Crisis Resolution Abroad, Conflict Management at Home: The Transnational Protests against NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System in Germany and the Netherlands

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This thesis explores the dynamics between global and local politics by investigating the social, environmental and political effects of a NATO military air base in Geilenkirchen which hosts NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control System (NAEW&C or AWACS). The main socio-environmental issues experienced by Dutch and German citizens living near Geilenkirchen Air Base are that of the noise nuisance, a fear of noise- and emissions-related health problems, and the felling of trees which obstruct the aircraft’s flight movements. This work will show how a military base can be used as a background to resist multiple different issues, depending on individual experiences and ideologies, and hereby connect people from a range of social, ideological and political backgrounds. While some resist the practical implications of the air base, others have actively made connections to broader concepts such as “militarization.” Such broader connections with global issues and movements will be investigated here, while also taking into account the distinct, issue-specific aspects of the local experiences surrounding presence of the AWACS. Moreover, the existence of the base will be put into geopolitical context by investigating the strategic and political decision-making that led to NATO’s collective purchase of the AWACS-fleet during the Cold War. The existence of the base will be connected to notions of “American empire” by arguing that NATO can be seen as an extension of American influence over Western Europe, and that this influence, alongside Cold War-considerations, played a significant role in the AWACS-purchase.
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