By Damien Maher
Mullingar native Declan Power, a well-known security expert, believes it’s impossible to predict how long the war between Russia and Ukraine will last.
Speaking to Topic, Declan gave his views on a range of issues and fears that Russia will continue to use all its power to pulverise the different cities of Ukraine in a war that is being universally condemned across Europe and America.
The Russian invasion began on Thursday, February 24 but, as Declan says, “it’s impossible to say at this stage how long the war will last”, explaining that the Ukrainian Government is likely to move to a government in exile in the coming weeks.
What lies ahead is uncertain, but “psychological and cyber warfare” is likely to ensue.
Declan is an independent security and defence analyst, published author and former soldier. He said the world was not expecting such a drawn-out battle and low-intensity combat seemed likely at the outset, with Russia such a powerful force.
However, once they encountered such resistance, Russia reverted to form: “It was always going to be about weight of numbers and Russia are such a powerful force. They are much more technologically advanced than Ukraine in terms of weapons.”
The idea that Ukraine could even hold out against Russia is simply far fetched and they have very little hope of gaining victory.
While Ukraine soldiers have shown themselves to be very stoic and brave, it is only a question of when, not if Russia will overpower them, Declan feels.
While poor logistics hasn’t helped, the Russians will realise there is no need to panic and while Ukraine were still hoping for delivery of military aircraft from Poland and Romania, Russia could easily intercept and ‘take them out’.
With the death toll rising and further suffering inevitable, it is hoped that diplomacy could be a possible means to an end. The European Union, NATO (which has 30 members) and the United States will want to keep the Russians halted for as long as possible and that gives time for negotiations.
While Ireland remains neutral, Declan points out that “we are in this war, albeit not on the front lines”. We are fortunate with our geographic location, but we must be conscious of enhanced cyber warfare and of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), he added.
“We saw during Covid how we were fed ridiculous stuff on social media and Russia will try and target this area now to divide opinion and create distrust,” Declan feels.
While Russia is “okay” with proxies fighting proxies, of concern would be Russia blundering into one of the neighbouring countries and causing a direct reaction. That means the war will escalate.
Last week there was talk of siege, starve and surrender, but Declan now feels we are into a scenario where FIBUA (fighting in a built-up area) will dominate. It is now about attrition; it will be exhausting and it could be a long, drawn-out battle, but ultimately the collapse of the current Ukrainian regime is inevitable.
Ukraine, for its part, will rely on gorilla warfare.
People are also fearful that if Russia, as expected, take Ukraine, it will only be the start, but Declan feels this will be a tough act to follow. While global hybrid warfare will continue, similar to what we are witnessing with the sanctions that are being imposed on Russia, another actual invasion is unlikely.
One possible way to end things would be for an “off ramp” (an American term for an exit off a major highway) to be created. This may be possible if the sanctions imposed on Russia start to really hurt and unsettle Moscow.
Ireland will play a major role in offering homes to thousands of Ukrainian refugees and we are giving political support. Our words matter, Declan suggests, and Irish people will want to support and help. It is vital, though that the likes of Unicef and Goal lead the way in providing such help in a coordinated fashion.
“A planned and sustained approach will bring maximum support. It is important that we don’t act unilaterally,” observed Declan, whose opinion is very highly regarded on matters of security.
In addition to offering training on crisis/risk management and analytical techniques, Declan also delivers the Terrorism and International Security Studies course at City Colleges Dublin, a course he devised for a wide variety of security practitioners. He is also an Adjunct Teaching Fellow in Conflict, Security and Development at Trinity College Dublin.
Prior to this Declan worked abroad extensively with the European Commission on projects involving counter-terrorism and violent extremism. In recent years he led on a successful joint Irish-Swiss government funded project to manage conflict and crisis in South Sudan. He was also a panelist on the 2015 White Paper on Defence.
When not deployed, Declan provides analysis to both broadcast and print media on security and defence matters. He is the author of Siege at Jadotville, successfully adapted for the Netflix film of a similar title.