There has been intense interest from the Irish public in yesterday’s vote on the European Parliament’s resolution on Russian aggression against Ukraine, passed by overwhelming majority. Our decision to vote against it has drawn considerable anger. Central to that anger is the mistaken belief we voted “against condemning Russian aggression.” That is not true. We unequivocally condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately terminate all military activities in Ukraine, unconditionally withdraw its forces, and fully respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. We express our undivided solidarity with the people of Ukraine and call for urgent diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire and negotiations to end the conflict.
The decision by Russia to abandon diplomacy and invade Ukraine cannot be justified and is contrary to international law. It amounts to the most serious of war crimes, as observed by the Nuremberg Tribunal, which stated that aggressive war is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” With every hour, that evil continues to accumulate. Russian shelling and rocket attacks against cities are crimes against humanity. The use of Russia’s nuclear deterrent to provide cover for this war is threatening runaway nuclear escalation, with potentially fatal consequences for all life on our planet. The sole responsibility for this is borne by Vladimir Putin.
Much of the European Parliament’s resolution is important and necessary. It correctly condemns the invasion and calls for humanitarian support for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. These are terms we wholeheartedly supported. Contrary to claims we voted “against condemning Russian aggression,” we did in fact vote for these clauses, during the votes on amendments. Check the record.
But the resolution also calls to accelerate provision of military equipment and weapons to Ukraine, to strengthen NATO’s forward presence, to further increase defence spending, and to activate European common and joint defence efforts “in order to strengthen the European pillar within NATO.” It also, opportunistically, calls for throwing open the European energy market to fracked liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States. Our political group, the Left, sought to remove these elements from the resolution, but the majority in the European Parliament fought to keep them. We had to vote on the text as a whole, which included these calls. Our vote was not against condemning Russian aggression. It was against flooding Ukraine with weapons. It was against a retaliatory spiral of military escalation, endangering all of Europe. It was against cynically exploiting a invasion of Ukraine to advance the interests of the fossil fuel industry during a climate crisis, endangering the whole planet.
We also voted for an amendment cautioning against fast-tracked EU accession for Ukraine. Why? Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union states that if an EU Member State “is a victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power.” This is understood in the EU as a mutual defence obligation. It means admitting Ukraine to the EU under the present circumstances would, in effect, be a declaration of war against Russia, a nuclear power. The Irish public should reflect carefully on whether that is an outcome fully to be desired.
In the European Parliament we have consistently opposed the militarisation of the EU, the expansion of NATO, and the erosion of Ireland’s neutrality within EU common defence structures. We have always viewed these processes as part of a global military build-up, at risk of igniting into a general conflict. Ukraine is a flashpoint in that build-up. Although Russia alone invaded Ukraine, both Russia and the West bear responsibility for creating conditions of instability and confrontation in Ukraine, in pursuit of their strategic and economic interests. Despite fulsome rhetoric, Europe has been no friend of Ukraine. The country has been used as a pawn. Ukrainian lives have been treated as expendable. All along, our work has focused on dialogue to bring about an end to the longstanding war in Donbass, in line with the Normandy Format talks and the Minsk II agreement. Our stance is firmly in the tradition of Irish neutrality and international support for peace.
The public all over the world is correctly distraught at Russian aggression, as are we. It is impossible to be unmoved by the injustice of this invasion, but to respond by flooding Ukraine with arms will not help Ukrainians. Instead, it will lead to a permanent condition of conflict, as happened in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We do not share the zeal of EU leaders to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. We also cannot support measures that run the risk of expanding the conflict beyond Ukraine, risking a world war in which millions may perish. At this time, it is all the more important that voices for peace are heard. We must continue to urge diplomacy, and to push for a negotiated peace, however difficult. That is why we voted against the resolution. People may disagree, but we stand by our decision.
Mick Wallace is MEP for Ireland South and Clare Daly is MEP for Dublin