‘Russia’s encirclement of Ukraine’

Sir, – Your editorial refers to "Russia's encirclement of Ukraine" (January 25th). A quick review of military maps shows that Nato wins that contest hands down.

The indisputable fact is that the current Ukraine crisis has been festering due to relentless Nato expansionism – mainly driven by the US – which the Russians claim threatens its security.

Since the end of the cold war in the early 1990s, Nato has expanded into more and more countries in eastern Europe and is now on Russia’s border. It has also played a more aggressive role internationally in the Balkans, the Middle East and South Asia. The carnage created by Nato in Libya is likely to be foremost in the minds of Russian leaders.

The Ukrainian people’s right to independence, security and to choose which countries they ally with must be guaranteed. However, such choices should respect the human rights of all Ukrainian citizens, including those who identify more with Russia than with Europe or the US. Serious diplomacy is needed to achieve this.


Nato leaders, particularly the US and Britain, are stoking the tension in Ukraine, using Ukrainian citizens as pawns in a game of geopolitical brinkmanship between themselves and Russia.

All their actions are playing into the ultranationalistic policy of Vladimir Putin and his cronies in Russia, thus making him more powerful.

The western media adds to the hysteria, blaming the whole crisis on Russia as the only bad actor, with the obvious subtext being that the US and Nato will fly in to solve everything for the Ukrainians. All this while hypocritical western governments are tacitly supporting and ignoring horrific atrocities in Yemen and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.

There are solutions that could possibly work for Ukraine. Why cannot western political leaders advance serious diplomatic proposals to defuse the tension? Why not call for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops, military hardware and advisers from the region and assist in allowing Ukraine to be a neutral state with help from all sides? This would show serious concern for both Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Russia’s security. The Minsk Agreements signed in 2014 and 2015, brokered by France and Germany and overseen by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, called for a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weapons, Ukraine’s control over its border with Russia and a special political status for certain areas of the region.

It is beyond comprehension that a small country is being used by several nuclear power countries in this dangerous game of geopolitical brinkmanship and that there is even talk of the possibility of yet another military conflagration that would kill and maim multitudes of people and defer the urgent mitigation measures so badly needed in relation to the climate change crisis.

Earnest peace negotiations and diplomacy must ensue with the aim of demilitarising the region and helping the Ukrainian people to live peacefully and to coexist in a manner that respects their multilayered cultures. The alternative is unimaginable. Minister for Foreign Simon Coveney and the Irish Government should condemn the dangerous sabre-rattling of the belligerent parties and call for an immediate end to this frightening warmongering. – Yours, etc,




Irish Anti-War Movement,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – Are we all aware of the deafening silence here from supporters of the left to Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

A chara, – The hysteria about Russian naval exercises in the Atlantic, outside our territorial waters but within our economic zone, might make some sense if a similar outrage had been expressed when British, US and EU state navies conducted similar exercises. Indeed, in 2020, 11 Nato states held such exercises coming within 80km of the Irish coast, and in 2021 came within 32km of Malin Head. The Russian exercise is 240km away.

Of course, it would be better if there were no such exercises by any state, and that the desire for war could be relegated to the past.

But selective condemnations are very dubious.

In this instance, yet another excuse has been found to challenge our policy of neutrality – if that hasn’t been made a mockery of by our allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport. Let’s remember the only country to invade us in modern times has been England.

Let’s also remember that all the expenditure on modern weaponry was shown to be useless within two hours when Iraq and Libya were invaded. We have only one defence and that is our ability to wage a guerrilla resistance against any occupier, as we did against the British in the fight for freedom.

Meanwhile, instead of beating the drums of war we should use our neutral status to promote a peaceful resolution of current tensions, recognising that Russia has the same right to security as the US or Russia’s neighbours. – Is mise,


Baile Átha Cliath 22.

Sir, – This needs to be said first. I don’t like Vladimir Putin. I think he’s a nasty authoritarian. But given that Nato routinely ignores Russia’s objections to military exercises held in the Black Sea, why should we be surprised when Russia responds by holding its own manoeuvres far from home? – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The Russian ambassador to Ireland assures the Irish Government that his country’s military exercises close to the Irish coast next month are nothing to worry about and their significance overblown. We should obviously take him at his word.

It’s perfectly logical that a country more than a thousand miles away would conduct air combat and reconnaissance drills a few hundred miles from Nato member states, barely outside the legal maritime perimeters of a neutral country.

Can I ask – yet again – that the Irish Government invest in a fast interceptor and fighter jet programme and do it now.

How many White Papers can it take to figure out that Ireland, as things stand, is entirely defenceless? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – In making it clear to Russia that the latter’s proposed naval exercise off the Cork coast must not take place, Ireland has been very shrewd. Sometimes, where an unpleasant regime appears to be driven by the personality and ambitions of its leader, the only logical solution (to neutralise that leader) is, sadly, proscribed by the conventions of international diplomacy.

The plan here, presumably, is that when Vladimir Putin is told of Ireland’s decision, and briefed on where Ireland is, and her military capability, he will burst out laughing.

Unaccustomed to mirth, he will be unable to control himself, and will burst something vital.

The verdict of the inquest, however, can surely be none other than misadventure.

Would that we had Ireland’s military strategists in the UK. It would save us a fortune. – Yours, etc,


St Helens,

Merseyside, UK.