dominated by U.S. interests.
Mr. Wang is on an extended European tour, and Europeans in general do not see China as a rival, as the United States does, but as a troubling but vital trade partner.
David Pierson contributed reporting.