The article has been broken into 5 segments. This is the 4th instalment. The first may be viewed here, the 2nd may be viewed here, and the 3rd may be viewed here.
HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins
PART 4 – NATO MEMBERSHIP?
And on to our last question. Would an independent Wales be a member of NATO? Again, this assumes there will still be a NATO when Wales achieves independence. Let’s assume there is, then there are three options open to any state, they are the three N's – Neutrality, Non-alignment and NATO.
Neutrality seems to have been the favourite option of Plaid rank and file. That’s not surprising as the party was formed in 1925 partly as a reaction to the pointless horror of the Great War and a strong desire that Wales would let ‘English men fight English wars’. But there are problems with neutrality. It can sound high-minded and moral but that depends on if you believe that a conflict with a bully can be overcome with a candle-lit vigil followed by a poetry recital and question and answer session on Waldo Williams’s iconic Mewn Dau Cae. It’s all very well being moral and neutral if your conscience, like the Swedes and Irish, can allow you to believe the sons of other nations should defend you from Nazis.
But there’s not much point being neutral when you’re in a minority of one. Now, I could be fighting the ‘last war’ and that a land war in Europe is unlikely and the need for traditional infantry divisions is un-needed, but that doesn’t diminish the need for a military capability. Unfortunately, Plaid’s pseudo-neutrality is more often than not seen as a cheap and Pavlovian piece of positioning against the prevailing London government. Hiding behind, or transferring foreign policy to the United Nations by default is not always the most sensible, realistic nor appropriate decision either. What would be the point of independence if an independent Wales won’t follow its own foreign and military policy? We’ll hardly be better off, and could be worse off, than having our military policy dictated by London.
Non-alignment is also popular in Plaid, again for obvious reasons. But non-alignment proved to be a Star Wars bar of oddballs; a carnival of dictators and dreamers as ineffective as it was diverse. The European Union may develop into a military alliance, but that seems unlikely as it would undermine NATO. The EU was worse than ineffective during the Bosnian war and who would trust an alliance with France and its ego as a leading player?
The last option is NATO. This would be my preferred option. Not because it’s perfect but because it has strength – which is the whole point of an alliance. Who knows how Putin’s Russia will develop – when I visited there in 2005, I didn't find a single Russian that did not believe that there would be a dictatorship in five years time. It’s all very well attacking the USA, but I’d prefer Uncle Sam, even under George Bush, than Russia under Putin or China with a population of a billion, under any leader. So, in my view, an independent Wales should stay in NATO. But then, again, this is a decision which need not be taken now, it could be left to a referendum in the same way as any question about the role of the House of Windsor as head of state.
These three questions raise many points and also many answers. The next time Gwilym Owen or David Williams ask questions on the role of the military in an independent Wales, Plaid candidates need to have some answers and a coherent philosophical guideline. Having no military policy or worse, saying Wales would have no military would be like saying there will be no schools or hospitals in an independent Wales.