At their Spring conference last month members of the Green Party of England and Wales voted to no longer oppose the UK being a member of NATO. Previously the party held the position that NATO was “not a sustainable mechanism for maintaining peace in the world”.
The revised position states that “NATO has an important role in ensuring the ability of its member states to respond to threats to their security”, but only where it acts “solely in defence of member states”. Green support for NATO is contingent on the organisation committing to a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons. A spokesperson said the change in policy was “a response to the war in Ukraine and, by supporting the motion, the Greens have shown their commitment to international solidarity, where nations support one another through mutual defence alliances and multilateral security frameworks”. They added that the party did not support NATO having a direct role in Ukraine and that “diplomacy and practical cooperation must always take precedence over military action”.
The Greens will also retain their policy for the UK to give up its nuclear weapons and to join 90 other states in joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Responses from Stop the War and the Peace, Security, and Defence Policy Working Group
Lindsey German, Convenor of Stop the War, told the Morning Star that it was “sad” to see the Greens taking a pro-NATO stance. She went on to describe NATO as “a force for war, not peace, and the huge influx of weapons into Ukraine and neighbouring NATO countries will not herald peace but more likely the escalation of war”. German then added: “Nato is also demanding more money for arms and the military which will be at the expense of our health, education, and other public services — something the Greens have always opposed and should continue to oppose.”
The decision to amend a policy that is central to the party’s ethical standpoint has, understandably, prompted concern. Writing for Bright Green, Linda Walker, Co-convenor of the Party’s Peace, Security, and Defence Policy Working Group, tries to allay these concerns. She did this principally by saying the Greens would seek to enhance the role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which works to build trust and cooperation between nations on issues including arms control and gender equality. She writes that the Greens “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 our new policy. This is about providing security through sustainable development, not arms, and through cooperation 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”. All of the points made by Linda Walker in her article for Bright Green are cogent; however, it is hard not to feel they depend on our living in something close to an ideal world. The sad truth is that we never have and are even further away from doing so now.
The War Machine is Turning Ever Faster
The war in Ukraine is painfully far away from anything that resembles a resolution, and all the while the suffering of the Ukrainian people continues, as does the threat to world peace.
The war machine is turning ever faster, and it would take only the smallest of things to send it spinning out of control with disastrous consequences. Vladimir Putin has ordered nuclear weapons to be stationed outside Russian territory for the first time since the end of the Cold War, sending tactical nuclear weapons to neighbouring Belarus. At the same time Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is continuing his call for more weapons to be provided by the west to facilitate a spring offensive, turning the screw on his allies by telling a Japanese newspaper this weekend: “If you have the political will, you can find a way to help us. We are at war and can’t wait.”
The Greens Should Be More Courageous
Now more than ever a credible political voice calling for a negotiated peace to this war and making a wider case for building a future without war are needed. The Greens have the potential to be that voice, not least because they are not funded by the military industrial complex.
That makes this attempt to dance on the pinhead of supporting an organisation that promotes war, while at the same time still opposing war itself, ill-advised. At a time when the risks to human survival are so great, the Green Party needs to be more imaginative and courageous in its approach to international policy.
The author of this article is a member of the Green Party writing in a personal capacity.