New Tales of the Sea

By Peggy Hope-Simpson | 1986-12-01 12:00:00

Ninety-eight registrants from many parts of the world gathered at the Riverside Church, New York City, from August 22-24, in the Fourth Annual North Atlantic Network Conference (NAN). The worldwide representation clearly revealed the global nature of the superpowers' naval build-up. We shared campaign stories; one of them about making New York a nuclear free harbor. While Staten Island, upwind from Manhattan, is designated to be a home port, New Jersey is a major storage point and facility for nuclear weapons for the North American fleet. The campaign collected 100,000 signatures to have a referendum on the issue, which would have been legally binding, but the judge threw out the legal books.

Jens Kristensen of Denmark had us in stitches with his Day as Hero. During the June Ports Actions, the battleship Iowa visited Copenhagen and crowds turned out to go aboard. Jens was dressed in an ill-fitting Danish military uniform, and in the confusion, a frantic U.S. officer thrust a bullhorn into his hands, saying "Tell them they can't bring any luggage on board." Jens happily took the bullhorn and told the crowd in Danish about the luggage--and about lots of other things the carrier had on board. The U.S. officer could not understand why the crowd found it so funny. When finally stopped by the Danish military police, Jens stood his ground and claimed his citizens' right to dress up and behave like a clown at a festival!

I came away convinced of the mobilizing potential in working for nuclear free harbors. The presence of nuclear weapons on ships docking right within cities is concrete and continuing. Perhaps we should all fly black flags when the ships are in.

Operation North Wedding

The situation in Northern Norway is acute. Strategic activity by both the Soviet Northern Fleet and NATO are turning the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea into a potential battlefield in a superpower conflict. In 1985, the Soviet "Summerex" naval exercises, according to Ports Watch, No. 2, "demonstrated the Soviet Navy's capability to defend the Soviet Union far south in the Norwegian Sea and across the GIUK (Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom) gap. The important sea lanes of NATO's northern flank were effectively barred by the Soviet Navy's submarine and strike group. The missile firings demonstrated a capability for offensive actions far into the NATO area."

Moreover, last year's NATO's Ocean Safari war games and this year's Operation Northern Wedding, are provocative, dangerous, and absurd. It is of enormous concern that these two military dinosaurs are blundering about in northern waters, sometimes so close as to touch. In fact, there have been actual collisions with shadowing submarines.

Magna Barthe, of Oslo, Editor of the NANA Newsletter, proposes that all efforts be concentrated on creating a Nordic Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. That NWFZ idea is widely supported as a Confidence Building Measure. To date, twenty local Norwegian municipal governments have passed resolutions demanding that visiting ships be required to declare that no nuclear weapons are on board. Until now, the Norwegian government has not wanted to know when these weapons were entering their harbors. However, the new government is Social Democratic and, says Barthe, "the gap between us and them is smaller." The Prime Minister and other Nordic Ministers are appointing a committee to work on this issue, without any clear political commitment.

In my presentation on Canadian strategic concerns, I spoke about the work of Native Peoples in Northern Canada: "A growing movement in Canada has the potential of linking the people of the South of Canada with the Native People of the North. This is the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Canada for self-government and for the end of commercial militarization of the North, including the mining, milling, and export of uranium. The new Chairperson of the Innuit Circumpolar Conference, Mary Simon of Fort Chimo, has pledged to address the militarization of the North. She has also been given a mandate to attempt to hold the next conference in Siberia. The Soviet Yuits have not been permitted to attend to this date.

"So for the first time in our history, we see a major unifying development between the non-Native Canadian people of the South, and the Native Canadian people of the North, where we each recognize our interdependence.

What Shall We Do With NATO?

At a follow-up lunch meeting of Eastern Americans and Canadian delegates, there was a stimulating discussion on what to do with NATO. Given that 84 percent of Europeans (and as many Canadians) favor staying in NATO, even though they strongly disapprove of its pro-nuclear and pro-Star Wars policies, the question of opting out is irrelevant, while that of dissolving it would require some new, as yet undiscovered, alchemy. The U.S. was the main creator of NATO, to serve its own economic power interests, there not being a significant military threat at the time. Now, although the U.S. largely disregards NATO, U.S. companies need West European markets. The smaller states may become important in changing NATO: If, for instance, Britain, Denmark, and Greece were nuclear free, NATO would have to have a "no first use" policy. Attention was called to the recent report of the Canadian Parliamentary Committee, which proposes that Canadian northern sovereignty be reinforced, and that Canadian forces in Europe be brought home.

NAN Plan

The Steering Committee of NAN decided to hold world-wide Port Actions, if possible in concert with the Pacific Network to Disarm the Seas, on the weekend of May 29-31, 1987. The Theme will be: "International Disarm the Seas Weekend--Reclaiming the Seas for Life."

Peace Magazine Dec 1986-Jan 1987

Peace Magazine Dec 1986-Jan 1987, page 29. Some rights reserved.

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