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2024 Munich Security Conference

Our Munich Security Conference notebook

MUNICH — We spent a lot of time with the lawmakers who attended the Munich Security Conference this past weekend — from on-the-record interviews to the main stage, several off-the-record side events and even gut-wrenching moments like this.

So we thought it would be useful to empty out our reporter’s notebook and fill you in on some key moments that stood out to us during the three-day affair. You can read more of our coverage from Munich in Monday’s AM edition.

Connolly sounds off: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) wants Democrats to commit to saving Speaker Mike Johnson’s gavel if he’s targeted by conservative Republican hardliners with a motion to vacate over a Ukraine vote.

If such a commitment is the only way to ensure Ukraine aid gets a floor vote, Fitzpatrick suggested, this should be a no-brainer for Democrats.

Not so fast, says Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). Connolly told us that this would amount to “casting a vote against my own interests,” given what he sees as Johnson’s extreme views.

Connolly also pointed out, correctly, that continuing to serve as speaker because Democrats bailed you out is not a recipe for Johnson’s survival.

“You are a marked man if you exist as a Republican speaker at the sufferance of Democrats,” Connolly told us. “It sounds nice and clever and we might owe him — no we don’t. And he doesn’t want it. He’s got enough trouble on his hands.”

Warner on Israel-Gaza: The dominant topic at the conference, by far, was Ukraine. This meant that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza was effectively a backburner issue. That came as a surprise to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.), who noted that Gaza brings near-daily protests back home against Israel’s military operations.

Warner went on to describe the Israel-Hamas war and its impact on U.S. society as one of the most intense he’s ever seen.

Here’s more from Warner:

As Intelligence Committee chair, Warner is privy to U.S. assessments of the ongoing war. He told us the Israelis have only been able to secure a “stunningly small” amount of the tunnels that Hamas fighters use throughout Gaza. Warner also warned that younger Americans are turning against Israel.

“As someone who’s been a long-term supporter of Israel, I worry about a generation of Americans that might not have that automatic support. And I don’t know whether the Israeli people know that, get that,” he said.

Sullivan leans in: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), an outspoken defense hawk, has had a pretty high profile lately. First, Sullivan led the coalition of Senate Republicans that ended up forcing Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to abandon his unprecedented blockade of military promotions.

Now Sullivan is taking a leading role in pushing back against those in his party arguing that the United States should abandon Ukraine because the Indo-Pacific region is more important. A Russian victory in Ukraine will embolden Chinese President Xi Jinping in his quest to conquer Taiwan, Sullivan said, just as the Afghanistan withdrawal emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“That’s not the way the world works. Deterrence is not divisible,” Sullivan told us. “You can’t say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to let Putin roll here, but we’ll be really strong when the next dictator, Xi Jinping, tries to move on Taiwan.’”

— Andrew Desiderio

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