On 4 April next year the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) will celebrate its 60th anniversary. It pretends to be a defensive military alliance – but the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia shows the true purpose of Nato and why the peace movement must oppose its existence.
The US wants Georgia to join the Nato to act as an agent of US imperialism on the border with Russia. Had Georgia been a member last month, all Nato members would effectively have been required to defend the country, risking an outright war with Russia.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) placed opposition to Nato at the core of two days of lively debates and workshops held last weekend. Celebrating 50 years of campaigning against nuclear arms, CND recognised Nato as the greatest current vehicle for nuclear warfare.
Nato ties its current 24 partners to maintaining a 'minimum nuclear deterrent' and maintaining the option of first use of nuclear weapons. That means the US has 23 other countries who have to pledge to agree to use nuclear weapons as a first strike weapon.
They also have to agree 'nuclear sharing' – the deployment of US nuclear weapons at bases across Europe from Belgium to Turkey. Britain's Trident nuclear armed fleet is fully 'integrated' into Nato and essentially controlled by the Pentagon.
CND has agreed to join with the Stop the War Coalition and other peace groups to challenge Nato throughout 2009. Mass international protests are planned for 4 April, with CND calling further protests at all nuclear sites and bases in Britain through the weekend of 12-13 June next year.
These dates mark the anniversary of the US withdrawal from the international Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the start of production of a new generation of offensive nuclear weapons.
Judith Le Blanc from United for Peace and Justice spoke at the CND conference to offer a powerful account of the success of the US anti-war movement, inspired, she said, by the Stop the War Coalition and CND in Britain.
Andrew Murray, chair of Stop the War Coaliton, joined a panel debate emphasising the need for the withdrawal of British and US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. CND has also pledged to mount direct action against the development of the US 'missile defence system'.
Next year is set to be a year of major international protests against war, including the call for the immediate decommissioning of all nuclear weapons at a time of increasing international tensions.
As it enters its 51st year, CND is showing renewed energy and determination, with major debates and ambitious plans linking the issues of nuclear weapons to the economic crisis, anti-poverty initiatives and the urgent campaign to stop climate change. There is a great deal for activists to do.