HomeEuropeIrish want Russia to cancel offshore war games in ‘Europe’s blind spot’

Irish want Russia to cancel offshore war games in ‘Europe’s blind spot’

DUBLIN — Russia should scrap its planned naval war games off Ireland’s coast to demonstrate its desire to defuse tensions with the West over Ukraine, the Irish deputy premier said Wednesday.

Some cybersecurity and military analysts fear that the exercise planned for early February could be a cover for cutting undersea fiber-optic communications cables connecting America and Europe in event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The waters designated for the Russian exercise, the Porcupine Seabight, lie around 200 miles southwest of Cork. The area is outside Ireland’s territorial waters but within its economic zone for harnessing marine resources.

Neutral Ireland has a nine-ship navy, no sonar or military radar capabilities and virtually no air force, making it an ideal Russian choice for offshore military exercises “as Europe’s blind spot – the EU’s weakest link,” according to analyst Tom Clonan.

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Russia’s timing and choice of location “may well be a show of strength towards Britain and France” as Russia builds up its forces on Ukraine’s borders. Transatlantic aircraft also must be diverted from the area during the war games, which are expected to involve tests of Kalibr cruise missiles.

“The argument that the Russians would make is they do these exercises in international waters every year and this is just a coincidence,” Varadkar told RTÉ radio.

“But whether it’s a coincidence or not, at a time of increasing tensions, at a time of real concern around a possible war between Ukraine and Russia, we think that they should call them off. That would demonstrate goodwill, that the Russians do want to de-escalate these tensions,” Varadkar said.

He appealed to Irish fishermen to “please be careful” if they follow through on their vow to sail into the Russian exercises.

“This is the Russian navy, a major military power with nuclear weapons, with submarines,” he said. “Let’s not be naïve about that.”

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