The Ukraine-Russia crisis

 

A chara, – Every year Ireland experiences a few incursions into Irish airspace by large Russian military aircraft. The RAF, being the nearest large military air force, usually responds and shadows these aircraft, escorting them out of our airspace.

Considering how infrequently Russian naval manoeuvres occur within our large Exclusive Economic Zone, it may make sense on this occasion to similarly allow military vessels from other EU states, with more substantial naval forces than ours, to shadow these manoeuvres, lest Russian forces feel that they can conduct naval manoeuvres in Irish waters at any time and at any place of their choosing. – Yours, etc,

MAIRTIN

O’FALLAMHAIN,

Letterkenny,

Co Donegal.

A chara, – Daragh McDowell in his article ignored the most important factor regarding the Russian naval manoeuvres within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, which is that there is no legal impediment to prevent Russia from engaging in them (“Russian naval manoeuvres reveal Irish neutrality is untenable”, Opinion & Analysis, January 27th). Even if Ireland were a member of Nato, Russia is still entitled to carry out the exercises in international waters. I don’t share Mr McDowell’s desire to make a cold war hot. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN CROTTY,

Portlaw,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – Daragh McDowell quotes Leon Trotsky in his plea for Ireland to essentially abandon its so-called neutrality to align itself with US imperialism. Mr McDowell could have used a different but more appropriate Trotsky quote: “The United States is not only the strongest but also the most terrified country.” US political, economic, and military hegemony has dominated the globe for the last 30 years; this hegemony is being challenged by the gradual rise of China, India and to a lesser degree Russia. The continued aggressive expansion of Nato is one response by the US to this changing global picture. Against this inter-imperial rivalry, it is bizarre that Mr McDowell limits his critiques to Russia alone and makes none even in passing of the nefarious interventions by the US in Latin America, the Middle East and most currently its part-financing of and political cover for the ongoing Saudi bombardment of Yemen. So, have the discussion on Irish “neutrality” but let’s do so in an objective and critically informed manner about any future alignments. Unfortunately, that was lacking in his piece, and all too often absent from this discussion. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL MURPHY,

Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I agree that we should invest more in our Naval Service – and indeed in our Army and Air Corps – to enable us to perform routine security and also to provide a proper standard of living for the men and women in their employment.

But it is absurd to link this to our ability to withstand any threat which might be posed by the imminent Russian naval exercises to be held off the coast of Ireland. Any clout which we might have comes from our membership of the EU and from the broader international community. – Yours, etc,

EITHNE O’CALLAGHAN,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Denis Staunton (“‘Global Britain’ risks drifting further away from the diplomatic action”, World, Analysis, January 28th) as usual presents perceptive commentary on EU-UK relations.

That the UK has downgraded its influence through leaving the bloc on its doorstep is beyond doubt.

But while the EU has begun to shape up in the geopolitical diplomacy stakes, it remains far from realising the “strategic autonomy” referred to in its 2016 Global Strategy. The EU has engaged in high-flying rhetoric about creating foreign and security policy coherence for many years, but the field remains strictly intergovernmental, with member states able to veto collective response to crises.

The pandemic has shown that the EU can act in unison, and with good results. The Ukraine crisis is another matter entirely. The Baltic states, Finland, and Poland are the strongest advocates for a robust response to Moscow’s sabre rattling, and while nobody wants a war, the prospect of stronger political and economic sanctions creates tension among member states. The EU, and especially Germany, has left itself exposed to Russian blackmail over gas supplies.

While Vladimir Putin basks in the domestic limelight provided by bilateral negotiations with the US, the EU has not been at the table. That suits the Russian president, who seizes every opportunity to undermine the EU and its role in world affairs. The Normandy format leaves France and Germany as EU representatives, once more placing the EU in the background. The potential is there for greater EU geopolitical impact, which in economic terms and as a standards setter remains vital. But the loss of the UK as a member is a severe blow for which only enhanced integration can begin to compensate. We should not forget Paul Henri Spaak’s dictum that Europe is comprised of just two kinds of state, small ones, and those who do not yet realise that they are small. That includes the UK of course. – Yours, etc,

Dr SIMON SWEENEY,

University of York.

Sir, – “Fishermen given ‘absolute guarantee’ of no disruption by Russian naval exercises” (News, January 27th).

Further discussions to be held in Salisbury. – Yours, etc,

FIONNUALA WALSH,

Galway.

Sir, – Filatov fish? – Yours, etc,

TIM KINSELLA,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – How about a flotilla of protesters in Dryrobes to scare the Russian navy away? They are the only ones who brave the winter seas without fear. – Yours, etc,

MIKE MORAN,

Dublin 3.