What it is: An agreement between states not to attack each other.
What it means:
Any agreement that prevents war is welcome, but most non-aggression pacts have been strategic and temporary. Probably the most notable 20th century non-aggression pact was between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Nazi Germany in 1939, just before the Second World War. There was little friendship between the two states: communism and fascism are political systems hostile to each other. In fact the USSR had tried unsuccessfully to form an alliance with leading European countries against Germany. Now it was worried by Europe's apparent tolerance of fascism (in Italy and Spain as well as Germany), and by the possibility that European countries would gang up against the USSR (which wasn't yet sufficiently mobilised for war) instead. For these and other complex reasons, it suited both Stalin and Hitler to buy time with a treaty. But their non-aggression pact had aggression built into it: one part of the deal was an agreement to divide Poland (a unified country for only 20 years) between them. Soon Poland was brutally invaded by both states and occupied. By 1941 the USSR and Germany had an uneasily shared border across Poland. Hitler lost interest in the pact and ordered German troops to invade the USSR. Not all such pacts are quite so insincere. In 2003 China and India (both of them nuclear powers) and 10 Southeast Asian countries signed a non-aggression pact. It was called the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, with a stated aim 'to promote perpetual peace'. The signatory countries agreed to solve any disputes 'through dialogue and negotiations'. At the same time they signed a partnership agreement 'for peace and prosperity'. This pact was not so much to renounce war as to build a co-operative free trade region. It was needed because the once-booming Southeast had been losing trade: foreign investments were being moved away to China instead. Competing for survival breeds conflict, and the pact was designed to prevent this from happening.
Think about it:
A Russian citizen proposing a non-aggression pact between the Russian Federation and the rest of Europe said it should be given another name: 'non-aggression', he said, implied that aggressive attitudes were present and kept the idea of aggression in people's minds. Wise words. Try looking at an interesting (and important) case history. The Korean War was the first military confrontation of the Cold War, and began when communist North Korea invaded South Korea (which was pro-West). The US, fearful of the spread of communism, immediately sent troops to support South Korea. (Though America was boycotting the United Nations at the time, the UN also sent troops from 16 other countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.) South Korea was 'liberated' in 1953 and an armistice was signed. However, the war wasn't formally ended, and that was still the situation in 2005. In the 1980s it had been discovered that North Korea was at work on making nuclear weapons. The North Korean government said that they feared attacks from the USA and were developing their own weapons as a deterrent. From 1991 the North Korean leadership began asking repeatedly for a non-aggression pact with America, and for help with rebuilding the country's failed economy and getting a source of non-nuclear energy. In response, the USA campaigned for UN sanctions against North Korea and put plans in motion to bomb its nuclear reactors at Yongbyon. But after mediation North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear programme and to allow UN inspectors in for verification that they had done so. A 'framework agreement' was signed by the US and North Korea in 1994. In the years that followed, US intelligence officials claimed that North Korea was still in the bomb-making business, but their information was questionable or flawed. However, when George W Bush became president, he was ready to believe the worst. In 2002 it was announced that the 1994 agreement was over, and so was American aid to impoverished North Korea. North Korea now withdrew from the nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement, threw out the UN inspectors, re-opened the Yongbyon nuclear complex, and restarted their reactor. The hostile policies of the Bush administration left no choice, its spokespeople said, but to develop 'a powerful physical deterrent force'. The USA named North Korea a 'rogue state' and listed it as a target for a first strike attack. Even so, North Korea continued to say that it would give up nuclear weaponry if (a) the Korean War was formally ended, (b) hostile attitudes between the USA and North Korea ceased (c) sanctions were lifted (d) North Korean diplomats were accepted, and (e) compensation was given for the vast expense on nuclear programmes provoked by fear of US attacks. Meanwhile North Korea's 23 million people have continued to endure poverty and hardship - and fear, both of their leader and of attack. Find out what has happened about North Korea since 2003. If the situation is still tense, try devising the terms of a non-aggression pact that might work. Discuss your ideas, listen to other people's, and write them down. Then think about getting a group together to promote these ideas via the internet.