Irish MEP Clare Daly has claimed the Ukrainian establishment “became puppets of another power” by voting to end their country’s neutrality.*
Ms Daly told the Roger Casement Summer School in Dún Laoghaire the consequence of that decision for the people of Ukraine is that blood is being shed “for a war which is of no benefit to them”.
Ukraine’s parliament voted in 2014 to end the country’s “non-bloc” status in the wake of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.
She said: “They eliminated their neutrality and that was one of the reasons why we’re in the situation that we’re in now because they became puppets of another power who’s using them and their people and their blood is being shed in their country for a war that’s of no benefit to them”
Ms Daly said she did not favour sanctions on Russia but that did not mean she was on the "Putin payroll". Instead, she said, it was because she believes sanctions will not save a single Ukrainian life.
In a debate with Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews, she said there were many within the Irish establishment who wanted to use the war in Ukraine to end Irish neutrality and were shocked the public do not support them.
She believed the war will only end through negotiation but she denied this meant the surrender of Ukraine or rewarding Russia for its aggression.
Ms Daly claimed recent comments by US secretary of state for defence Lloyd Austin and UK prime minister Boris Johnson show the Ukraine conflict is now a "proxy war" between Nato and Russia.
“They want the people of Ukraine to shed blood for their war with Russia. A lot of people said that [Russian president Vladimir] Putin wants to take over the whole of Ukraine and then he is going to move into the Baltics. If that is his agenda, he has failed miserably. The people of Ukraine have shown that the territory of Ukraine will not be taken over.”
However, any attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine would be resisted by any Russian president in power and the people of Crimea, she said.
She also stated that Russia's invasion was "100 per cent wrong" and the Ukrainian people had a right to defend themselves, but Nato and the United States bear some responsibility for what has happened.
She suggested Pope Francis has "stolen my notes" by suggesting that Nato's eastward expansion had a role in provoking Russia.
"Unless we understand the background, we can't find a way out of this," she said. The invasion, she added, had led to a lot of Russiaphobia in Europe with Russian language speakers being targeted and Russian statues torn down.
Mr Andrews said the left had "underestimated the threat from Russia and secondly that a false equivalence has been drawn between Russian overreach and the actions of the West".
He listed several examples of Russian disinformation including the idea that the Ukrainian military had shot down the Malaysian Airlines plane in July 2014.
“Finally the HSE attack to bring it all back home a little. This isn’t disinformation but it is part of the cyber war on critical infrastructure that is facilitated by Russia to undermine the EU and western democracy,” he said.
Russian disinformation was also present in Ireland, he said, hence the expulsion of the senior defence attaché at the Russian embassy who was expelled for behaviour not compatible with diplomatic activities.
“It is Putin’s goal to undermine EU democracy. Democracy is the real provocation. We are experiencing a democratic recession – a real crisis.”
Mr Andrews said he had written a recent policy paper on Irish neutrality advocating a citizens’ assembly on the issue and also advocating that Ireland should not join Nato, but should join any European common defence alliance if an EU member state is attacked.
He concluded by stating that it is important the people of Ireland continue to stand with the people of Ukraine.
“They are not just fighting for the ground of Ukraine – they are fighting for an idea and a concept that we sadly become complacent about,” he said.
“Democracy is not a family heirloom that is handed down from one generation to the next – it cannot be taken for granted and it must be earned afresh by each succeeding generation.”
*This article was amended on Friday, June 17th, 2022. An earlier version of the story incorrectly paraphrased Ms Daly as saying Ukrainian politicians had made themselves puppets of another power.