Ukraine's NATO bid may backfire
The desire by America and Britain to fast-track Ukraine's NATO membership could have serious consequences for Kiev's fragile new coalition government. After many months of political limbo and public wrangling, the former Orange Revolution allies, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko, formed a government earlier this year with a majority of just one seat in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.
This is the same coalition that spectacularly collapsed in 2004 and that was unable to unite following the 2006 parliamentary elections.
The country is deeply polarised, with the Ukrainian-speaking population in central and western Ukraine supportive of greater Western integration, whilst those in eastern regions see themselves as more closely aligned to Russia.
Pushing for Ukraine's NATO membership will not only further damage Western relations with Russia, but threatens to stir up regional antagonisms within Ukraine and destabilise the already fragile alliances within the Tymoshenko government.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has asked the Irish government to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and there are good reasons why Ireland should answer his call.
The Irish people and Government should recall when Ireland declared its independence and presented its first parliament in 1919 seeking recognition.
Our European partners turned their faces away and pointed to Britain's "territorial integrity".
When Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera's Dail turned to the world seeking international recognition of the Irish Republic only one country had the moral courage to recognise us -- Russia.
Russia rightly pointed out that Ireland had democratically voted for independence and had a right to self-determine our own affairs. Now history repeats itself; only this time it falls to us to recognise other small countries seeking independence.
The South Ossetians and Abkhazians in referenda have voted 97pc in favour of independence and, under the UN constitution, have a right to self determination.