On 3 and 4 April 2009 NATO will celebrate its 60th birthday in Baden-Baden in Germany and Strasbourg in France. While all the details of this "celebration" are not yet known, it is already clear that the NATO summit will not leave much space for democratic protest in either of the two summit cities (see page 5). War Resisters' International is part of the International Coordination Committee which coordinates a wide range of protest activities (see the overview on page 8), and is also part of NATO-ZU, a coalition of nonviolent groups that is part of the overall coalition organising actions of civil disobedience in Strasbourg in the morning of 4 April.
On 3 and 4 April the heads of state and government of NATO will meet in Baden-Baden and Strasbourg to celebrate NATOs 60th birthday. We think: 60 years of NATO are not a reason to celebrate, but a reason to resist nonviolently!
Since its foundation in 1949 NATO pretended to defend the so-called free West against the allegedly aggressive communism. Would this have been the real reason for NATO's existence, NATO would have had to dissolve following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991.
NATO has come a long way since the end of the Cold War. Already with the Rome Declaration of 1991 NATO positioned itself with a new strategy, no longer focused at defending the NATO territory from an attack. An attack from the the East was no longer likely, instead NATO formulated as “news threats” the consequences of economic, social and political difficulties in central and eastern Europe, for which NATO had to be prepared.
Women have a multitude of relationships to the military: they command regiments, enlist as soldiers, work in the arms industry, clean the kitchens and toilets of military bases… or oppose the military in protests and peace camps. Some women have little choice about their relationship with the military: they are killed, injured, forced from their homes, and bereaved by armed conflict. Others are recruited, sometimes ‘voluntarily’, but very often forcibly, to provide sexual services to male military personnel.
When the alliance of democracies meets, there is no space for democracy on the streets
When NATO celebrates its 60th birthday in Baden-Baden, Kehl and Strasbourg on 3 and 4 April 2009, there will be a lot of nice speeches about the values of democracy, and the need to defend democracy against a multitude of threats. But while NATO might talk about democracy, democracy will be temporarily suspended in huge areas of Baden-Baden, Kehl and Strasbourg.
When NATO meets in Strasbourg, the city will be turned into a military fortress, with up to 25,000 police protecting the NATO summit, and effectively leaving no space for democratic protest.
At the time of going to press, the exact locations of security zones in Strasbourg were not yet known.
However, it is clear that:
► there will at least be two security zones: the neighbourhood around the Palais de Musique et de Congres / Wacken and the cathedral / Palais Rohan
► Until 3 and 4 April, other security zones might emerge
It’s time to take nuclear weapons out of Europe. As NATO reaches 60, NATO needs to get the message that we don’t need nuclear weapons and neither does NATO. Designed for the cold war, nuclear weapons are worse than irrelevant in the current security context. Even within the military, such weapons are increasingly perceived as “so last century”, militarily inappropriate and a massive drain on resources which the military claim are needed for conventional wars.
US president Barack Obama is seeking to close ranks with allies in the EU, not least because of the USA's grave economic and military problems. The deal is that, in exchange for increased political power, EU states should increase military support for the USA in maintaining the Western world order.
Following the international call "No to war - no to NATO", passed at an international preparatory conference in Stuttgart on 5 October 2008, a range of activities are planned for the time of the NATO summit.
► A camp in Strasbourg from 1-5 April 2009.
► A counter-conference in Strasbourg on 3 April
► Actions of civil disobedience in Baden-Baden on 3 April, to accompany the reception by German chancellor Angela Merkel and the working dinner of the heads of states and governments
Not only since the end of the Cold War NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – has expanded considerably beyond what could be called the “Northern Atlantic” region. In fact, most of NATO's expansion has been in Eastern and South Eastern Europe. But NATO is more than just a North American and European affair. It now has global connections and partnerships, and some strategists propose to develop NATO into a “global alliance of democracies”.
In November 2008, WRI Council member and MEP
Tobias Pflüger published a new publication on "Professional soldiers
and the right to conscientious objection in the European Union",
based on research of War Resisters' International. The publication
provides an overview of the present state of the right to conscientious
objection in the European Union, including the candidate countries
Croatia, Turkey, and FYROM (Macedonia).
Social change doesn't just happen. It's the result of the work of committed people striving for a world of justice and peace. This work gestates in groups or cells of activists, in discussions, in training sessions, in reflecting on previous experiences, in planning, in experimenting and in learning from others. Preparing ourselves for our work for social justice is key to its success.