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Why we in the Green Party have shifted from outright rejection of Nato

LINDA WALKER, co-convener of the policy working group on peace, defence and security introduces the changes voted in at the 50,000-strong party’s recent conference

AT the Green Party spring conference last weekend a resolution on Nato was adopted which changes the party’s policy from outright rejection of Nato to a more nuanced stance.

During the debate on peace, security and defence, Nato was the issue which aroused the strongest emotions and most conflicting views.

Green Party policy is developed by working groups, and anyone in the party with an interest can join these groups, so inevitably there are very disparate views among its members.

So in the working group on peace, security and defence, some members believe that Nato is generally a force for good; some thought it inappropriate for the Green Party to be speaking out against Nato while the war in Ukraine is raging; and some believe that Nato is an aggressive alliance which tends to act as an arm of US policy and the Green Party should have nothing to do with it.

Eventually, the group came up with a compromise that all could accept. The new Nato policy starts with: “The Green Party recognises that Nato has an important role in ensuring the ability of its member states to respond to threats to their security.”

This was much too pro-Nato for many of the group, and for many members of the party, but was balanced by the list of demands for reform of the alliance.

Greens are asking for a commitment to “no first use” of nuclear weapons; a focus on outreach and dialogue, based on democratic values; a commitment to upholding human rights; and a promise to undertake no out-of-area operations or military exercises.

In addition, an amendment was passed that ties Nato to abiding by international treaties and UN resolutions, and to entering into dialogue with neighbouring states about their security concerns before Nato expands to new member states.

This last point was especially controversial but was eventually supported after an assurance that no third country would have a veto, but that it would be advantageous to enter into a discussion about their legitimate concerns. If there had been meaningful discussions along these lines between the US, Nato and Russia in recent years, might we be in a different situation today?

Although the party has stepped back from an immediate rejection of Nato, the changes being demanded would be unachievable without a radical, and extremely unlikely, rethinking of Nato itself.

In the absence of these changes, the Green Party would be free to leave Nato — compare this to the stance of the Labour Party which seems to be that anyone saying a word against Nato will be suspended.  

While the whole world knows about Nato, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has had very little publicity. It has 57 member states, including Russia and all the former Soviet republics, plus the US and Canada.

Its role is to build co-operation and trust between states on issues such as arms control, conflict prevention, environmental management, prevention of trafficking, migration, human rights, media freedom and gender equality.

For such a huge and important remit, the OSCE has an annual budget of around $140 million. That is equivalent to a little more than the cost of one F35 fighter jet or one hour of US military spending.

The Green Party would seek to enhance the work of the OSCE and encourage all other member states to do the same. Its values and activities fit perfectly with the concept of “human security” which forms part of the new policy.

This is about providing security through sustainable development, not arms; through co-operation rather than confrontation. Human security looks at all the threats we face: the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss; conflict and human rights violations, inequality and lack of access to basic needs; authoritarianism and threats to democracy.

The working group sought advice on these issues from Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University and other colleagues of his in the widely respected academic group Rethinking Security.

On the UN, Green policy calls for permanent seats on the security council to be abolished, along with the veto, and for all nations to be allowed to take a seat in turn. Recognising how difficult it will be to dislodge the permanent five, the policy is to support the right of the general assembly to override the veto by a two-thirds majority. This idea was approved in the general assembly last year after a proposal from Lichtenstein.

The Green Party has always been staunchly opposed to Britain’s ownership of nuclear weapons. That has not changed, but political developments in recent years have allowed for framing the policy in a new way.

A Green government would join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and immediately begin the process of dismantling our warheads and missiles, cancel the Trident programme and remove any foreign nuclear weapons from Britain.

Over 90 states have already signed the TPNW and 68 have completed ratification. Britain would be joining the majority world in rejecting nuclear weapons — and as Natalie Bennett so eloquently said at the conference, we would be providing moral leadership towards a nuclear-free future.

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