On the 4th and 5th of September, NATO will come to Wales for what is said to be “the largest gathering of international leaders ever to take place in Britain”. Attendees will include President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, and President Hollande, who “are expected to attend along with leaders and senior ministers from around 60 other countries.” They will not be the only ones with an interest in the events in Newport and Cardiff. Thousands of anti-NATO activists will also be there, taking part in what may turn out to be one of the largest waves of protest and direct action in Europe this summer.
Police expect tens of thousands to oppose NATO on the streets during a week of action to take place between the 30th of August and the 5th of September. The umbrella group No NATO Newport plans a mass rally on the 30th, a counter-summit, and other events. Another group, Stop NATO Cymru, is organising days of action on themes such as drones, links between militarism and austerity, and borders, culminating in a “mass action to disrupt the summit” on the 4th. Already, a “Long March on Newport” has begun, with events to raise awareness of the summit and also to support whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, who has links to the area.
Why NATO is being opposed
Rather than being aimed at “humanitarian causes or even the benefit of people back at home,” some activists see NATO’s activities as designed “to secure the interests of Western business and other elites.” (see here). According to NO NATO Newport’s statement, “the annual sum needed to end world hunger is $30 billion while the US Military’s budget is $530 billion per year.” NATO is the main military alliance backstopping corporate globalisation, seen by activists as a euphemism for the process of opening “developing nations” to corporate exploitation, with economic pressures such as securing loans effectively backed up by the threat of coups and other military action.
These on-going problems have become particularly urgent in the run-up to the summit. Topics under discussion at the meeting will include the crisis in the Ukraine following the ouster of elected president Yanukovich by a fascist-backed new regime, with the active support of Washington. The conflict has already provoked bloodshed, and threatens to do much worse, with NATO considering plans to strengthen its ballistic missile “defences” in the region. Then there is the never-ending crisis in the Middle East, where the oil-hungry policies of the NATO powers are unravelling into yet more bloody conflict. The so-called “pull-out” from the Afghanistan war will also, no doubt, be under discussion. Another subject of concern is the integration of various African forces with NATO for purposes of intervention in resource-rich African “theatres” along the lines of the recent collaborations in the Ivory Coast and Somalia (see e.g. here). Stop NATO Cymru’s “why act?” page contains further discussions, references and details of reasons to oppose NATO.
Ways to help
One of the main things that concerned people can do is to make it to some of the events being planned for the week of action, either as a day trip or for the long haul. Those prepared to camp will be able to find accommodation at a “peace camp” being set up for the event. But, says one activist working with the SNC campaign, “those who can’t attend can still help by raising awareness of the issues and events by writing, linking to the Stop NATO Cymru site online, encouraging friends to attend even if they can’t… it’s all activism.” In view of the current levels of activity, the prospects are good for a massive demonstration against militarism and exploitation at the end of August.
A final thought
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has said that he “is delighted” that NATO delegates will be able to “experience first-hand Wales’s rich history and cultural heritage” at the venues for the conference, and several other officials have expressed their pleasure at the appropriateness of the chosen sites. One of them, Cardiff Castle, was once occupied by an aggressive military group, intent on creating a ring of military bases to project their control as far as possible. It was also the site of the extra-legal killing of an opponent of that regime. How times change.