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Wolfgang   Ischinger

Wolfgang Ischinger

Former German Ambassador & Chairman of the Munich Security Conference

Wolfgang Ischinger

Former German Ambassador & Chairman of the Munich Security Conference


A former German Ambassador to both the U.S. and U.K., Wolfgang Ischinger is the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, the world’s leading forum for debating international security policy. He is the author of the European best-seller, World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time, which has been praised by global thought leaders including Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright. As a speaker, Ambassador Ischinger combines an extraordinary wealth of knowledge in diplomacy with experience as a corporate leader and board member. His talks share invaluable insights on the most important geopolitical and economic issues of today, including U.S.-European business and political relations, the future of the EU, cybersecurity policy, and the global economy.

Supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel to head the Munich Security Conference in 2008, Ambassador Ischinger transformed what was once primarily a Cold War-era German-American meeting into a high profile, global platform drawing hundreds of leaders from the U.S., Europe, China, India, Russia and the Middle East. Speakers have included U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Under Ambassador Ischinger’s leadership, the event grew to 600 participants, 400 observers and a thousand accredited journalists. Ambassador Ischinger also serves as Senior Professor for Security Policy and Diplomatic Practice at the Hertie School in Berlin and is Founding Director of the school’s Centre for International Security. From 2008-2014, he worked in the corporate sector as Global Head of Government Relations at Allianz SE, the largest European insurance and asset management company.

Ambassador Ischinger’s long diplomatic career began in the Secretariat of the United Nations  in 1973. In 1975, he joined the Federal Republic of Germany’s Foreign Service. Many roles followed, including Head of the Political Department in the German embassy in Paris and Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the Foreign Office in Bonn. As Political Director, he led the German delegations during the Bosnian Peace negotiations, negotiations on the NATO-Russian Founding Act, and during the Kosovo Crisis. In 1998, he was named State Secretary (Deputy Foreign Minister) of the German Federal Foreign Office. On September 11, 2001, Ischinger began his first day as German Ambassador to the U.S. as the news broke of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Ambassador Ischinger served in that role for five years, before being named Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2006-2008).

An active board member, he currently serves on the Supervisory Board of Hensoldt AG and on the International Advisory Board of Investcorp, London. He is also a member of the Trilateral Commission and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Ambassador Ischinger is also a member of several non-profit boards, including the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), the American Academy Berlin, and the Atlantik-Brücke.

Ambassador Ischinger studied law at the universities of Bonn and Geneva. He did post-graduate work in the U.S., studying International Law, International Economic Relations and Contemporary History at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and at Harvard Law School.

Speaker Videos

Munich Security Conference 2020 Highlight Video

The World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time

US, Europe & China: 2021 Global Politics & Diplomacy

World in Danger Teaser Video

Speech Topics

World in Danger: A Geopolitical Overview

In reviewing Wolfgang Ischinger’s best-seller, World in Danger, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called him “one of the most perceptive analysts of international affairs.” Portraying a world at a major turning point, Ischinger looks at the urgent challenges we face: Tensions between the U.S. and China, the re-emergence of hard-edged nationalism, and the fear that the U.S. appears to be abdicating its leadership role — while Moscow and Beijing exploit any opportunity to flame conflict between allies. Despite these urgent challenges, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany’s most prominent diplomat and a former Ambassador to both the U.S. and the U.K., foresees a future of peace and stability. Drawing upon both history and the latest headlines, Ambassador Ischinger examines the root causes of our current state of affairs, offering a practical vision for turbulent times.

The Business Relationship Between the U.S. & Europe

While it’s fascinating to look at the political aspects of U.S.-European relations, the economic relationships are even more important. In Germany, for example, the U.S. has invested so heavily that U.S. interests employ roughly a million people. Similarly, German companies like BMW, Bosch and others employ roughly 900,000 people on the American side. By comparison, Germany’s or the U.S.’s investment in China is minimal compared to what they have invested, over time, in each other’s economies. Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger provides a compelling overview of the business relationship between the U.S. and Europe, outlining why China is going to be the single biggest challenge to the transatlantic community.

How Europe Views the U.S.

Wolfgang Ischinger first came to the U.S. as a teenager, attending high school in Illinois and even earning a letter jacket. He went on to study at the Fletcher School and Harvard Law School. Years later, on September 11, 2001, he began his tenure as Ambassador to the U.S. as planes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, witnessing first-hand the trauma experienced by America and the world. His deep understanding of both sides of the Atlantic propelled him to a career as Germany’s most prominent diplomat and Chairman of the highly influential Munich Security Conference. Bringing decades of perspective from a storied diplomatic career, Ambassador Ischinger looks at the current state of U.S.-European relations — and the political, security and economic forces that are shaping the world’s most critical alliances.

The Future of the European Union

After Brexit and beyond, how can we move forward to build a more coherent, more capable, more unified European Union? Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger brings two perspectives to this question: As a modern European with a passionate belief in the ideal of a borderless continent where historical adversaries become allies, and as a native of the country at the core of the two largest conflicts of the 20th century. Bringing decades of experience as a diplomat and international thought leader, Ambassador Ischinger examines the current state of Europe and the challenges it faces ahead.

New Challenges in Cyber Diplomacy

From four decades of diplomatic experience, Ambassador Ischinger knows that trust is the currency of diplomacy. But trust is also the currency in cyberspace – and even more so in cyber diplomacy. The lack of trust across the Atlantic – among governments, businesses, and citizens – when it comes to cyber policy and regulation is a serious problem. Ambassador Ischinger explains why Europe needs to become more capable but it still cannot guarantee a secure and democratic cyberspace by itself: A common, democratic digital agenda with the U.S. and other partners is needed to set global rules of the road for cyberspace.