Envoy challenges military body’s ‘bogeyman’ portrayal of Russia

Reference to Russia’s ‘aggressive actions’ against Ukraine ‘unhelpful’, says ambassador

Russia's ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov has taken issue with the Commission on the Defence Forces for attempting to portray his country as a "bogeyman" and a threat to Irish security in its report this week.

The Government-appointed commission identified the activities of Russian and China, along with Islamic and right-wing extremists, as among the growing risks to Irish national security.

Mr Filatov said that while the report by the Government-appointed commission was an internal matter for Ireland, he "cannot but note an attempt by the commission to substantiate its conclusions with a notion of a threat allegedly posed by Russia to the security of Ireland".

“Any unbiased observer would be hard put to find any evidence of such a ‘threat’. Attempts to portray Russia as a boogie [sic] are misplaced and regrettable,” said the ambassador in a statement released by the Russia embassy.

READ MORE

His spokesman later clarified that he meant “bogeyman”.

The Kremlin’s envoy in Dublin rejected as “totally unfounded” conclusions by the EU Council and EU foreign affairs ministers quoted in the report that referred to “aggressive actions” by Russia.

He described this as unhelpful at a time of increased tensions with the West over Ukraine.

"These insinuations are not only baseless; they are also especially unhelpful at the time of great tension in Europe, created by the US and its Nato allies," said the ambassador.

“We believe that now is the moment for mature and responsible decisions, which would be based not on political fiction, but on reality.”

Protecting Ireland

The commission’s report referred to last month’s statement from EU foreign affairs ministers condemning “Russia’s continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine”.

The report concluded that the Defence Forces were not equipped to deal with outside threats and that maintaining the Irish military’s capacity at current levels would leave the State without a credible military capability to protect Ireland, its people and its resources.

Under the heading, “increased great power competition and geostrategic change,” the report said the notion of a “strategic partnership” between Russia and the West was “upended by Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, its support to separatist forces in Ukraine and current overt threats to Ukraine, and heightened concern about hybrid threats to western democracies.”

Hybrid threats were defined as a mixture of “coercive and subversive activity, conventional and unconventional methods” used in a “co-ordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific objectives, while remaining below the threshold of formally declared warfare”.

Without naming Russia, the report referred to aircraft flying “undetected” in Irish-controlled airspace off the west coast with their transponders turned off, a practice undertaken by Russian bombers in recent years.

Last month Russia agreed to relocate naval exercises planned for off the south-west Irish coast to an area outside the State's exclusive economic zone after requests from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and fishing groups that they be moved.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent