New Zealand has enjoyed few really prominent international moments in the sun -- the most celebrated by the chatterati is that 'glorious moment' in the mid-eighties when the country thumbed its collective nose at one of the world's superpowers: telling our ANZUS treaty partner and former ally the United States we wanted no more of its nuclear umbrella, and to go take a hike.
New Zealand's foreign policy turnabout was taken in the very midst of the Cold War -- it was celebrated then as a courageous sign of independence and is celebrated still as an outstanding and iconic example of New Zealand's vigorous and free-thinking independence.
It was nothing of the sort. It was neither rational, nor independent.
The knee-jerk anti-American, anti-science anti-nuclearism still infects the country's thinking today, to everyone's detriment. And far from being an assertion of New Zealand's independence, an article by Trevor Loudon and Bernard Moran from Australia's National Observer magazine confirms the anti-nuclear position to have been a strategy cooked up in Moscow.
The 'peace movement' was the chosen trojan horse -- "We have many clever people in the Soviet Union," a local peace activist attending a course in Moscow on how to destabilise a country was told, "but no one has even been able to come up with a weapon potentially as powerful as the peace movement." The stalking horses were three Labour MPs who still bestride the local political stage.
That 'peace activist' quoted above was actually an SIS agent called John Van de Ven who was interviewed in 1990 by Loudon and Moran, upon whom they rely for their account. Van de Ven was told by his tutors that then Soviet leader (and former KGB chief) Yuri Andropov had "initiated a strategy for taking a social democratic country out of the Western alliance, by utilising the 'correlation of forces' provided by the peace movement and the trade unions. New Zealand was given a high priority by the Soviets, for its strategic propaganda potential -- show the strategy worked here, and you demonstrated you could apply the same pressure to less distant dominoes like Denmark.
The immediate result of the strategy (and one still evident today) was the Soviet infiltration of the peace movement and the trade unions, and consequently of the left wing of the then Labour Government as well. As the late Tony Neary of the Electrical Workers Union related to an audience in 1987
"In the New Zealand trade union movement, those who mutter about Reds under the beds must be joking. The Reds are already in the beds and have been there for some years. By now they are sitting up and getting breakfast brought in."
The "Reds" were as thoroughly in charge of NZ's anti-nuclear groundswell in the seventies and eighties as they were of the US State Department in the thirties and forties. The anti-nuclear legislation they brought about here knocked New Zealand permanently out of ANZUS and the western alliance, and it still paralyses both our relationship with the US and our ability to produce clean energy.
Given its long-lasting and entirely negative results, it's as crucial to understand the mechanics of how it came about as it is to understand that those who learned this methodology are still about. In the Oxford Union debates David Lange famously shot back at a heckler that he could "smell the Uranium on his breath"; it remains unfortunate still that he couldn't smell the borscht on the breath of his foreign policy advisers, or didn't care that he did.
If you want to understand how the Soviets made the local peace movement and the Labour Party their puppets, then read and digest 'The untold story behind New Zealand's ANZUS breakdown' from the National Observer.