Reflections from an observer

Josh Nadeau is a Canadian freelance writer living in Russia who is interested in dialogue and conflict resolution. He attended Baltic Glory 2018 as an observer. Here are his reflections.

The peace exercises at Baltic Glory are interesting.

As compared to the summer workshops at Nansen or PRIO, which were more
about studying methods, theory or data, the activities here are meant to
be preemptive. ”The military has military exercises,” says Pelle, the
organizer, ”so the peace movement should have them too.”

**Event 1: A few people have reported seeing a submarine in the
Stockholm archipelago. At a press conference, the Minister of Defence
stated that they possess uncontestable proof. There are those who say
this is reason enough for a quick entry into NATO. In Finland there are
also voices calling for the remilitarization of the Aland islands.

How would you want the international peace movement to react to this?**

We’re divided into pairs or small groups and asked to answer questions
like these. There’s a mix of Finns, Swedes and Russians in each one.
People advocate for waiting for more information, for confirmation
before action. For uniting with peace movements across borders to reach
consensus. People in the room get frustrated when we seem to keep giving
the same answers.

**Event 4: Finnish media reports of suspicious activity around buildings
owned by Russian citizens that are close to Finnish military warehouses.
The government debates a ban on Russian ownership of propery as well as
on double citizenship. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states
its readiness to act in the interests of Russian citizens under threat.

How do you react to this situation?**

Some organize parties in Russian cottages and invite Finnish youth.
Someone mentions holding a peace rally/party across from a military
building once and it being fun and not taken well. A Russian lady asks
about whether or not there are literally spies/saboteurs that still need
to be addressed. Someone else says to invite them too. A few get
headaches because this is all pretty familiar stuff anyway.

**Event 14: Seven members of an American contract force in Syria died in
a Russsian bombing. The American government treats it like an attack on
the United States. Three Russian fighters are shot down in retaliation.
The next day, an American ship is sunk in the Mediterranean.

Is this the spark that will set off the war? And what are we going to do
about it?**

People talk about having an international protest on the waters where it
sunk, making a peace sign out of small, pink rubber boats. Demanding
independent investigations from the UN and neutral parties. Asking
Russian and American gov’ts not to act too hastily. Addressing
businessmen saying it isn’t in anyone’s interest if there’s a big war.
We present our ideas.

”No!” Pelle barks, ”not radical enough! You have too much faith in the
UN! Do you think other people are going to solve your problems for you?
You have half an hour to come up with a real plan.”

New ideas: human chains in front of ministries of defense, and when
they’re taken away to be arrested another group goes in. Doing
investigations ourselves. Blocking bases when they try to retrieve
military equipment. Strikes. Huge protests in front of embassies, also
happening to block/disrupt their services. Funnelling conscientious
objectors out of countries that may end up having a draft.

”Better,” he says when he comes back in.

Later: setting up secure communication channels. Discoveries of major
weapons caches. Someone from Baltic Glory declared a foreign agent. NATO
sending tanks to Finland. Martial law in Russia. Three peace activists
murdered without investigation. A number of exercises end with two
words: DO SOMETHING.

And people start asking, near the finish line, would bombs fall? And, if
they don’t, would it be because we had anything to do about it?