I had been intending to write a couple of blogs about opinions with potential that could prove very unpopular, if not controversial. I finally got around to one of them with this one.
I have been following the recent crisis in Crimea on the news and it got me thinking. First of all I thought it was war mongering and America thinking it could enforce it's own agenda on the world under the guise of "policing" the free world when there was talk of a missile defence system being set up in Poland and Russia threatening conflict if it went ahead. America tried to play down their intentions as a result of an unpopular war in Iraq and trying to use the excuse of potential nuclear armament of Iran to ease Russia's concerns. But, judging by the invasion of Georgia and now Ukraine, the Americans had better intelligence on Russia than they let on to the ordinary layman in a neutral country like me. Putin is ex-KGB as we know, and I suspect would love to turn back the clock to a time when the Soviet Union had Eastern Europe either in its territory or controlled those countries outside it with puppet governments. Regaining lost territories from the breakup of the Soviet Union looks like the ambition for those in power in Russia now.
I'm not in favour of this, obviously. While the EU has its flaws and the breaking of their own rules on the Euro lead to the current financial and economic crises, it is better than a divided Europe with powerful countries lead by dictatorial megalomaniacs such as was the case in Germany and Italy pre-WWII. Irish governments negotiated structural funds for Ireland in the 1990s that helped our economy to grow and, in that sense, the EU has been good to us. So despite our own troubles and trouble in Greece, Portugal, Spain etc., the fact that we have economic and monetary union allows us to pull together and learn from each other and trade and attract foreign investment from across the world by companies who see the market here as lucrative. It's also easier to go on a foreign holiday within the EU and that benefits tourism dependent economies. The point I'm trying to make is that countries like Georgia and Ukraine are looking west for prosperity, would be welcomed by most in the EU and Russia does not like this.
If the current crisis was to escalate to a wider conflict with Europe I don't think Europe and America should back off and try to be diplomatic in the name of political correctness. I think we should combine forces. I even think that Ireland should break with our "neutrality" tradition and actively take sides and contribute military personnel to an EU defence force. "Are you mad?" I hear you ask. "how can a country with a small population and a relatively tiny army make a difference?" Well my opinion is based on an agenda. There is no way we could fight a war against a super power. Look at how easily Russia's army swept through Georgia when they invaded a few years ago. But let me use sport as an example. We have always punched above our weight - relative to our talent pool - when our soccer team was on form with its best players. The same can be said of our rugby players in the professional era of Rugby Union and our provincial system competing in The celtic league and Heineken cup. So too, our soldiers could make a significant contribution to an EU defence force fighting together for a common cause and have experience of conflict zones in the Congo, Lebanon, East Timor, Chad and most recently the Syrian war in the Golan Heights region as a result of their many UN peace-keeping missions.
This is the agenda part. In order for the strategy to be really effective we would have to keep China out of the conflict. The negotiating tool we have there is that a lot of America's recent borrowings may have come from China, or so I've heard, and a lot of companies from the EU and US have relocated/outsourced manufacturing to the cheaper Chinese market, creating jobs for Chinese and allowing the country to prosper. If these countries are ruined from being on the losing side of a war China doesn't get its investments and borrowings back and foreign investors from those regions pull out of China. China can also keep young Kim Jong Il in North Korea from misbehaving during an EU/US vs Russia conflict. If the West defeats Russia, it punishes Russia by getting it to pay for the war. Partly financially and partly with its oil and gas reserves fueling the West. EU countries that fight against Russia offloads their debt burdens to Russia as the cost of the war. Ireland can be one of those countries if they contribute militarily to an EU defence force. Europe makes a fresh debt-free start and prospers economically in time. Ireland would have backup, should an imperial power ever try to invade us again as well.
I'm not exactly saying this would happen and I know that Russia would have allies as well and the countries not directly involved could seize territory and resources from under everyone's noses and both sides in the conflict would lose out. I am certainly not advocating what could be world war 3 and nuclear devastation. I'm just saying that the potential threat of Russia facing a war on 2 fronts and a nuclear war that nobody wants could be the incentive for Russia to re-evaluate its territorial ambitions.The EU needs to stand side by side with the US and project its combined strength against Russia and stop it bullying smaller neighbouring nations. Ireland will still have its seemingly infinite debt, but at least a stable Europe means it can go on existing and trying to better itself. Ireland's relationship with Britain could also be at an all time high as a result of standing together militarily against a common threat. This could lead to a lasting peace and settlement in terms of the Northern Ireland peace process.
I know there would be ant-war protestations such as that old lady at shannon protesting against American military aircraft, if we were to participate in a show of military strength against Russia and its allies. But I think participating rather than doing nothing would be the lesser of too evils.
I've waffled on longer than I thought I would and still didn't get to say everything I could have said on the issue. But whether you agree or disagree with my somewhat controversial opinion of Ireland breaking with its neutrality tradidtion, I still hope I got my point across.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.