One day we are being tossed out of ANZUS, our nuclear-free policy the geopolitical equivalent of farting in church. A mere 23 years later, a new American President campaigning against nuclear weapons, singles out NZ and invites us to his nuclear security summit precisely because of our nuclear-free status.
As Terence O’Brien just said on Morning Report, the world has moved a long way in the last 23 years, in the direction of New Zealand’s rejection of nuclear deterrence.
Just to add to the weirdness, we now have a former Labour prime minister publicly suggesting it is time for US warships to visit our harbours, and a National Government underlining its support for the nuclear-free legislation.
It is perhaps not so weird. American warships have long been stripped of their nuclear missiles and nuclear reactors. All that remains in the way of American sailors experiencing the pleasures of Kiwi hospitality is their Government’s neither confirm nor deny policy. If the US is willing to publicly comply with it, and send ships that are acknowledged to be non-nuclear, why not?
There is a bigger issue lurking here though. I hope the enthusiasm for bringing back US ships is not a cover for trying to get us back into ANZUS which is still fundamentally a Cold War alliance based on nuclear deterrence. In the years since we left ANZUS, the world has changed and so have we. We have developed a more independent view of our place in the world.
The opportunity now is to springboard off our nuclear-free status and campaign alongside other non-nuclear countries for a new Nuclear Weapons Convention to abolish nuclear weapons, building political support for President Obama’s disarmament agenda, as Phil Goff called for this morning. Now that would really make us flavour of the month in the White House.