di Dario Fazzi
April 2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of one of the greatest antinuclear protests in European history. It was the protest in Comiso, Sicily, against the deployment of 112 NATO nuclear missiles.
In December 1979, NATO strategic command decided to modernize its Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) by basing 572 missiles in five Western European countries. The decision to install 108 new Pershing II and 464 Cruise missiles in European heartland was a response to Moscow’s deployment in Ukraine of a new generation of SS20 medium-range missiles.
A new arms race appeared to be gathering speed.
NATO strategy was clearly a strategy of escalation. Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State, announced the decision by proudly saying that it was a «memorable achievement»; he maintained that «the free people of the alliance will show overwhelming support for the decision».
That was one of the most optimistic, perhaps erroneous, provisions of an American statesman.
European leaders were more cautious and showed different concern about the possibility of emerging protest against NATO decision. French President Mitterand notoriously predicted that, although missiles were located in East too, pacifist protests would soon emerge in the West.
From a strategic point of view, Mitterand strenuously defended the deterrent capability of nuclear weapons and he added: «I keep watching that the weapons of my country remain above the level below which their deterrent capability would be ruined. It must therefore be understood that there is no ideological choice in it».
Common opinion among European leaders was that the deployment of the so-called Euromissiles would increase the strength of deterrence and improve its credibility.
Protests immediately broke out in Europe and in the US. They were particularly massive and impressive nearby an Italian Mediterranean base, close to the small town of Comiso. Comiso was a medium sized town of 27,000 inhabitants, situated near the Southern coast of Sicily facing towards Africa.