Russian exercise off Irish coast 'directly' connected to Ukraine tensions

The upcoming Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast are "directly" linked to the Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border, according to a TD and former head of the Army Ranger Wing.
Russian exercise off Irish coast 'directly' connected to Ukraine tensions

James Cox

The upcoming Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast are "directly" linked to the Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border, according to a TD and former head of the Army Ranger Wing.

The artillery drills are due to take place at the start of February in international waters but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Cathal Berry, who spent six years in the Army Ranger Wing, told BreakingNews.ie: "You might think it has nothing to do with it [the situation in Ukraine], but it has everything to do with it. They’re pre-positioning their pieces in preparation for the checkmate move, that’s what they’re at and that’s why they’ve chosen this particular part of the world.

"It’s Europe’s back yard, and they know that Ireland is particularly exposed from a defence and security point of view, so they’ve exploited that."

The Independent TD added: "There are five domains when it comes to military operations: land, sea, air, cyber and space. All domains are in play at the moment, they’re all connected.

Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland protested against Russian aggression outside Leinster House.

"The idea of a one dimensional, land only incursion into another country, that doesn’t happen any more, not in modern warfare, all five domains are in play."

Cyber-security experts have warned that the disruption to undersea telecommunications cables by planned Russian manoeuvres next week “could be very significant.”

Mr Berry said this is no coincidence.

"These are very important underwater internet cables, people think the cloud is in the sky, but the cloud is actually at the bottom of the sea, and they know that, and it’s like the umbilical cord between North American and Europe. If you severe that, you’re going to cause major issues for stock markets, financial transactions, the economy, society, everything basically that we take for granted."

While Irish fishermen say they have been given a guarantee by the Russian navy that their fishing will not be impacted, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today that he would be worried about their safety.

Mr Berry echoed these sentiments.

"Even from the weather and the elements there can be issues. If you put a large number of vessels into a small area, even at nighttime any accidental collision can occur, I won’t say easily, but anything is possible, so they will need to be careful out there, particularly if they’re trawling their nets and there might be a submarine in the area, they have to be very careful not to get it snagged."

Mr Berry said the Defence Forces have been under-funded "for decades", leaving Ireland vulnerable to situations like this one.

"We’ve become an exposed and vulnerable member of the European Union, and the Russians have taken full advantage of that," he said.

"The Commission on the Defence Forces is reporting this week, the Government will then for the next few weeks examine the findings, come up with their own implementation plan, and then we need to act, and properly resource and fund our Defence Forces."

Ireland is living in a house of straw and the wolf is knocking at the door.

While Ireland is classed as a neutral country, Mr Berry said that it does not currently have the necessary defence capabilities in place.

"At the moment we’re not a neutral country, we’re pretending to be a neutral country, but we’re not, we don’t meet the criteria, we don’t meet the obligations that a neutral country is meant to perform. We need to recognise that being an independent sovereign country is a very important thing, and we have to be prepared to protect it.

"If you want to protect it you have to make sure you have the minimum credible deterrent when it comes to these types of activities off our coast, and at the moment we don’t have that, and that’s why we’re suffering disproportionately.

"Because we’ve under-funded our defence capabilities so much over the last few decades."

He added: "We’re all familiar with the story of the three little pigs, Ireland is living in a house of straw and the wolf is knocking at the door, and we know what’s happening next, and we’ve nobody but ourselves to blame. We’ve invited this onto us by being so ill prepared that they recognise this to be a blind spot and are taking full advantage."

Mr Berry compared the current situation to the HSE cyberattack last summer, which was believed to be the work of a Russian hacker group known as Wizard Spider.

Since the cyberattack, the Government has responded by committing more money to cyber-security and appointing a new director for the National Cyber Security Centre.

He said the uncertainty over the upcoming Russian military exercises should prompt similar investment in the Defence Forces.

While the Russian government claimed the February exercises were planned in advance, Mr Berry believes this is unlikely.

"If it was pre-planned why didn’t they inform us last year? Why did they only inform us last Friday? If you want to look at the evidence, if it was pre-planned months ago, they could have informed us, but they didn’t, and it wasn’t."

Mr Berry said that there will be powerful war ships involved in the exercises, and that other countries will be watching the activities closely.

"It’s about signalling and letting people know that Russia can project power into Europe’s back yard."

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more