Genuine question. The undersea cables do have VPN end-points at both sides in this day and age, don't they?
A Russian naval exercise in the Atlantic, near several submarine cables between Britain, France and the US, is more likely to be sabre-rattling than an attempt to sabotage critical communication links. The exercise, around 250 nautical miles southwest of Ireland, is due to involve live firing of naval guns and rockets. …
"It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things."
― Terry Pratchett, Jingo
We are the good guys. No sarcasm needed.
Sadly we're not even close to being the perfect guys. But if you compare our governments to even relatively enlightened despots (say the Chinese Communist Party before they made Xi President for life) then it really is no contest.
Also the big worry about Russia isn't that they're going to tap undersae cables to spy on us. Although of course they are, everyone who has the capability does try. It's that they might start destroying undersea cables to fuck with our economies.
The USA of course converted an old ballistic missile submarine into a cable-tapping spy sub many years ago. I'm sure I read that that had been decommissioned, due to age - but that doesn't mean they haven't built another one.
Those who have read books on the U-boat war will know that Churchill was desperate to get concessions to operate destroyers out of the Republic of Ireland. I believe even Northern Ireland was offered up as compensation for access at one point.
Ireland is still not a NATO member, and while range of sea and land based ASW is not the concern that it was in 1940, it's still a pain in the ass for all concerned to have to negotiate ones way around. Particularly for helicopters.
An unintended consequence of Russia's sabre rattling and demands that Ukraine never joins NATO is that Sweden and Finland do appear to be working with NATO and, in time, may decide on membership or some other closer relationship. The same thought may be running through Irish minds.
Strict neutrality is difficult these days when you are part of a block that Vlad is seeking to destabilise.
Sweden and Finland have worked with varying degrees of closeness to NATO for decades. While maintaining their neutrality, it made sense to have the option to call on NATO help - and also to make it look credible to the Soviet Union that they might still join NATO if pressurised too much.
However it's becoming a serious issue again. I believe that for the first time ever polling in Finland now has opposition to joining NATO dropping below 50%. Equally significantly the same poll also said that if the the Finnish government recommended joining, then that opposition fell away and support for joining hit 50%.
I still don't think it will happen, but then I suppose there is a logic to it. Now they're members of the EU and there's such a large cross-over between EU members and NATO members that the EU is likely to be collateral damage in any serious dispute with Russia. There's also more reason for NATO to want it. It's not like allowing Ukraine in, which faces much more of a threat than it has forces to cover (so you could argue makes NATO net weaker). Sweden and Finland have decently resourced armed forces that are also well trained. Plus they would make defending Norway and the Baltic States a lot easier, and really screw up Russia's ability to operate in the Baltic Sea. Plus that extra power in the arctic circle makes it easier for NATO to act offensively in the Norwegian and White Seas - which means they can spend less time defending Northern Norway and more time screwing with the Russian Northern Fleet, which is where most of its best submarines are, and incidentally also a lot of its sub-launched nuclear deterent.
Putin by sabre-rattling in Ukraine may do the opposite of what he says he wants, to push NATO away from the Russian border. And actually persuade the doubters in NATO that we have to station serious forces in Poland - and maybe also push the neutrals of Sweden, Finland and Ireland closer to us.
Ireland have already asked the RAF to patrol Irish airscpace for them. It's a bit unclear, but possibly after September 11th, when they realised they couldn't shoot down a terrorist controlled airliner? They also don't have primary radar, so when the Russians fly military aircraft around their coastline with their transponders off, it's a serious danger to commercial aviation. So the RAF have agreed to intercept the Russians doing that, as we'd probably being doing anyway - just we can use Irish airspace to make it easier. The big advantage is that the intercepting jets will have their transponders on, so air traffic control are then able to see where the Russians are. I think the last big incident was in 2015, and it turned out the Russian bombers in question were nuclear armed (although it could have been a practise round painted to look like a real one). It seriously disrupted civillian air navigation, but just buying a primary radar would mean they could track the Russians, even if they can't intercept them. I can't see them joining NATO, but they might cooperate further?
Ireland have already asked the RAF to patrol Irish airscpace for them. ... They also don't have primary radar, so when the Russians fly military aircraft around their coastline with their transponders off, it's a serious danger to commercial aviation. So the RAF have agreed to intercept the Russians doing that, as we'd probably being doing anyway - just we can use Irish airspace to make it easier.
Have you got a source for that; I'm not actually doubting you but I'd like to see it somewhere else!
Assuming it to be correct, it might be something of a headache for the RAF; AFAIK there is no Air Defence Radar providing coverage to the west of the UK south of RRH Benbecula, and all the airfields from which Air Interceptors (i.e. Typhoons) operate are on the eastern side of the UK, unless of course they have been quietly basing aircraft at RNAS Prestwick (HMS Gannet) or RAF Valley in North Wales, or even the rather underused airport at Blackpool, which was once RAF Squires Gate.
Couple of sources for you. Couldn't remember where I'd read it, so had to do a quick Google, so took the opportunity to read an Irish source on it too.
Which confirmed the thing I remember from the UK article I'd seen. The deal was arranged between Ireland's Aviation Authority, plus their Foreign and Defence ministries. But the Irish specifically excluded their own airforce! The deal was done with the matching UK ministries, the CAA and RAF, and it was the RAF that specifically asked the Irish government to include their own Air Corps, which they refused to do! They found out when it leaked in a press story according to the Irish Independent.
The original story was from UK Defence Journal
Or a better overview in the Irish Times
Couple of sources for you.
Many thanks for posting those; very informative indeed.
Perhaps a previous (UK) government was a bit too quick to cancel some of the planned Typhoon deliveries... along with stopping pilot training with some only just short of qualifying.
Ah well; that's politicians for you.
RRH Portreath in Cornwall?
Dear Cornwall County Council,
Please nicely can we have our runway at St Mawgan back?
Joking aside I would have thought that St Mawgan would be a good location for Typhoons to be based; a much shorter route for patrolling around Ireland than anywhere else on the UK mainland.
Aldergrove would be even better, although that might be too busy with civil air traffic for the Quick Reaction Alert role. That said, a few minutes delay in getting off the ground would be less than waiting for a couple of aircraft to fly across from Cornwall or wherever, and would give a much greater loitering time over the Atlantic.
As I understand it, RAF fighters on QRA (quick reaction alert) have tanker support assigned. This is so if they have to they can take off and just whack on reheat (afterburners) and zoom towards the tartget using up fuel like it's going out of fashion - but still have options.
If you're dealing with planes coming in from the North East near to Irish airspace, then Scotland is actually a better place to intercept from than Ireland is. And seeing as the Russians often fly through civilian air corridors with their transponders off, it's an important safety measure, as well as being part of deterrence. To let the other side know that you could deal with them if it came to it.
When the Russians send their long range naval aviation down this way, they're usually picked up by the Norwegian air force and then handed-over to RAF escort once they're going out of Norwegian range, then the French or Spanish might take over from us, if they're heading further South.
Most certainly not. That would basically give all military power in the EU to Germany and France (mostly Germany). A scenario the EU was originally designed to explicitly avoid. Plus it gives the bureaucrats in Brussels basically free reign to use military forces from one EU country to quell any dissent in another EU country. German soldiers might be disinclined to act against their fellow citizens, french forces might have no such qualms and vice-versa.
NATO SHOULD however start enforcing military spending on it's members. Several countries like the Netherlands fail to reach the 3% of GDP minimum spend on their military year on year on year. And it's shameful. (Also reminds most sensible people here of the days before both the 1st and 2nd world wars where our armed forces were cost-cut to bare bones.)
Also Germans don't want it. They could afford a large military, a nuclear capability etc but for historical reasons (which you can google for yourself) they prefer not to project power in the way France does. "Brussels" can't agree on language, transport or when to collect the bins. If you're using it as shorthand for the EU then I imagine the country involved would veto use of foreign troops on its territory. You can google subsidiarity too.
The NATO spending committment is 2% of GDP, not 3%. Although not many NATO countries even achieve that.
I think you're also descending into paranoid fantasies about the EU. The problem with an EU army isn't that the EU would use it, it's that the EU wouldn't be able to agree on how or even whether to use it. Foreign policy is done by unanimity - and there isn't any. Some of the more pro EU types were hoping that this could be an area for EU expansion after Brexit, with no more nasty Brits vetoing it. But the problem is that it wasn't just us nasty Brits. Eastern Europe doesn't particularly trust Germany on defence, seeing as Germany wants to be somehow equidistant between the US and Russia. And was happy to sign up to Nordstream II, while merrily telling everyone it was nothing to do with foreign policy and Russia fucking over Ukraine, but just a normal business transaction. Which is either spectacular stupidity or wilfully ignoring the vital national interests of its Eastern European allies and Ukraine which both the EU and NATO were supposed to be supporting, but not actually allying with.
EU defence cooperation would make massive financial and military sense. If those countries' foreign policy was alligned. But it's not, which makes it pointless. Though cooperating on buying stuff would make sense.
I have very strong suspicion NATO wouldn't be able to agree on how or even whether to use NATO forces, at least as soon as such usage matters.
Correction: NATO won't be be able to agree, or rather, won't agree, as soon as it matters.
Correction: NATO won't be be able to agree, or rather, won't agree, as soon as it matters.
NATO total agreement isn't as important. Article 5 is automatic if a country is attacked in any serious way, because NATO is activated by Article 5 of its treaty if any of a country's armed forces are attacked in it's territory.
However some countries may refuse to help. But NATO is also a sort of standards organisation and one dedicated to cross-training and interoperability. So if a NATO member calls for help, and not everyone is willing - then everyone else can still send support. And the point is that those troops have trained together and are used to joint command.
There will also be huge reputational damage to those countries that refuse. Afghanistan was declared a NATO mission, because the Setpember 11th attack was deemed an attack on NATO. I'm sure it countries could have ducked out of that. But if the Russians send forces into the Baltic States and Germany say refuses to cooperate or help (as some German anaylsts have suggested) there will be huge repercussions of that decision. But in the meanwhile other NATO nations and NATO's standing forces could respond as planned.
There seems to be a misunderstanding here. Germany might not initially support NATO action in any given situation where they don't think there's been an attack on a NATO member - but as soon as NATO starts fighting, then it is unquestionable that NATO is at war, and Germany comes in at that point.
It's about domestic political deniability rather than a substantive difference.
Dave(with all the numbers),
but as soon as NATO starts fighting, then it is unquestionable that NATO is at war, and Germany comes in at that point.
I used to think that. But now I'm less sure. Particularly in the case of the Baltic States say, NATO only has a small battlegroup in each. That could be swept aside very quickly. And then reconquering the place is going to take a significant military escalation. Amphibious invasion would be incredibly dangerous, so it would have to be done through Poland with a big armoured force, and suddenly that's looking very much like World War III.
There's regular polling about this. I saw one from last week where in Germany and Italy less than 40% of people say that they think their country should fight in defence of a NATO ally. Despite being treaty-bound to do so.
But the one that stood out to me was during Trump's presidency. Similar numbers thought Germany should go to war in defence of NATO. But 60% that even with Trump at the helm, the USA would still do so. Sort of meaning that "Phew! We don't have to."
Oddly the Greens always used to be the party that was most anti-war and anti-NATO - and has been since at least the 70s. But now they're a more formidable politcal force, they're a bit more worried about Russia, and their duty to Eastern Europe, and so a bit more pro-NATO - even though young people in Germany are more sceptical about it than ever - not helped by the shock to public opinion in Europe that was the Trump presidency.
Which is exactly one of the big reasons I am of the opinion that NATO should never have allowed the Baltics to join. They are indefensible for NATO forces without serious commitment of forces within those countries (and even then it would be hard to keep them supplied with only a small corridor between Russia affiliated Belarus and the Russian exlave or Oblast Kaliningrad. Putting that many troops directly on the border with Russia isn't going to go over very well with them either, which is at least part of the reason the NATO presence in the Baltics is so limited. Any troops there are already as good as surrounded.
The majority of NATO should never have allowed the US to pull Ukraine into the "not quite a member" status that it did because it was very obviously just poking the Russian bear and everybody with any sense already knew it at the time. We wouldn't have been in this mess if the US had left well enough alone and accepted that bringing the "bufferzone" countries into NATO was just a bad idea. Good cooperation fine, sort of a NATO-light where countries can meet equipment and organisational standards, practice together, etc but not the defense pact. Because that last item was just needlessly provoking the paranoia of the USSR, sorry, Russia
Your idea of leaving the Russians alone might work in the short term. But what if they do end up conquering and occupying the Baltic States and Ukraine? What if they're still not satisfied then? What if they also want all NATO forces out of Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria? Should we give them up too? Eject them from the EU - or let Russia conquer bits of the EU? Oh! I can answer this. Using the threat of a massive troop build-up on the Ukranian border, that is exactly what the Russian government demanded this January.
If you remember, during the Cold War, Berlin was also totally indefensible. Britain, the US and France had token forces there, but if the Soviets so decided, then they were going to be very dead, in very short order. However, those forces were there as a tripwire. Sure you can kill 'em, but you're then invoking the joys of nuclear uncertainty. Those three powers all have nuclear weapons, and you've just killed a few thousand of their troops. Are you sure you want to? And that's why NATO have tripwire forces in the Baltic States. Not enough to be a threat to Russia, but enough to create doubt - as we've given them treaty guarantees that we'll come to their defence and re-conquer them if the Russians invade.
Now what I'd argue is that Russia doesn't want the threat of large NATO forces on its border. So what we should say to Russia is, the more your neighbours are scared of you, the more forces we're going to have to use to reassure them. So if you don't want a couple of NATO armoured divisions stationed in Poland, ready to leap to the Baltic State's defence, then don't threaten them. Don't invade your neighbours. But if you do invade then we'll station major missile defences on your border, major air assets and ground forces - and it'll be your fault we're doing it.
By the way, the terminology for what you're suggesting in the study of international relations is "appeasement". Before you invoke Godwin's Law, I'm not saying this is 1938 all over again. That argument was used as an excuse for the Suez invasion in 1956 for example. But appeasement works when you don't mind letting another state do stuff that you broadly don't approve of, but don't think will affect your national interests. However the problem with appeasement is when you're dealing with a power where you don't know what they want, or the limits of their desires. And we still don't really know what Putin wants or would try and grab if he thought he could get away with it. Worse of course, if you're dealing with an expansionist power - they may take the fact that they're not being opposed as a sign that they can take more, until suddenly your vital interests are threatened. And then you may find yourself forced into war, because that expansionist power has become so used to getting away with it, that they don't believe they'll be opposed this time. Which is a pretty shorthand way of describing how WWII began, despite the fact that neither side wanted a war. The Allies not at all, and Hitler not until the early 1940s and he was really only interested in going East.
I can't imagine Putin wants to invade Poland. Or any other part of Eastern Europe, except for maybe Transnistria, and obviously some or all of Ukraine. But he does have ambitions in the Balkans that could seriously destabilise that area and cause all sorts of problems. And he's getting old, and we don't know if the one that replaces him might be worse.
invoking the joys of nuclear uncertainty
Speaking of which - does Ukraine still have stockpiles of old Soviet-era nukes? It's not outside the bounds of imagination for a 'lone patriot' to aquire one or more warheads and mysteriously know how to trigger them.
At which point (after a short journey) a lot of the gathered Russian troops get converted to fallout. All with plausible deniability..
 AKA a recently 'retired' member of the Ukrainian special forces..
AFAIK Russia took possession of all USSR nuclear weapons in former eastern bloc countries and removed them back to Russian territory. None should remain in the Ukraine unless there were major administrative oopsies. But even if they did have the weapon I doubt they'd have a means of delivering it anywhere effective.
This seems relevant: https://www.rbth.com/history/330532-only-russia-nuclear-weapons
Speaking of which - does Ukraine still have stockpiles of old Soviet-era nukes?
Nope. Ukraine gave up its post-Soviet nuclear arsenal in the mid 1990s. In exchange for security guarantees from the Russian government - that they wouldn't threaten Ukraine's territorial integrity or political independence.
This was the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus were the ex-Soviet states that didn't keep nuclear weapons. Coincidentally there were Russian troops in all three last month. Ukraine because they invaded it in 2014. Kazakhstan in-and-out quickly in order to prop up the government after some public protests that look to have been at least partially orchestrated by other parts of the ruling elite - and Belarus in some combination of threatening to invade Ukraine again or having blocking forces in place to menace/defend the Polish border. Not that Poland were going to attempt to send forces to Ukraine via Belarus - but maybe the Russians are genuinely paranoid enough to think so?
But what if they do end up conquering and occupying the Baltic States and Ukraine?
well, what about it ? Why would I – or you – care ? The Russians did already conquer part of Ukraine (Crimea) and the world didn't go under. Actually, nothing happened, and I'm pretty sure the Crimeans are quite happy that Russia did annex them.
But there is more to that: Russia had a good reason (good for them) to annex Crimea, what good reason would they have to invade Estonia ? If Putin has proven anything in the past 20 years, it's that he is not the madman that some western news-outlets try to paint.
"well, what about it ? Why would I – or you – care ?"
I care because I don't like to see people forced to live under a dictator by military violence or to have a power that will probably use military violence on someone else after a successful go which might be someone closer to me. You clearly don't care.
"The Russians did already conquer part of Ukraine (Crimea) and the world didn't go under. Actually, nothing happened, and I'm pretty sure the Crimeans are quite happy that Russia did annex them."
Oh, yes. The people who didn't have any choice about it are all celebrating. Some of them are, and we can debate whether those who are have good reasons or simply bought lies told to them, but there are many who do not like it at all. Democracy has this aspect where we can at least find out whether people want something to happen, but that didn't happen there.
I'm not a big fan of full on appeasement either. A line needs to be drawn (something something Chamberlain as you mention), but I do think that going into the Baltics (and particularly having them join NATO) is going a step too far. I'm OK with Poland, roughly using the line of the eastern border of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, etc as the "border". The problem is that Ukraine is just a shitshow. It's own population is very clearly torn between either "West" or "East" (seemingly also geographically roughly in those lines). Trying to pull them into NATO was just never going to go over well with Russia, especially with the Black Sea fleet at Sebastopol (Hence the annexation of the Crimea)
I don't really see a reason why Russia would want to take the Baltics either. It's population generally doesn't really like them all that much as far as I can tell, nor do they have much in the way of resources that Russia doesn't already have access to in other (easier) ways.
I don't really see a reason why Russia would want to take the Baltics either.
Well I don't. But then I'm not Vladimir Putin. He's used large Russian minorities as an excuse to get Russain troops into Georgia, Crimea, Transistria and Eastern Ukraine. Why not the Baltic States too?
He's clearly not a happy bunny. Called the collapse of the Soviet Union a tragedy. Though I'm sure he doesn't want to resurrect it. But then he put out a 5,000 word essay last year saying essentially that Ukrainians are actually Russians. And I think their nostalgia is geniuine. The Russian Foreign Office put out a statememt in January about the Eastern European states orphaned by the collapse of the Soviet Union. As if they hadn't been conquered by the Soveit Union and only remained in the Warsaw Pact under threat of military force. The question is of course, do they believe this bullshit, or are they just trolling? Because Putin's government also love trolling, it makes it really hard to know when they're lying to scare people, lying to justify their own actions and when they genuinely believe stuff that's batshit crazy.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that apart from the Kaliningrad Oblast the Baltics by and large don't consider themselves Russian. It also seems like the majority there don't want them, unlike the other states you list, which have a much more favorable view of the (former) USSR.
I concur with much of what you say, however, what what is missed is the cultural differences in diplomacy. Our (Western) is derived through the early Church of Rome when all was under some degree of control from Rome either politically or ethically. Hence we have truces, embassies being outside of local jurisdiction, ambassadors relatively safe. The Russians had an Oriental basis where ambassadors heads were returned to note rejection of terms, ambassadors used as assassins although the Kahns appear were better at treaty keeping with outsider than among themselves. The post Czarist governments have negotiated under the theory of demand the whole farm then demonstrate reason by only taking the livestock. Different hypothesis lead to different meaning while using the same words. Also why Game Theory has an unspoken flaw. But great summary.
I think the most the EU could do is a mutual defence pact and one that would be far less robust than NATO, and perhaps a peacekeeping type operation.
You’ll never see an EU army. It’s just some federalist, militaristic fantasy, that you occasionally encounter in the Gaullist / centre right of France to project power, or in the U.K. tabloids who imagine the EU in 19th century Empire contexts because that’s the only model they understand, being Imperial fantasists.
It’s far from either of those fantasise and couldn’t operate like that. It doesn’t even like the concept of central executive power, let alone military power. It’s very much a Union based on friendly cooperation. Even leaving it in a huff resulted in a total anticlimax. You’ve tabloids jumping up and down with jingoism, while all the EU wants to do is have a boring divorce, and make sure Northern Ireland doesn’t spin into absolute chaos.
The EU is a lot more than French politics. Most of its members wouldn’t agree to something like an active military. It’s ethos is entirely about passivity and subsidiary, which means decisions are made at the most local level possible, and not centrally. You are also not going to see much of a desire to replace NATO.
The only context I could see that happening in would be if the US really went down a rabbit hole, went completely mad and became totally unhinged. For example if it turned into some kind of dystopian post Trump strongman authoritarian state, which isn’t impossible, but probably isn’t all that likely either.
Even in a scenario like that, I think it would be more likely that NATO would just end up winding back US heavy involvement and shifting to being a far more stand alone organisation. I mean Trump was keen to defund it anyway.
As for Ireland’s neutrality, a lot of that has to do with the timing of independence and the relationship with the U.K. in the 1930s. We were neutral, but pragmatically so and very much on the U.K., US and nowadays EU side of the argument.
For example, during WWII, if allied airmen landed in Ireland they were just quietly returned to the U.K., German airmen were held as POWs in the Curragh Camp until the end of the war. I’m actually aware of a story of a crew that deliberately ditched in Ireland to escape Germany and spent the war effectively interned, ended up staying and never went back to Germany after the war.
There was a lot of nod and wink type friendly arrangements with the U.K. and the allies and there were also the Treaty Ports that allowed Royal Navy presence in key ports during the war.
Like it or not, you have to remember Ireland fought a war of independence from Britain only 17 years before WWII began. There were *very+ bumpy relations with the U.K. in the 1920s and there was a legitimate concern that independence could have been lost again in a hypothetical “needs must” type scenario. That was the major reason for Irish formal neutrality, which wasn’t all that neutral at all in reality. There was also no way they were going to be putting the Irish army under the command of imperial forces either, given the very fresh history, but I suspect they would have been happy enough to work directly with the US.
If the Germans had invaded, I think you’d have been looking at Ireland more likely to side with and invited in the US and to have sought assurances or its independence. Remember that Irish-US relations run very deep. De Valera himself was an American btw. He was an Irish/Cuban New Yorker.
You’ve also various bilateral agreements with the US, and strange things like the US military use of Shannon to move troops, as long as they use the duty free…
There is also a formal agreement with the RAF which was entered into after the events of 9/11 and in a modern era of a far, far more positive relationship with the U.K. https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/secret-defence-pact-allowing-raf-jets-inirish-airspace-undermines-our-neutrality-says-td-berry-40526069.html
Even with Brexit chaos Irish-British relations run very deep and will continue to do so because of the realities of common interests, a lot of shared culture and geography. It’s not always going to be that we are on exactly the same page, but as relations go it’s close, warm and friendly, despite the history.
The WWII politics was far more complex and nuanced than people looking it in some kind of loyalty to the crown type view. We weren’t loyal to the crown at all nor are we very fond of crowns - that was the whole point. It doesn’t mean that we would have been unfriendly neighbours, nor does it mean we wouldn’t have been on the same side. After all the Irish / UK break up was one of the unusual situations where a democracy left a democracy and still maintained relations like a couple after an ugly divorce. There remains a lot of common ground and common interests.
Irish neutrality in the modern era morphed into more about being an ideology of non-militaristic peace. There is a lot of genuine concern about some of the less than purely defensive positions NATO has taken in various conflicts anytime Irish NATO membership is mentioned. It becomes a sticking point. We also have things like the “triple lock” which means Irish troops can only be sent abroad if the Government decides, the whole parliamentary system approves (and it’s much more diverse than Westminster due to PR voting) and if it’s authorised by the UN. We can’t legally act in any other circumstance.
Ireland has joined the EU prototype common defence programmes. It’s an active participant in UN peacekeeping, has worked in cooperation with NATO on peacekeeping and has a seat on the UN Security Council at the moment, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Our military expenditure is definitely far, far too small. Even for just practical safety it needs more resourcing and we aren’t lacking the wherewithal to do that. I can’t see Ireland having a need for huge spending, but we could definitely do with investing in strong passive defence: high tech primary radar, submarine detection etc and probably having the capability to intercept aircraft in much the same way as say Denmark or Norway - even if it’s solely for civil aviation protection reasons. We also need to be able to deal with cyber security threats and threats to infrastructure. We had a huge cyber attack on the health services in the middle of the pandemic. Admittedly, it was a bit of an open door but it does demonstrate the growing risks.
For a long time we’ve operated on the basis of “sure who’d ever want to invade us?” but we’ve grown into a small, but wealthy and more significant location with significant financial centre, a lot of strategic infrastructure for global IT, internet/telecoms, high tech manufacturing etc and one that is also a Eurozone and EU member. I think in a way we still imagine our strategic significance to be as irrelevant as it was in the 1950s but a lot has changed.
There is an active debate here about the realistic (or lack of realistic) approach to defence here and I think you will see some degree of movement towards beefing it up. I would have doubts that public support goes as far as NATO membership, and it’s likely such an issue would need a referendum make the necessary changes to the constitution to enter a military alliance. However, that’s also very much based on our current perception of not being under any external threat. Russia doing military tests off the coast and rumours of threats to cables was enough to trigger a lot of debate here.
At the end of the day, we’re an island and we are increasingly dependent on a lot of fibres, subsea power cables and gas lines. We need to be able to shore those up.
Why would Ireland want to join NATO? Particularly as NATO has the Partnership for Peace where you can train to interoperate with NATO forces - which Ireland is already in. This gives Ireland the benefit of working with NATO without the obligation of having to defend Eastern Europe. So if Ireland feels it needs more air and sea assets (which I'd argue it does) then it's a natural to work with the UK, France the Netherlands and the US - and could always sign bilateral defence treaties with them and be a sort of semi-detached NATO member as it suits it.
Which is sort of what Sweden (and to a lesser extent Finland) already do. Nobody knows if NATO would defend them, Russia can't know they wouldn't. Particularly as Sweden is pretty vital to the defence of Norway.
In the unlikely event such a thing happened, it would create an economic bloc with huge spending power and access to eqally huge resources that would not require use of the dollar.
One of the reasons the US is happy with the current unrest in Europe and lack of cooperation with the Russian Federation.
Finland fought the USSR to a standstill when they were neutral. And before they or Russia had joined in WWII. In fact, at that point the Soviets were German allies. Given that the Molotov-Ribbentrop "non-aggression pact" included an alliance to invade Poland and agreement that the Soviets would invade the Baltic States, Finland and Bessarabia (Romanian-Soviet border - hence the Transnistrian enclave supported by the Russians now). Although the UK and France did briefly consider declaring war on the USSR on the Finns side, but better sense prevailed. They were a bit busy with the Germans at the time.
The Finns only lost that war because the Russians cheated. The Baltic froze and so the Soviets were able to walk round their defence line. Most unfair!
That was the Winter War (39-40). The Finns then joined in the German attack on the Soviet Union, which they rather coyly called the Continuation War (41-44). The Finnish government described themselves as co-belligerants with Germany, not allies. Their aims were more ambiguous and probably limited - for example they partipated in the siege of Leningrad, but not the attempt to capture the city.
In 1944 they made peace with the USSR and Britain. Had a brief war to kick remaining German forces back into Norway and then finally declared war on Germany in April 45 - to be in at the very end.
Isn't part of the Brexit fishing dispute with France, that lots of their smaller fishing vessels don't have AIS (or even commercial GPS), and so couldn't prove that they'd been fishing in British waters for years - and should therefore have a right to continue to do so?
So it could be true. Particularly given how the Irish fishermen cut up so rough about this excercise and "forced" the Russian Navy to move parts of it away. Else they were threatening to turn up and fish in the middle of the excercise while the Russians were doing live-firing drills. Which could have gone very wrong.
Which could have gone very wrong.
Playing chicken against someone with no steering wheel is ever only likely to go one way. Taking an unarmed fishing vessel into a live military exercise area, even in protest, is only likely to end up with injuries on one side.
Especially, when you're doing it against a regime whose only understanding of human rights, are the rights to remain silent, the rights for everyone to die in a Siberian gulag if they make any attempt to stand up to the authorities in power.
I hope like hell those Irish Fisherman arent stupid enough to head into that drill zone...
One of the things the Royal Navy discovered in the 70s Cod War with Iceland is how tough some fishing boats are. The Icelandic fishermen were not fucking around, and would regularly deliberately ram UK frigates and destroyers. They didn't do huge damage, but did make holes in the sides of the ships, forcing them to return to port.
Modern warships aren't armoured, they rely on comparmentalisation and rendundency to survive damage. Ocean going trawlers have quite strong pointy ends, to cope with all the Atlantic can throw at them. The only way to reliably stop it happening was to shoot them, which the RN weren't going to do. Now the Russians might be willing to shoot, but that would be illegal, and they'd be doing so while very lonely and right in NATO's backyard. Very close to the French and British navies and airforces - and very far from their own. Plus in Ireland's EEZ, hence the Irish having the exclusive legal right to fish there.
China has explicitly weaponised that observation.
Many of their "grey" navy (badged as "Coast Guard") vessels have hardened hulls and reinforced bows+keels for ramming, and a number of them are actually full-spec Arctic-/Antarctic-grade icebreakers.
The latter in particular would be like bulldozers in a carpark.
Short of a shooting war, China's grey navy is the most dangerous afloat. A number of local fishing vessels now at the bottom of their legal territories in the South China Sea, which they had refused to depart from when "ordered", are mute testimony to that.
On a parasitic gamesmanship basis, bringing a knife to a gunfight makes you top dog if "guns aren't allowed".
Is it really illegal for a warship to fire on someone trying to ram it? Serious question.
I'm sure you could argue that this is a reasonable use of force. But how do you prove the ship was trying to ram you? I'm sure the Icelandic fishermen said they were just fishing, and just "accidentally" hit those RN ships in the 70s. But that was in waters where there was a dispute about whos fishing grounds they were - it was a long time ago, I don't remember the details.
In the case of a Russian excercise, where the Russians have chosen to be in Ireland's EEZ, in their internationally recognised fishing waters (though not territorial waters of course) - as long as the fishing boats can argue they were just doing their thing, the Russians are going to be the obvious aggressors. And it's going to be hard to convince anyone otherwise. Plus the Irish may have only been planning to get in their way. Ramming people is pretty hard-core.
Well, there was that time when the Russian navy mistook a bunch of trawlers for an armed Navy and opened fire. One suspects that their navy's talents of identification have improved a bit since 1904 (under new managment). Look up "Dogger Bank Incident".
"forced" the Russian Navy to move parts of it away
The Russians have gone to a fairly empty bit of ocean? And cables have go to an area where trawlers aren't dragging the bottom?
Sounds like it's just possible that there might be nothing to see here.
The Russians have gone to a fairly empty bit of ocean?
All of the ocean is pretty empty. You could argue the Thames estuary is pretty empty.
But this area that the Russians chose to operate is in Irealand's Exclusive Economic Zone The Atlantic is huge. Most of it isn't in anyone's EEZ - which are 250m from the coast at most. There is definitely something to see here. And this is something that Russia would never have put up with if done in their waters! During the Cold War they claimed way more than their legal 12m limit as part of territorial waters, and threatened to shoot ships that entered them. That's why NATO started doing Freedom of Navigation patrols, that countries now do in the Pacific to stop China pulling the same trick.
Turning AIS off is normal for warships and the coastguard. British warships typically use the name "British warship" when they have theirs on. I've never seen a Guardia Civil boat with it active.
"I prefer gingerbread pigeon myself..." - Perhaps you refer to the Highland Red Tufted variety. Over the years this breed of carrier pigeon frequently demonstrated the ability for increasingly independent thought and motivation and could not be relied upon to stay 'on message' (pun intended).
Which is a great shame because they are a very hardy breed with great tenacity, determination and otherwise a most worthy asset.
Although originally standing for Notice to Airmen, there is a move to change the meaning to something less gendered. E.g. Notice to Air Missions or Notice to Aviators. Presumably because of the number of machine readers for NOTAMs there's been no attempt to change the actual acronym.
If I'm doing a local flight in a glider I'm basically just bumbling around in the sky. Not blindly because I try to keep the best look-out I can but still. I don't know when I take off whether I'll be flying 5 minutes or 5 hours with any certainty, nor whether I will stray 500 meters or 50km from my home field. I'd hardly call it a mission.
Might work for XC flying, but I don't do that very often.
Why is saying women are airmen any more stupid and ridiculous than excluding women from the group of "airmen"? Airmen: as in the group of mankind that operates flying machines, from helicopters to blimps. No gender or sex involved (apart from the mile-high club type between hopefully consenting adults)
What would have been a BBC documentary on CH5 shows HMS Northumberland tracking a Russian sub intent on destroying the UK's vital sub sea cables, all described in breathless tones. Of course they were simply playing the on going cat and mouse game to test each others responses. Crashing into the sonar array was unexpected but unnecessary as it would appear the ship was already falling apart.
All armed forces go on exercises periodically, Russia included. They probably can't do live fire exercises in the Baltic or Black Sea without causing a whole lot of trouble so the next best thing would be to go out into the Atlantic far from anyone else. In this case they were proposing working about 150 miles of the Irish coast but the Irish government objected so they just moved elsewhere.
Nothing to see here, folks.
There is something to see here, since they decided to do their excercises in the Irish EEZ. There are plenty of other places closer to Russia they could have picked, and certainly many more middle-of-nowhere ones.
Also the Russian ambassador in Dublin could have refrained from telling the Irish government not to allow Irish fishermen to sail in that bit of Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone lest some Russian warship accidentally blow them out of the water.
Even Russia accept it's a big deal, as otherwise they wouldn't have backed down and moved the live-fire excercise.
Is that it wasn't the Irish government who got them to move, it was the Irish fishermen. The prawn season starts today and they told the Russian ambassador (who invited their leadership to the embassy last week) that they would have up to 60 boats fishing in that area and would not move for the Russian Navy's planned exercises this Thursday.
I imagine they figure it would be a bad look if an Irish fishing boat was collateral damage during their "war games", especially when the world's attention is already on their army massing near Ukraine's border.
Irish Fishermen 1 Russian Navy 0
....has a submarine dedicated to exactly this kind of operation; hardly "advanced," because it was commissioned nearly two decades ago. It contains any extra section amidships to allow deploying, among other things, special-purpose submersibles. Think that might include fibre optic mods?
If you tap an underwater data cable, how do you go about getting any decent quantity of targeted data out from the tap and into your hands?
Surely you'll either need another cable running to something that you control, or you leave a recording device there and go back regularly to retrieve.
In event of everything blowing up in Ukraine and WW3 starting when the West retaliates, cutting communications across the Atlantic would be a neat tactical move. Let's hope he doesn't take down the satellites too. A war is fought on technology and communication.
Russia has already demonstrated ASAT capabilities, there's no reason to assume satellites won't be targeted. If we get WW3 I have no doubt we'll see a full blown Kessler syndrome as both sides take out a load of opposing satellites and the resulting debris does the rest. If anyone survives humanity will have lost access to space for quite some time.
WWIII won't start over Ukraine. We didn't let them into NATO, we're not obliged to defend them, and we've publicly said that we won't.
What we will do is put more sanctions on Russia if they do invade. And the Russian economy hasn't really recovered from the last lot. People say this isn't a deterrent to Putin, and maybe it's not. But the smaller their ecomony is, the less money they've got to spend on weapons, the less danger they'll be in future.
Depending on how much damage is inflicted on Ukraine, we may then supply them with weapons afterwards. This time, hopefully the right weapons so they can actually defend themselves properly. i.e. we should have supplied them with decent air defences. To do it now would escalate the situation, and as it takes time to set them up and train them, it would pretty much be an invitation for Russia to invade immediately. But it's something we can threaten to do in future - as well as basing far more forces in Eastern Europe (to protect NATO members) - which is supposedly the reason Putin is doing this in the first place.
I think it's basically time to go back to the old Cold War dynamics. Offer talks and benefits for cooperation. Offer disarmament and de-escalation in order to build trust on both sides. Beef up our own defences so we can offer credible deterrence, so Russian don't think they can get away with say invading the Baltic States and leaving us with a fait accompli before we can react. Plus beefing up our defences then gives something he'll want to trade in any disarmament talks. And try to have basic economic links, but try not to let Russia use our economies to boost its economy too much, as long as we're growing faster than them, then the relative power is always shifting in our favour.
There are a lot of Chinese immigrants in far eastern Russia. So much so that it's affecting the region culturally - a China/Russia conflict on that border is as viable as a Ukraine/Russia conflict for more or less the same reasons.
Geopolitics between autocrats is perhaps calming the situation but it is not beyond wit to brew up.
Russia can't start WWIII - that requires China. Russia is a minor irritant to NATO, militarily.
Ultimately, Putin isn't an idiot. He knows Russia would lose a full scale war in a few days. He won't actually provoke one. It suits him well - for domestic propaganda purposes - to pretend otherwise, but the reality is so obvious that apart from Russian propaganda and a few sites in the West publishing sensationalist drivel, no-one thinks there is any chance of this chest-beating developing into war.
NATO has way more forces than Russia. But not all of them are deployable. And Russia is semi-mobilised on the Ukraine border, and with significant forces moved inside Belorus as well.
Also NATO does not have the logistics to move major forces into Eastern Europe - and certainly not the logistics to deal with Russia trying to stop us doing so.
What we do have the ability to do quite quickly is massive air dominance. But then Russia is well equipped with anti-air missiles as well as a large air force. Similarly NATO's navies are far superior in all areas apart from submarines - where things are a lot closer.
But while a lot of countries have ground forces on paper, do they have the logistical ability to deploy them far from home? Are those people fully trained? Is the equipment in full repair with plenty of spare parts on hand? That's a much tougher question. Most NATO members have a smaller number of units that could deploy with a couple of days to a month's notice, and then a lot of others that would take months to actually be in good shape to use.
When your economy is a glorified petrol station with only a handful of pipes bringing in most of your money then you're perhaps not best placed to mess with other people's tubes.
It strikes me that a handful of angry Ukrainians could do an awfully large amount of economic damage to Russia quite easily.
not so much, NORDSTREAM, soon to be assisted by NORDSTREAM II allow the Gas money pipes from Europe to be kept flowing, plus the cutting of the pipes doesn't affect Russia much, but will affect the nations that Ukrainian hopes will be Allies, currently lying to the west.
Check out on youtube the interview by NBC of Putin, the interviewer way out of his depth, also look into John Mearsheimer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4) and Potsnam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X7Ng75e5gQ) all of which give a somewhat different slant on what is happening. Basically it appears the USA has been throwing its weight around, breaking promises and keeping quiet about a lot that is wrong on its side. For example how well has it published exercises taking place in Alaska, right on the Russian border? What about the USA behaviour when a country (Cuba) wanted some Russian presence on ts soil? Compare that with the current state when the USA wants an excuse to put troops and missiles actually on the border of Russia. What would the USA do if Canada or Mexico formed a military alliance with Russia? Or even Brazil?
In reality if they sabotaged cables, it wouldn’t be Ireland they would be answering to. A % of those routes serve Ireland but the majority of them connect to SW Britain, France and onwards into Europe.
The consequences of damaging them would be enormous, probably shutting Russia out of the global economy for years.
Even what they’re doing at the moment means they’re an unreliable energy partner for the EU, the U.K. and others and that’s going to mean huge pivots in energy policy towards renewables, nuclear and alternative sources of gas.
In the long term a bit of marching around in tanks is just going to end up inevitably damaging the prospects for the Russian economy, even if the don’t do anything at all, there’s a threat that is resulting in energy companies and others making decisions based on policy environment stability, even without governments or armies reacting, business does not like being threatened with having its gas disrupted. If you can’t guarantee you won’t do that, then you won’t really have much of a long term business and people look elsewhere.
There’s a push toward decarbonisation anyway, so if anything all of this is just going to accelerate it, which is probably great for the environment, but it’s not great if your entire economic model involves selling your neighbours gas but you also enjoy randomly threatening them for no particular reason.
I mean would you shop in the supermarket that occasional threatens to beat you up for or just randomly points a gun at you for the laugh? Maybe conducts target practice war games in your back garden, sending a high handed note asking you to move the car…