Neutrality and military alliances

A chara, – It has often been noted that generals tend to fight the battles of today with the weapons and strategies of the last war. Russia may be finding this out to its cost in the Ukraine.

Critics of Ireland’s policy of neutrality and relative lack of military capability tend to call for us to join Nato or else to expend many billions of euro on fighters, tanks and ships to develop an independent capability to defend ourselves.

First, the notion that we could ever achieve a level of military capability sufficient to repel a major nuclear and conventional military power is laughable, not to mention the effect it would have of creating a very militarised society here.

Second, the possession of some such capability would make us more of a target for a potential military adversary, for fear of us directing that capability against them.


Far from making us more secure, it would therefore make us more vulnerable to attack.

Third, our neutrality, and relative lack of capability to attack others makes us more acceptable as a neutral, third-party, peacekeeping force, and a developmental partner who isn’t using development aid as a cover for neo-colonial domination or arms sales.

Fourth, in a world evermore dominated by increasingly sophisticated and lethal weapons systems, the survival of the human race depends not on evermore arms purchases, but on developing our capabilities in diplomatic and peaceful conflict resolution, something we have some recognised expertise in.

But finally, and most importantly, the wars of tomorrow will increasingly be dominated by cyberwarfare, misinformation, and remote-controlled robotic, drone and missile technologies which bear little relationship to the battleships, aircraft carriers, bombers, fighter jets, tanks, and artillery of today.

If we must invest in increased military hardware and software, let it at least be appropriate to the real risks we will face in the future, and not some tokenistic homage to the defunct military strategies and weaponries of the past. – Is mise,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Rebecca Crowley claims that I seek to reject the notion that Ireland is free-riding on Nato in general and the UK in particular (Letters, May 23rd). What I said was that the rest of Nato had been free-riding on the United States for quite some time: the United States massively outspends everyone else. Europe has been under a US umbrella, something the US was happy with since the 1990s until recently, because it gave them much the dominant voice. This contributed to the decision by Nato to push eastward, regardless of some European disquiet.

Ms Crowley says that among several bold claims I make the most surprising is that Ireland is of no strategic interest to Russia. Ireland is of no strategic interest to Russia: nothing Russia could do in Ireland would contribute to its overall or long-term military advantage.

Belarus and Ukraine show how Russia acts when strategic interests are considered at stake.

But in a permanent global war between hegemons, nowhere is above tactical consideration: Russian jets fly in Irish airspace to test RAF responses. Russian ships encroach on Irish waters: they moved their planned exercises when some fishermen asked them to. Minor stuff.

Nonetheless, proposed extensions to the Russian embassy on Orwell Road show that Ireland is a weak link of great strategic importance: to deal with this deadly threat, the Irish Government invokes the planning laws!

Of course, history must be invoked to show the error of Irish ways: a neutrality which a nation cannot defend is worse than useless, we are told in a suitably authoritative tone. Ireland has defended its neutrality: it did so during the second World War, not a time of insignificant threat.

The present onslaught on Irish neutrality requires that we first identify where the threat to that neutrality comes from. The threat to Irish neutrality comes from Nato, to a lesser extent the EU, from the present Irish Government, and probably some kind of nascent Irish military-industrial complex.

In the face of any threat, Irish people are mobilising to defend neutrality, because they think it is worth defending, and can be defended. Irish military neutrality is not moral neutrality, nor is it utopian. It is a rational response to the cack-handed and inept response by the historic West to the fall of the Soviet Union and the deeply obdurate and loathsome behaviour of Vladimir Putin.

It is possible because of our unique geopolitical position on the edge of Europe: not to articulate it would be an act of profound moral irresponsibility; what it represents – what it actually is, is minuscule – has to be maintained as an historic possibility in a world where historic possibilities are diminishing rapidly. What we need right now is de-escalation. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.