Irish troops to train Ukrainian army – a further erosion of military neutrality

By Conor Payne 

Last month it was revealed that the Defence Forces is providing weapons training and training in military tactics to the Ukrainian military. This is despite Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s public statement that the training Irish troops supplied to the Ukrainian army would be confined to ‘humanitarian’ and ‘non-lethal’ areas such as demining. 

There was no reference to weapons training in any public statements by the government or its ministers – a clear attempt to cover up this breach of Irish neutrality. According to The Irish Times, the full range of training being carried out by the Defence Forces is basic military skills, leadership training, drill instructor training, combat medicine, demining and explosive disposal.

New Cold War 

These revelations are just the latest in a consistent campaign since the start of the Ukraine War to undermine what remains of the Irish State’s military neutrality. Much of the capitalist establishment has long regarded neutrality as an embarrassing obstacle to Ireland being able to fully take its rightful place in the ‘Western [imperialist] bloc’ built around the US and NATO. In reality, Irish neutrality has not prevented them from aligning with the US and European imperialist powers, for example, facilitating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the use of Shannon Airport by US troops. 

However, Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the resulting proxy conflict between Russia and China on the one hand, and the US and NATO on the other, has occasioned an escalation of the campaign to openly break with neutrality. This has included calls for increased military and armaments spending, plans to abandon the ‘triple lock’ which prevents Ireland from entering a war without UN-backing, and support for more Irish participation in EU military operations. 

Sham forum 

Over the summer, the government convened a sham “consultative forum” packed with pro-war and pro-NATO “security experts” in an attempt to put a stamp of legitimacy on the moves they want to take. This exercise had to exclude any actual democratic participation because there is still majority support for neutrality. A poll in June showed 61% support, with only 26% supporting a change in approach. 

The government will cynically justify its policy of increased militarisation by pointing to the criminality of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and using the sympathy and solidarity that exists among ordinary people. But the real significance of these actions is the precedent being for more and more active involvement in EU and NATO military projects. 

Imperialist hypocrisy 

The imperialist powers who invaded Iraq, who support the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and back brutal dictatorships worldwide, do not care about the Ukrainian people or their claimed values of freedom, democracy and national independence. Whatever they claim about supporting Ukraine, their aid will always come with strings attached and will be linked to their broader goals of dominating the regions in their interests. What’s needed to defeat the invasion is a mass struggle from below by the working class of Ukraine, and the building of a mass anti-war movement worldwide, including in Russia – where the effects of the war and the policies of Putin’s regime are being increasingly felt. 

The world is increasingly divided into two hostile imperialist camps, locked into conflict over natural resources, markets and spheres of influence. For the working class and oppressed of the world neither side in this new cold war represents anything positive or progressive. We must resist the attacks on military neutrality and the drive for increasing militarisation in Ireland. Across the world we need a movement to end the capitalist system, which is increasingly dragging us into war and conflict in the interests of a privileged few.

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