Telling the Secrets of the Sea

By Ronald Babin | 1986-04-01 12:00:00

The disarmament movement, aimed primarily at land and air weapons, has overlooked the nuclearization of the ocean. But both the superpowers are hurrying to deploy sophisticated new battleships that may number in the thousands. An invisible maritime escalation has been going on, all the more dangerous because military activity at sea is relatively immune to the regulation of international law.

The seas are increasingly a site of U.S./Soviet rivalry. To respond to this threat, disarmament groups in several countries bordering the Atlantic (Scotland, Iceland, England, Scandinavia, Ireland) established the North Atlantic Network in 1982-83. This group is working to develop an alternative politics of coexistence, on the view that peace and reversal of the arms race can only come through a fundamental change in the nature of international relations.

Security is too important to leave to technocrats. The Network is revising priorities, reinforcing the idea that "Those who want peace, prepare for peace". They are determined to keep a flexible organizational form. When preparing for the first meeting in Glasgow, in 1983. the members decided to educate themselves about the particular situations in all the other participating countries, to grasp the global context in which they are working. Instead of creating a centralized hierarchical structure, they chose a process of education, information exchange, and discussion, on the principle of "thinking globally, acting locally."

Pursuing this goal of self-education, there were two subsequent meetings of the Network (Reykjavik, Iceland in August 1984 and Bergen, Norway in August 1985). At the Reykjavik meeting new delegates from American and Québec groups attended, plus 3 observers from the Pacific, who could bridge the Atlantic and Pacific Networks.

At the Bergen meeting 7 representatives from the Pacific nations pointed out the similarity of their concerns to those of the Atlantic disarmament groups. Two Greenland Inuit attended, members of the Sorsunnata Disarmament Group affiliated with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Project Ploughshares and Operation Dismantle also participated.

The Network decided to focus on the sea launched cruise missiles and to meet in sea ports. Halifax was tentatively chosen as the site of the next meeting.

The activities of the Network require minimal coordination, but considerable communication. A quarterly information bulletin will be produced on a rotating basis, starting with the "Nei til atomvapen" (NTA) group from Oslo. They will collect information from all the participating groups. The Network will not have a headquarters or staff, but will rely on the commitment of each group. This approach is consistent with the group's goals-to promote local disarmament initiatives that can help break the military stranglehold. This translates into actions against naval installations and also political struggles-such as a campaign for a Nordic nuclear weapon free zone; actions promoting neutrality; and long term initiatives for a demilitarized polar zone between the superpowers

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986, page 14. Some rights reserved.

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