FORMER Taoiseach John Bruton has launched a scathing attack on the EU Commission's new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, warning that her appointment does nothing to discourage Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive foreign policies.
r Bruton, who served with distinction as EU ambassador in Washington from 2004 to 2009, compared the Russian president's policies in Ukraine with Adolf Hitler's actions in Czechoslovakia in 1938.
He also claimed that the European Union's weak and divided response to Russian aggression echoes the ineffectual actions of Britain and France in the lead up to World War II.
The former Taoiseach is particularly critical of the appointment of Federica Morgheni as the EU High Representative for foreign and security policy.
He said he attended a meeting in Rome last June where she spoke as Italian Foreign Minister of how she had been "advocating for Putin". This statement is likely to raise eyebrows in diplomatic circles across Europe.
"The fact that she was appointed sends a signal to Moscow which does not discourage President Putin from his current course of action," Mr Bruton told the Irish Independent last night.
EU leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, endorsed Ms Mogherini's appointment to the prestigious post at a summit in Brussels last Saturday.
She will officially take up her new post on November 1, when she will also become a vice-president of the Commission.
At a press conference in Brussels yesterday she said a new package of EU sanctions against Russia would be finalised by Friday.
Her appointment has proved extremely controversial because she and the Italian government were seen in many quarters as too sympathetic to Moscow, and French newspaper, 'Le Monde' has described the appointment as "a sad day for Europe".
A spokesperson for Ms Mogherini told the Irish Independent that she does not recall making such remarks or having been personally engaged in a conversation with Mr Bruton.
"More importantly the assumption that she is an advocate of Putin does not represent the position of the minster as also indicated by her recent statements on the issue," the spokesperson said.
He pointed out that Ms Mogherini has made contributions this week that illustrate her tough stance on Russia and Mr Putin's regime.
Yesterday, she said Russia has ended its "strategic partnership" with the EU as a result of its role in Ukraine.
In an Irish Independent article, Mr Bruton also warns that Mr Putin has divided the EU's 28 member states, with countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Italy relatively sympathetic to Russia. Other countries like Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are alarmed by Russian aggression and demanding strong EU action.
Mr Burton urges the EU to prepare a major new energy policy which would make the member states independent of Russian gas supplies.
This would require the creation of an integrated EU energy grid and a major fund to compensate states who would have to pay more for gas if they did not buy from Russia.
"We need to be able to tell Russia we will not buy their gas. That would require major investment and would take time. But we are unlikely to make progress without doing it," Mr Bruton said.