Oppose Nuclear Threats in Europe and Pacific – Increase wages not weapons
I welcome this timely meeting called by Stop the War. The Russian invasion and war on the people of Ukraine devastates their lives and country and threatens us all.
Just over a year ago on March 5th 2022 the Lord Mayor’s Committee for Peace and Reconciliation organised a public meeting on the Nuclear Threat. Our speakers were Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry and Zarah Sultana MP for Coventry South. Both gave impressive and thoughtful speeches. Bishop Christopher’s statement entitled The Nuclear Threat in the 21st Century was widely circulated at the time and is as apposite today as it was then.
Bishop Christopher reflected that the nuclear threat is staring us in the face and President Putin’s Brutal invasion of Ukraine and his apparent nuclear readiness has brought about perhaps the greatest threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is not scaremongering to say there is a danger that so-called tactical nuclear weapons could be used on the battlefield with devastating consequences or that an accident or human error could plunge us into nuclear catastrophe.
He also made a profound critique of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, while suggesting that some may think it is working to prevent an even greater and more widespread war over Ukraine, we can take no comfort when Putin was not deterred from invading and making war.
As with the run-up to any war, one can reflect on the factors, long term and short term, which contributed to it. The failure to build lasting security and disarmament after the fall of Gorbachev; the decline of the former Soviet Union; NATO’s expansion and nuclear bases close to Russia have contributed to the growing tensions in the world. The very thing Putin feared is now coming about with Sweden going through the process of applying and Finland joining NATO.
Now Russia plans to site nuclear weapons in Belarus and carries out ever more draconian measures against its own people if they dare to criticise the war or President Putin. Surrounding states are threatened and de-stabilised. The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, which its experts have not been able to visit, is subject to increased shelling and military activity around it.
The US, under the auspices of Nato, is siting its new nuclear bomb, B61-12, at the Lakenheath air base in Suffolk this spring. After years of campaigning successfully against the presence of American nuclear weapons on our soil, CND is calling for a demonstration at the base on May 20th.
Many people feel powerless in regard to bringing about a more peaceful world.
What can we do in the light of this situation?
The public have been generous in showing their support for Ukraine. Many refugees have been housed with families, and all sorts of events have taken place in solidarity with Ukraine, locally and nationally. Coventry is a city of sanctuary with a commitment to help all refugees and has played its part.
Following the meeting with the Bishop of Coventry and Zarah Sultana, MP, the Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee along with West Midlands CND have supported the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the UN Treaty to Prohibit their use – the TPNW.
The treaty entered into force in 2021 and now represents a new global norm under international law in which nuclear weapons are illegal. It is currently ratified by 68 countries and growing. As cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons, municipalities have a special responsibility to speak out against any role for them in national security doctrines. Pressure from grassroots and city councils can contribute significantly to its success. Awareness is needed,especially in nuclear weapons states that are complicit in the new nuclear arms race and are the biggest obstacle to its success.
An international coalition of cities and civil society could play a key role in ridding the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. Those that have committed to being nuclear ban cities include: Paris and Washington DC, which are seats of immense nuclear power; Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which still bear the scars of nuclear attack, Oslo and British cities including Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Oxford, Norwich and recently Leicester. Coventry as a city internationally known for peace and reconciliation could play a significant role alongside them. Indeed, it is a surprise that despite the work undertaken by the Lord Mayor’s Peace committee and others requesting its support, it is not yet on this list.
West Midlands CND has raised awareness and sought to get councils and individual Councillors on board and lists on its website 23 Greens, 7 Labour and 3 Lib Dems. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done contacting and lobbying Councillors. West Midlands CND website contains information and helpful materials to do this.
West Midlands CND also supports disinvestment in nuclear weapons and Paul McGowen has campaigned for many years to get West Midlands councils to disinvest their Pension Funds from firms making nuclear weapons with limited success.
The LMPC, together with Coventry Council, the Cathedral, Coventry University and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum continue to develop and build on the city’s reputation for peace and reconciliation, putting on an annual peace lecture, speakers have included Michael Morpurgo, Yasmin Alibhai Brown and Sugary and Neville Staples from the Specials; Hiroshima Day is commemorated in the Cathedral and conferences have engaged young people in discussions of what makes them feel secure, weapons and military pacts don’t feature high on their list. The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum has a gallery devoted to peace and reconciliation. The Coventry Peace Trail highlights the city’s many links to peace and international friendship.
I hope that following this meeting people will come forward to help with building the peace movement and strengthen the alliances we need to bring about progressive change and a culture of peace. Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way’.
Stop the War meeting will take place on 17th of May at 7.30pm at the Friends Meeting House, Hill Street, Coventry, CV1 4HN
Coventry Lord Mayor’s Committee for Peace and Reconciliation and West Midlands CND