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Hard to see how diplomacy can work with Putin’s Russia

Inside Politics: Coveney backs gradual escalation of Russian sanctions over Ukraine

In 24 hours there has been a serious escalation in the security crisis over Ukraine and a serious upping of the stakes in the tense poker game between Russia and the West. In extensive media coverage, many parallels have been drawn with the first and second World Wars.

The more accurate and real one is a return to classic Cold War brinkmanship – it's as if the past 33 years have not happened, as if the Berlin Wall had never crumbled, Glasnost had never happened, and the USSR was never chipped away.

Following Russian president Vladimir Putin's unilateral declaration on Monday night that two regions within Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk – were now fully-fledged countries, the response from the EU, the US and Nato-aligned countries has been swift.

As Derek Scally and Naomi O'Leary report the European Union has slapped a ban on lending to Russia's central bank. It has also imposed travel bans to Europe on 351 members of the state Duma who voted to recognise the Russian-backed regions in the Ukraine. The Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany is also suspended.


In a co-ordinated move, the US imposed full blocks on two large Russian financial institutions and also prohibited Russian sovereign debt from trading its debt in western markets. It also imposed new sanctions on “Russian elites”.

Not to be outdone by Putin's rambling outburst the previous night, US president Joe Biden was as near to outspoken as he has been during his occupancy of the White House.

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gave him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belongs to his neighbour,” he said. It was, he added, a “flagrant violation of International law”.

But as Daniel McLaughlin reports from Kyiv Russia is moving a step closer to war despite the sanctions, with the bellicose noises from Putin and his apparatchiks in the Duma getting louder.

Biden said the sanctions were only the first tranche. If Russia does launch a full-scale invasion with 150,000 troops at its disposal it will over-run its neighbour quickly and there will be no immediate military response from the West. However, Moscow maintaining control of Ukraine and suppressing internal military resistance over a longer period will pose a much more difficult proposition. It could lead to a bloody and prolonged conflict and a serious destabilisation that would threaten 75 years of peace in Europe.

For its part our Government's response has been in line with most European leaders. Taoiseach Micheál Martin was in Berlin on Tuesday and said that Putin's declaration on Monday night had "crossed a line". Similarly Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the move by Russia as a violation of international law.

Interestingly, he strongly supported the gradual escalation of sanctions rather than immediate punitive action. His rationale was there was still room for diplomacy and negotiation to work, to pull Russia back from the brink.

It’s hard to see how diplomacy will work with Putin’s Russia. Everything – from his outbursts, to the build-up of troops on the Ukraine border, to outlandish claims of genocide – points to an imminent invasion at this moment in time .

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A busy day in Leinster House on Wednesday, with a full agenda.

The Dáil kicks off with the Rural Group of Independent TDs calling for a “mini-budget” to help rural families. Its Private Members’ motion is being debated at 10am.

Leaders’ Questions is at Noon.

Then an afternoon of what should be interesting debate. Legacy issues in the North are being discussed along with the reports of the North Ireland Police Ombudsman. That debate is immediately followed by two-and-a-half hours of debate on the security situation in Europe.

The only Bill going through the House is the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Bill 2021, a largely technical Bill which reforms and updates the current legislation.

The day will conclude with weekly divisions, as TDs vote on the Private Members’ motions.

The Seanad is hosting MEPs from the South Constituency (Sean Kelly, Billy Kelleher, Mick Wallace and Deirdre Clune are the four). Later on it will discuss the Citizens’ Assembly, which has been the subject of considerable debate over the past few days.

Interestingly ahead of his appearance, Kelly took issue with the Green Party stance on Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) imports in an interview with Tús Áite on Radió na Gaeltachta.

“I think that Eamon Ryan and Neasa Hourigan and the Greens are making a mistake with this current stance against LNG. We’re relying entirely on one gas line coming into this country – the Corrib gas line – and in 10 or 20 years there’ll be no more gas coming from there.

“I think it’s foolish not to look at LNG for this this country so that we can, firstly, have greater energy and, secondly, it would keep prices lower than if we only had one line,” he told Fachtna Ó Drisceoil.


The Committee on Enterprise is considering the Redundancy Payments (Amendment) Bill 2022 with Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Select Committee on Finance is considering the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Retail Credit and Credit Servicing Firms) Bill 2021 with Sean Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Finance.

The Transport and Communications Committee is doing pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the of the Communications Regulation (Enforcement) Bill.

Tá Comhchoiste na Gaeilge ag iniúchadh na ceiste seo a leanas: “An féidir foilsitheoireacht agus léitheoireacht na Gaeilge a spreagadh?”

The biggest committee event of the day is the discussion on online disinformation and media literacy at 1.30pm. The Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media Committee has invited in Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who has accused the company of putting profits before people.

The Committee on Agriculture is looking at canine fertility and also the development of the hemp sector in Ireland. That might not rock the nation but it should be a fascinating conversation.