French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg are expected at the event, which runs through February 16.
The list of top diplomats includes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The annual conference has long been a gathering of the world’s top security leaders and has occasionally been conducted during times of strained U.S.-European relations, such as during the debate over the Iraq war in early 2003.
But the current level of tension exceeds that of previous years and involves a wider range of issues, including disagreements over policies toward Iran and demands by U.S. President Donald Trump that European allies increase defense spending to ease the burden on American taxpayers.
Tensions could also develop within the U.S. contingent. The senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is traveling to the conference, where she will be with members of Trump’s administration.
The California lawmaker played a key role in the impeachment effort against Trump, who was acquitted of two articles in a Senate trial.
Pompeo and U.S. defense chief Mark Esper are likely to participate in what could be the major event In Munich when they meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the conference.
Participants in talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators have given strong indications that a seven-day “reduction in violence” agreement that would lead to formal negotiations between Afghanistan’s warring factions is close.
Ahead of the conference, conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger focused on two war-torn nations, saying he was “deeply troubled” about the “unforgivable failure” of the international community Syria, and he expressed disappointment that a Libya peace plan negotiated recently in Berlin had not gained ground.
“We have more crises, more serious crises, more horrific events than one can actually imagine,” he said.
Protests are expected at the event, and some 3,900 police are set to be deployed to the site to help provide security.