London CND conference report

New Cold War Challenges — Time to Talk Peace

The conference on 14th January opened with a keynote speech from Jeremy Corbyn. He has been a CND supporter since the age of 15, and is encouraged by the TPNW/Nuclear Ban Treaty which should be the centrepiece of CND’s campaigning.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was completely wrong, and the way forward should be diplomatic, not military. He traced the background to the present conflict from 1991 when the USSR and the Warsaw Pact were dissolved. Bruce Kent and he had often spoken of how the great opportunity presented then was lost to the political support given arms manufacturers. Instead of nuclear disarmament and programmes for common — that is global — security, NATO engaged in 30 years of expansion. The mantra behind it all, to the AUKUS pact and current demonization of China, is that the world must be led by the United States.

He sees this as the time for Latin America and Africa to take centre stage in international processes. With the global pandemic and experience of climate change, the world’s inequality, poverty, exploitation and skewed priorities are clear. Aware of this, our country wants to spend 3% of GDP on defence rather than the existing 2%.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project will be publishing a report on the Arms Trade this year. The aim is to embolden the alternative voice in favour of Peace and to see the world not as a collection of armed blocs but as envisaged in the UN Charter, nations large and small determined to end war and promote freedom and decent living standards for all. We are told the present situation in Ukraine is “not the time to talk peace.” Why not?

Renewed Threats of a New Cold War

There were four speakers on this panel: Vijay Prashad (IndiMarxist historian) gave an international perspective. In his own presentation and in question time he urged the need to promote peace on a Eurasian basis, resisting the US/NATO pressure to regard Russia and China as threats requiring ever-stronger military might for “security”.

Daniel Blaney (a Vice Chair of CND) spoke of CND’s campaigning for a ceasefire in Ukraine; dialogue is what is needed. The real threats we face are climate change, the pandemic, and the infrastructure of the NHS. All governments should sign and ratify the Ban Treaty and we do not want more US weapons at Lakenheath. CND’s campaigning goes on in all the usual ways.

Junayd Islam (Youth & Student CND; currently chair of Student CND in Cambridge) said that the return of US nuclear weapons to the UK was disheartening, especially for older campaigners, and even more so because the issue was being ignored by the mainstream media. CND’s campaign must be revitalised — it won’t be easy, but CND supporters now need to attend the demonstrations, donate to the cause — at the very least, stay informed and share.

Emma Dent-Coad (Labour MP 2017–19) focused on military spending and austerity. We need funds for the NHS and Social Care; why are we “hell bent on spending £billions to replace Trident”? The positive message: scrap Trident, feed people and profit from making peace, not war.

Nuclear Imperialism

This was the focus of a second panel with three speakers. Margaret Kimberley (Black Alliance for Peace) was pleased to give a US perspective, focusing on uranium mining still being done in Niger (forged documents saying Saddam Hussein sought Niger’s uranium for an Iraqi bomb served US/UK propaganda for war in 2003). Of over a hundred US military bases worldwide, at least 29 are in 15 African countries. The Black Alliance for Peace calls for an end to Capitalism and NATO. All social forces for peace should support that call.

The US claim for “full spectrum dominance” denies others’ sovereignty: a friend is allowed nuclear weapons (e.g. Israel) and allowed to destroy the nuclear programme of another state (Iraq). Given Libya’s fate — giving up its nuclear weapons to have violent regime change effected by the US and France — it is not surprising that India and Pakistan want their own “deterrent”.

Karina Lester (an ICAN Ambassador of Aborigine heritage) gave insight into the experience of her people in South Australia. They suffered the impact of British nuclear weapon tests at the Emu Junction site, where no proper warning was given to the indigenous people before the tests though it was maintained at the time that they were “well looked after”. Her organisation along with Labrats and others has campaigned for decades but Australia has received no apology from Britain. The Aborigines want their story to be heard and the campaigning will go on.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour MP) attended the first Ban Treaty Review Conference, 21–23 June 2022. Anti-nuclear activism can seem academic and remote from people but that was not the case in Vienna. The movement can also seem very white while those impacted are mainly people of colour; they bear the legacy of the testing. The Russian assault on Ukraine was totally unjustified and one outcome is that more countries want more weapons for their security. But seeking security on the basis of being able to do most harm is not the right response. What we need is coordinated global leadership for the total eradication of nuclear weapons and, as a final note, Jeremy Corbyn and Vijay Prashad, in particular, said that the lead in that necessary global leadership should come from the Global South.

Alison Williams

Ukraine: what should Western countries do next?

This was the question posed in the BBC Moral Maze programme ( broadcast on 29 June 2022. One of the guests was Paul Ingram, a Quaker and Academic Programme Manager at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at Cambridge University. Though broadcast some months ago, it is still highly relevant and when details were recently circulated by email, two of our members responded to the question.

Tony Papard wrote:

The short answer is that Russia was wrong to invade, but Ukraine provoked Russia for 8 years before that with the anti-Russian coup of 2014, trying to suppress the Russian language, and allowing the neo-Nazi Azov battalion to shell the Russian-speaking areas in the Donbas continually.

Russia reclaimed Crimea which was handed over to Ukraine illegally, according to Gorbachev, without consulting the largely Russian population and where Russia has a large naval base.

Ukraine also failed to honour the Minsk Agreement brokered by Germany and another country. This committed Ukraine to giving a degree of autonomy within Ukraine for two Russian-speaking areas in the Donbas, and not to suppress the Russian language. The final straw was, as Russian troops massed on the very borders of Ukraine, President Zelensky refused to commit to staying out of NATO. This made it absolutely certain Russia would invade as it would be impossible once Ukraine joined the Western Alliance and would mean NATO troops on the Ukraine/Russia border.

Musk has suggested the obvious solution: a truce and independently monitored referenda in the Russian-speaking areas to ask the population whether they want to be part of Ukraine or Russia. An additional option could be a Northern Ireland-type solution where citizens of Crimea and the Donbas could opt for Russian or Ukrainian citizenship, or maybe both.

To continue pouring weapons into Ukraine will just mean many more deaths and seriously risk escalation to a wider war and even a nuclear one.

Noel Hamel wrote (edited extract):

In war it is always unlikely that there will be a black and white, neat answer to wrong and right, and consequently a neat answer about what to do. Some say that NATO is the villain that caused the current situation to arise. There may be some substance in that but here too there isn’t a neat and uncontroversial answer. No doubt NATO has undertaken some highly questionable activities but it began as a defensive alliance against Russian territorial action at the end of the last war and no one could say that Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe was benign and beneficial.

Though black and white are not satisfactory means of assessing situations of conflict and war, there is little doubt that Russian aims are for the subjugation of an independent Ukraine without even the vestiges of sound reason. Our aims of arming Ukraine to win will undoubtedly be very costly for Ukraine and its citizens. The signs are that Putin is not in a mood to compromise and negotiate. We should, I think, proceed on that basis.

My belief is that merely preaching “Peace” cannot adequately address the situation; on the other hand, escalation shouldn’t be a goal. I am unclear about why the German government is delaying approval of delivery of the Leopard tanks intended to help Ukrainians defend their territory from Russian invasion. The argument proposed that this would be escalation makes little sense. Generally disarmament must be an essential aim for all Peace groups; but not at any price.

Stop the War — Peace Talks now!

At the end of February it will be one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Stop the War has opposed the invasion and the war since it began, and to mark this one year anniversary has called a National Demonstration in Central London on Saturday 25th February (see diary).

As with all wars millions of ordinary people have suffered, vast numbers of refugees have been displaced and thousands of troops on both sides have been killed. Clearly the longer the war goes on the more suffering will occur. Rather than sending more arms and weaponry to Ukraine, ending the war will only be achieved through peace talks and diplomacy. In the absence of negotiation the danger of escalation, possibly nuclear escalation, is very real. This is why Stop the War demands peace talks now.

Arms Fair and Sportswashing

International Armoured Vehicles Arms Fair

In December 2022, I wrote to the Rugby Football Union saying that my husband had played rugby and I had enjoyed going with him to games at Twickenham. I was ashamed of them for allowing the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) arms fair to take place at Twickenham Stadium this January 2023, and was demanding that the RFU, as owners of Twickenham Stadium, revoke permission for the venue to be used for an event that facilitates the transfer of weapons and military technology used to violate human rights.

I pointed out that, through their supply of weapons and military technology used in unlawful attacks around the world, these companies are complicit in grave violations of international law. Events like IAV 2023 provide them with a direct platform to showcase their deadly weapons to representatives of human rights abusing militaries. In this year’s event programme, representatives from the Israeli military were scheduled to attend. In previous years delegations from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both part of the deadly bombardment of Yemen, have done so.

PUMA: new CEO — renewed campaign

I joined the renewed campaign to try to persuade PUMA not to continue sponsoring the Israel Football Association (IFA). The IFA advocates for football teams in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land. With the new Israeli government intending to expand Israel’s colonial settlements even further it is more important than ever that we take action.

On 21st January, people across Britain picketed PUMA stores and stockists to demand that the new PUMA CEO, Arne Freundt, finally severs his company’s ties with Israeli apartheid. A host of football clubs, including many in the UK, have severed ties with PUMA. To find out how to tell Mr Freundt about it, contact PSC at or 020 7700 6192.

Christine Bickerstaff

Speak Out Against Nuclear Weapons

To coincide with the spring budget announcement, CND is planning a series of adverts in key regional newspapers, demanding that public funds are not squandered on increasing the UK’s arsenal of nuclear warheads during a cost-of-living crisis. Can you help fund these adverts? Make a donation and we’ll add your name to the adverts. Let’s make sure the message is heard loud and clear up and down the country: instead of wasting money on useless weapons, the government should be making sure people can eat and heat their homes in the coming months. CND must receive your donation by 10th February for your name to appear.

Donate at or by phone, 020 7700 2393, or by post to 162 Holloway Road London N7 8DQ.

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