It’s a year now since Russia attacked Ukraine (the ‘anniversary’ being 24 February) and, although most people will feel that time flies, in the context of Ukraine, it has not.
It’s still a little hard to believe that it actually happened; that President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin ordered his armed forces to attack a neighbour. It’s hard to believe that there really is a major armed conflict underway in Europe, and that tanks really are rolling around eastern Ukraine.
It’s a nightmare scenario, but in truth, for us, those are just words. For the people of Ukraine it’s so much more than that; it’s a cruel and painful reality as they live in a situation they do not deserve and did not provoke.
The reaction of most countries and indeed of the European Union has been positive in that tough sanctions have been applied against Russia and Putin’s Russia is rightly seen as the pariah of the world. If he wanted his country to be treated with respect, he managed to achieve the oppositive. Still, it’s likely that many, perhaps even most Russian citizens, don’t know what’s going on. The information they get has gone through Putin’s lie machine and come out the far end, perfectly formed.
Several European countries have gone further, promising or sending military supplies and equipment to Ukaine to help it fight off a giant aggressor; even Sweden, a neutral country, has joined Ukraine’s cause, while Finland’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is down simply to Putin’s war. The Russian President never wanted Ukraine to be a member of the European Union or NATO, now he’s engineered a situation where another neighbour, Finland, is joining NATO and Ukraine will be welcomed into the EU as soon as possible, even if it has some work to do first.
To say the war isn’t going well for Russia is an understatement, but then this is a stupid war.
It’s stupid for Putin to believe that even if his forces seized Ukraine that he could control it and its people. He would end up with a life-long hostility with dozens of his own soldiers being brought home every week in coffins. How is that success?
It’s stupid to think that the people of Ukraine would ever bow down to a foreign aggressor.
It’s stupid to think that other countries would not help Ukraine by providing military support, and it’s stupid to think that Russia can forever live with economic sanctions, imposed by the EU and others, which will eventually cripple Russia’s economy. Putin has a warchest of hundreds of billions of US dollars, but that’s dwindling fast in the face of Ukrainian opposition that sees Russian soldiers taking one step forward and two steps back.
“Irish people are entitled to ask: ‘For how much longer can we do this? How many refugees and asylum seekers can we accommodate?”
In this country, we’ve done what we can to help Ukraine and its people. Some €55m was contributed by our Government to an EU fund, and that money was spent on non-lethal equipment, such as body armour. More than 70,000 Ukrainian refugees have been given shelter here and have largely been welcomed. This isn’t home, but it is a lot safer.
Still, Irish people are entitled to ask: ‘For how much longer can we do this? How many refugees and asylum seekers can we accommodate? What about our own poor and homesless? Can we really afford this?’ There’s nothing wrong in asking those questions and, it seems, they are being asked more frequently, by more people. It’s a sign of a healthy society that such questions are asked, and it’s a sign of a controlled and backward thinking society when we accuse those who ask such questions of discrimination.
We’re doing what we can, but let’s not be afraid to question it too.