Friday, 27 May 2022

Putin’s wargames a ‘major embarrassment’ for Ireland and expose EU’s hidden role

Russian Northern Fleet stages Arctic drills

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The artillery drills will take place 150 miles (240 kilometres) off the Irish south-west coast, in international waters – but within both Irish controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, a member of Ireland’s Fine Gael party, on Monday admitted the military manoeuvres were “not welcome” – while carefully steering clear of any language which could potentially inflame the situation.

Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, suggested his remarks were a clear indication of the difficult position in which the Irish Government found itself.

He said: “The Russian exercises off the west coast of Ireland are a major embarrassment to the Irish Government, as they draw attention to the EU’s potential role in any future military confrontation with Russia.

“The Irish Government has tried very hard to curtail any debate on a military involvement for EU states, as the Irish public has a strong attachment to the country’s very long-standing policy of military neutrality.”

Sources close to the Irish Government in the past had regularly rubbished the idea of an EU army, Mr Bassett pointed out.

However, with French President Emmanuel Macron floating the idea during his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 19, the situation has become increasingly problematic for Mr Martin and his ministers.

Mr Bassett added: “Minister Coveney’s downbeat announcement after his meeting with the Russian Ambassador reflects the desire not to highlight the military drift inside the EU.

“I am sure the Russians were well aware of the Irish Government’s dilemma when planning the exercise.”

Despite the Irish State’s avowed neutrality stance, Shannon airport in the west of the country is extensively used by the American military as a transit point for much of its overseas troop deployment.

Mr Bassett said: “Hence in a military confrontation between the US and Russia, Shannon Airport might be construed as a military target.

“Also the exercise will draw attention to the Irish State’s reliance on British support to patrol its western borders where the RAF regularly scramble to see off any Russian air force incursions into Irish airspace.

“This reflects on the failure of the Dublin administration to provide proper resources for our own army and navy.”

Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach before Mr Martin, yesterday warned fishermen planning to disrupt Russia’s military exercises not to put themselves at risk.

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Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said some of its members plan to hold a protest against the military exercises next month.

The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Mr Murphy said the area is “very important” for fishing and they want to protect biodiversity.

Asked about the fishermen’s plans, he said: “I haven’t had the chance to speak to any of the fishermen operating in that area.

“I suppose I would just say to them that these are military vessels.

“Whatever they choose to do in terms of any protests, just make sure that they don’t put themselves at risk.”

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