A new front in the Ukrainian war looks set to be opened up shortly, not in Kiev or Kharkov, but on the streets of Derry and Belfast, at least according to the British press in Ireland.
Syndicated throughout the week, Britannia’s newshounds have been vocal about alleged attempts to coax dissident republican and loyalist groups to join the Russian war effort and undermine both the British and Irish states.
Non-sectarian in their approaches to both Loyalist and Republican factions, these under the table solicitations supposedly played a key role in the expulsion of two Russian diplomats this week.
Carried by a variety of Irish-based outlets, the primary publication pushing the story was per usual the rather bullish Sunday Times Irish edition, keen as ever to lease the Republic to NATO war efforts in Eastern Europe.
This is the latest in a longstanding media focus on the probable espionage functions of the inordinately-sized Russian embassy in Rathmines. Russian security forces are alleged to have implanted military intelligence officers at the embassy to liaise with militants north of the border.
For good measure the Russian menace was also accused of stirring up the sectarian pot through online misinformation in order to intensify tensions around the Brexit issue. As if residents on the Shankill Road currently seeking flammable pallets for July festivities need Russian bots to foster sectarian hatred.
A foolhardy venture even if the Russians dared act as tactlessly, this botched attempt at fanning the flames of paramilitarism plays well into NATO’s hands, providing the Irish Government with both a threat and incentive to turn the screws on the Russians and crawl (likely on their bellies) ever closer into the NATO camp.
The Rathmines embassy has been an open wound for NATO-Irish relations for some time, with many security experts of the opinion that the Russians are taking advantage of the pitiful Irish security detail watching it.
While it is certainly in the interest of Russia to destabilise Western Europe, and the North offers itself as a prime vector for such an end, wandering unprepared into the world of northern paramilitarism is an asinine venture and the Russians likely knew it.
With Loyalism semi-formally tethered to the British security state and dissident Republicanism smothered in covert human intelligence assets, as the case of Denis McFadden attests, such a move is beyond comprehension even for the most naive of actors.
Dissidents and Loyalists can’t scratch themselves without MI5 knowing, and any Russian operative would know this, hence the improbability of this yarn. The largest of the Republican splinter factions number a few dozen at best, of low grade individuals with industrial scale human and signals intelligence rendering them entirely ghettoised and corralled.
While it is true that left-Republican groups such as the IRSP maintain a pro-Russian stance, even sending emissaries to the Donetsk Republic, nevermind Republicanism’s historic alliance with foreign powers, this ploy by the Russians sounds like something from the NATO propaganda department or something blown out of proportion for effect.
More likely whatever truth in this story has been dressed up through the pro-NATO media machine to provide Leinster House with a casus belli to call time on Russian efforts at the embassy.
We’ve had a season of anti-Russian scare stories peaking with pitiful attempts by the British press in Ireland to rally behind the green flag in the defence of Irish territorial waters against Russian naval exercises.
A study of the historic examples of Soviet and East German espionage during the Cold War, nevermind more recent abuses of Irish passports reveal the genuine security threat presented by the Russians. That cannot be faulted.
However, where is this same media scrutiny when it comes to the actual manipulation of street-level Loyalism by proactive forces in the British intelligence and political establishment around the triggering of Article 16 Northern Sea Border.
Loyalism exists not just as the political and armed wing of the Ulster-Scots people but as a tool for London to keep watch over Ireland and kick dirt around when required. If you want instances of Irish affairs being strongarmed by a foregn power look sooner at London than Moscow.
Just last week in circumstances that are still cloudy, an Irish minister of state was forced to abandon a podium for fear of a UVF bomb plot. Involving a hijacked van and a hoax device, this move is clearly a statement of intent by the forces behind the UVF seeking to undercut stability in the Northern State.
For all the post-conflict illusions the North is still governed by a mixture of subterfuge and spookery with London managing the statelet with a distinctly sectarian strategy of tension.
While not beyond the realm of possibility, the Russians aren’t a necessary ingredient for instability in an inherently unstable state, tempered and heightened by security forces in equal measure in the interest of maintaining British rule.
One doesn’t deny the threat a bellicose Russia represents to an unguarded Irish State, but one should be able to distinguish the forest from the trees when it comes to media scare stories and their topacility in drumming up anti-Russian feeling.
Our primary security threat lies in having a quadrant of our island territorially occupied by an old antagonistic superpower engaging itself in myopic wars abroad. Throwing our national lot in with NATO doesn’t protect Ireland; it merely ups the risk of genuine blowback from a responsive Russia in the cyber and economic realm.
The real penetration of the Irish State comes not from Russian or even Chinese spooks, but from representatives and servants of Her Majesty’s Government, nevermind Washington and Brussels charting policies contrary to the welfare of the Irish people.
We are all aware that England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity, but I wouldn’t expect any modern Auds to be floating arms to the Real IRA or UDA anytime soon.