Thursday 19 January 2017

Editorial: Courage required in facing Russia

Published 23/03/2014 | 02:30

A woman holds a portrait of Russia's President Vladimir Putin during celebrations on the main square of the Crimean city.
A woman holds a portrait of Russia's President Vladimir Putin during celebrations on the main square of the Crimean city.

IRISH politicians, when it comes to foreign affairs, are often afraid of being accused of suffering from the sort of delusions of grandeur that informed the Skibbereen Eagle's warning to the Emperor of Russia that it was keeping a careful eye on him.

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Last week, however, we received the tartest of reminders that the Russian bear is keeping a careful eye on us. The Russian ambassador's chilly warning that supporting sanctions would be a "double-edged blade" should remind us that the age of island isolationism, where Irish foreign policy stopped at the borders of the UK, is over. How Europe responds to Putin's putsch is no irrelevant event in some far-distant land. The Ukrainian crisis is, instead, starting to resemble one of those feared asymmetric shocks that could comprehensively derail the European and Irish recovery. Any Irish response should, however, note that whilst Russia is the designated villain in this affair, the role of expansionist European bureaucrats deserves far closer scrutiny. If Europe thought Russia would respond gently to its virtual encirclement then our Eurocrats are as misinformed about diplomacy as they appear to be over economics.

Putin's determination to be the master in his own house means we should not be surprised that the Russian leader intends to be the master of his back garden too. And his references to the evils of Western intervention in the bombing of Belgrade, the capital of Russia's ancestral ally Serbia, and his concerns over further Western interference in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya, suggest that Putin intends to maintain a spacious estate.

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