'Davos' of world security policy opens in Munich

U.S. missile-shield plans and the Kosovo crisis will dominate the agenda of the 44th annual conference on security policy, which has opened in Munich. Despite differences on a number of issues, participants will discuss a range of issues concerning global

It’s termed the ‘Davos’ of security policy. Each year around 250 of the world's top political figures meet to discuss how to deal with global threats.

Although when it comes to fighting terrorism Russia stands united with its foreign partners, other international issues spark heated debate.

The definition of exactly who or what poses a threat is the usual cause of rifts.

Vladimir Putin’s strongly-worded speech at last year’s Munich conference created quite a stir. The Russian President fiercely criticised what he perceived as the policy of global dominance of the United States.

U.S. plans for an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe are the cause of ongoing resentment from Moscow. The Pentagon says the shield is meant to defend against threats such as Iran and is not directed at Russia. Moscow agrees Iran’s nuclear programme should be closely monitored and has expressed concern over Tehran's recent missile test. However, Russia questions whether Iran really poses a threat to the U.S.

Russia views NATO expansion as a threat to the balance of world power. It argues that NATO's continuing growth puts the alliance in breach of military limits set by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Therefore, with NATO members refusing to ratify the adapted CFE, Moscow made its decision to suspend participation in the treaty.

Kosovo is another stumbling block. Moscow sees the possible independence of the province as a threat to the integrity of Europe.

Russia believes that if Kosovo gets its way, there's a case for other areas such as Transdniester and South Ossetia, which are in a similar situation, also getting theirs. Such a stance puts Moscow at loggerheads with those members of the UN Security Council that back a sovereign Kosovo.

Russia is a relatively new member of the Munich conference, which was founded in 1962, but its role is becoming increasingly significant at the yearly gatherings.The Russian delegation is headed by the country's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov.