Independence and Foreign Policy: New Zealand in the World since 1935

By Malcolm McKinnon | Go to book overview

12. The ANZUS crisis and independence in New Zealand foreign policy

For many, independence in foreign policy in the 1980s became synonymous with the anti-nuclear policy; even more than in the past, therefore, the word acquired opaque qualities, used so often and in so rhetorical, even ritualistic-- our...'nuclear-free-and-independent-foreign-policy'--a fashion, that its particular meaning and historical context were obscured. In this final chapter we want to examine the meaning of independence in relation to the anti, nuclear policy. The Labour Party took office in 1984 committed to keeping nuclear weapons and nuclear power out of New Zealand, a commitment which in due course brought it into collision with the United States and other allies. Not only, however, did the Labour government refuse to modify its policy; in 1990 the National Party adopted the same anti-nuclear stance. By that time 'independence' in New Zealand foreign policy had become virtually synonymous with the anti-nuclear policy.

What kind of independence was this? This episode, more than any other, not excepting the exchange crisis in 1939, made explicit the role of power in New Zealand's foreign relations (as distinct from those of the Pacific states). We look first at the course of the crisis, then analyse the Labour government's policies, the anti-nuclear movement, and public opinion generally.


The course of the crisis

Afghanistan did not become a second Vietnam for the United States: indeed quite the reverse, it became a Vietnam, an unwinnable war, for the Soviet Union, with the United States and its allies able to witness the discomfiture of the rival superpower. To understand the 1984-86 crisis in relations between New Zealand and its allies, particularly the United States, we need rather to keep in mind other developments. The early 1980s were characterised in both Europe and the United States by a surge of anti-nuclear sentiment that provided the essential context for the New Zealand movement in its early years. The intensification of Cold War tensions, particularly in the aftermath of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and American disillusion with

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