The Russian Federation’s illegal recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states, followed by a Russian military invasion and occupation of the sovereign territory of eastern Ukraine is an egregious act which threatens to destabilise European security and plunge the world into a new era of military confrontation. Ireland can no longer conduct business of any kind with Russia, a continuation of business as usual constitutes a subtle endorsement of Russia’s legitimacy on the international stage.
If we refuse to take meaningful action on Russia’s gross violation of the principles which have allowed us to enjoy the prosperity and security of the rules-based international order, we are turning our backs on the order which underpins our very way of life. Putin’s Russia will continue to swallow swathes of its former Soviet territories if red lines are not drawn by the international community.
Russia no longer has any right to an audience with the Irish government, media or people. They have performed an act of desecration on the values upon which our young democracy is founded. Our own battle against imperialism is strongly reflected in the modern battle which Ukraine faces, Russia is possessed by a violent ethno-nationalist ideology which refuses to acknowledge the existence of Ukraine or its people. A government guided by such reprehensible principles, while possessing nuclear weapons and a strong military, represents an existential threat to Europe as we know it.
There is no longer any value in Russia maintaining a diplomatic presence in Dublin or for Ireland to maintain a diplomatic presence in Moscow. It has become abundantly clear that Putin has no interest in diplomacy based on mutual respect, territorial integrity and international law. The violation of the UN charter should be treated as the act of violence against the democratic word which it truly constitutes.
We now know that it is highly likely Putin’s ambitions extend far beyond the Donbas and into the very heart of Kyiv. We know now we cannot negotiate with Vladimir Putin; we know he operates a government completely absent of accountability to the Russian people or a common sense of morality. He envisions a new iron curtain, under which the former Soviet Republics and peoples must yield to Russian oppression.
Ukraine overwhelmingly has aligned itself with the European Union, NATO and the values which underpin the rules-based international order. If we do not support them through meaningful action, we are sending a signal to leaders like Vladimir Putin that they have dominion over all small nations who have yet to integrate into Western institutions.
It would be cowardly if we are to consider the small cost incurred by cutting trade and relations with Russia to be more valuable than standing up for the principles which allow us to have our own free and fair elections, which allow us to speak in the face of injustice, which ultimately allow us to live in peace and choose our own destiny. The values which have possessed the Russian government are of an existential danger not just to Eastern Europe, but to the whole free world. If these ideals are left unchecked, they will fester and expand into our own democracies, in a hyper-globalised world we cannot afford to embrace the naïve illusion of disconnection from a European democracy.
Moldova, Georgia, Crimea and Russia’s 8-year insurgency in Eastern Ukraine were not enough for Putin, why should we ever believe that Ukraine will be the end of this? Expansionists rarely pack up and go home. Putin envisions himself as an almost Tsarist reincarnation, ready to restore Russia’s rightful empire.
It is also insulting that Russia’s diplomats have done the rounds in the Irish press after Putin’s orders were issued, the Ambassador staking false claims of genocide perpetrated by Ukraine in the Donbas region. There is no place for such transparent and disgusting deceitful rhetoric from an aggressive nation in Ireland. The Russian ambassador should be expelled, the history books would show we responded meaningfully to the worst European security crisis since the Cold War. This is a moment in history which allows a small nation like Ireland to define its values and provide global leadership at a relatively low cost, we should grasp it firmly.