The Russians are coming

County View

County View
John Healy

So maybe, after all, we are not as secure as we thought we were, located on the outer edge of Europe and far from any possible theatre of war. Along comes Russian state TV with its mock-up clips of Ireland being destroyed in a nuclear strike, and the British Isles – as Moscow chose to call us – being wiped off the map.
An underwater strike off the Donegal coast would create a gigantic tidal wave of 500 metres high, consigning ourselves, and our nearest neighbours, to a watery grave. Whatever was left after the tidal wave would, the Russians warned, be a radioactive desert.
Military experts were quick to dismiss the threat as fictional poppycock, which was reassuring. Reassuring, that is, if the experts were right; but then, so often in the recent past, the experts have been proved to be not quite as expert as they thought they were. And if we thought ourselves to be outside the Russian sphere of influence, we should remember the cyber attack on the health service, and that bizarre episode of the Russian navy ships suddenly making their appearance off our southwest coast.
The geopolitical world is changing, and a bellicose despot in Moscow is all it might take to bring a continent to the brink of war.
Few would have believed, even a year ago, that the threat of war in Europe would manifest itself as quickly as it has. The fact that the Russian onslaught in Ukraine has been met with such resistance, and that Mr Putin is losing face every day the war goes on, is a double-edged boon, since a bully backed into a corner is even more likely to resort to measures of desperation. And since his strategy seems to be that of trampling on the rights of any small country that opposes him, sooner or later the free world will have to decide when it is time to stand up to the bullying.
Ireland’s much-vaunted policy of neutrality is again being called into question, not least because on the one hand we do not have the military capability to defend ourselves on our own, and on the other, we depend for our security on nuclear-armed states. There are those who would argue that in the event of nuclear war, it would make little difference whether we were adequately armed or not, since mutual annihilation would make the question moot.
There is an irony, as several of our colleague nations are beginning to point out, in that while we are celebrating a century of independence from the United Kingdom, we are still relying almost entirely on the UK to help us defend that sovereignty.
The regular incursion of Russian military aircraft up and down the west coast – largely unreported – has been curtailed only by the intervention of British warplanes.
We pride ourselves on our long-standing commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear arms, while we enjoy the protection of nuclear armed Nato members and a nuclear-armed neighbour. We are against nuclear weapons, yet depend on nuclear-armed nations to protect us.
Neutrality may be a noble concept, and may in theory protect us from the crossfire of warring nations, but if, in time of crisis, we look to our EU member partners to support us, then it is hardly tenable to stand on the sidelines and look the other way when a continent is under threat.
We are neutral on the Ukrainian side in the present conflict, as we were in previous conflicts, and so we should be. But it would be a naïve mistake to think that Russia does not realise that as well.