Adam Johannes of Cardiff Stop the War Coalition talks to some of the people intending to demonstrate against the NATO Summit in Newport, south Wales.
Last month, 5,000 people marched in Cardiff to oppose Israel's war on Gaza in one of the biggest protests in the capital for years. With sixty world leaders arriving shortly for the NATO Summit, it looks like Wales could once again see large anti-war protests.
While Carwyn Jones, First Minister, argues the summit will put Wales on the map, many will ask: Who wants to be on the map for being associated with wars which create mayhem and which mainstream public opinion opposes?
For the leaders at the summit, key discussions are likely to focus on a renewed bombing of Iraq, the crisis in Ukraine, winding down in Afghanistan - and military spending. At a time when poverty and inequality are soaring, the US is determined to put pressure on European countries to increase their military spending.
This week I caught up with some of the people protesting to ask them why they will be on the streets of Cardiff and Newport.
For many it was about linking war abroad and cuts at home, so Kate Hudson from CND told me:
The British public is, in its majority, against war and nuclear weapons – let's pull the plug on NATO spending and fund our hospitals and schools instead.
And Marianne Owens, a Pontypridd-based trade unionist and PCS NEC member added:
The summit will be attended by world leaders responsible for the vicious austerity packages being imposed upon countries across Europe, such as Greece. If there is money for war then there is money for health and public services, including welfare. It is vitally important that trade unions across Britain and Europe support the mobilisation against the warmongers. We must stand tall to get our message across that there is an alternative to war and austerity.
When the South Wales Argus asked its readers if they thought that the NATO Summit would benefit Newport, 85% said 'no'. These sentiments were echoed by Tom Fowler, a Newport resident who said:
Wherever the NATO summit was being held, there should be protests, but the fact that it is taking place in Newport makes opposition all the more relevant. As a city Newport has felt the scars of recession and austerity worse than most, all while huge amounts of public funds have been spent on projects that directly or indirectly subsidise a 5 star hotel. At best this summit will be remembered as an inconvenience for locals, and rank alongside LG and the Ryder Cup as yet another false dawn for the city.
For Plaid, it is about the kind of Wales and world that we want. Jill Evans MEP spoke of world leaders having 'choices':
They can choose to channel more money into arms and warfare or they can invest it instead in creating sustainable jobs and helping the poorest, and in schools and hospitals and in fighting climate change.
And Bethan Jenkins AM evinced suspicion of the Welsh Government's promotion of NATO:
I am not at all comfortable with a Nato summit in Newport, nor am I convinced by dubious claims that this will be good for Wales, be it economically or politically. Wales should instead be seeking to promote itself as a place of peace. I will be joining protesters.
These sentiments were echoed by Jeremy Corbyn, a London-based Labour MP travelling to Wales to join the protests, who told me that NATO is a 'driving force behind enormous levels of arms spending in every member state. We need peace and not more weapons.'
The failure of a decade of wars is causing division within the ruling classes of every Western country. With foreign intervention harder to sell at home, some sections want to rein it in, while others think increased aggression can resolve things.
For many the protests against the NATO summit are about ramping up the pressure on leaders to defuse rather than escalate global tension. Chris Nineham, from Stop the War Coalition, accused NATO of 'causing carnage across swathes of the globe' adding, 'Their wars have produced failed states and instability as well as untold human misery. NATO leaders are threatening new interventions. We need to be at the summit in large numbers to say quite simply “stop”.'
The divide over Ukraine seems to run along the lines of each country’s economic interests and trade situation with Russia. The US and Britain are the most hardline in their calls for intervention. In a discussion at a recent meeting of my own organisation, Cardiff Stop the War Coalition, a fellow campaigner expressed concern that the rivalry between NATO and Russia intervening in different ways in Ukraine could break the country apart:
Many people are upset that Russia is doing a ‘United States’ in the Ukraine, but of course, the United States is also doing a United States in the Ukraine. Different major powers each pursuing their own interests by intervening in countries can fuel dangerous ethnic and national conflicts. In Ukraine this could create a new Yugoslavia if we are not careful. We have to call for an end to all intervention – whether military, economic or political – by outside powers.
The first world war shows that when you have economic competition between rival powers spilling over into military competition – with arms races and a build-up of troops – the end game can be a bloody war.
As world leaders meet we face a very dangerous world situation. The last decade saw wars between coalitions of major powers led by the US against minor powers like Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, for the first time in a generation, there is the potential for a clash, either directly or indirectly, between major powers in Europe.