Head of UCC’s School of History, Dunmanway native Mervyn O’Driscoll shares his expert analysis on the takeover of Ukraine
Should the west implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine?
In humanitarian terms there is a strong case to be made, and it is made on our TVs and social media daily. But in strategic terms it would be inadvisable and create greater loss of life as a result of contagion. No-fly zones were only implemented in the past against inferior forces. Russia is a nuclear power. Putin has not been slow to underline this. A no fly zone carries the high risk, or perhaps the certainty, of confrontation which would ignite a general European war.
If Nato and America desired to engage in a full-blown war with Russia they should implement a no-fly zone. Russia has been rearming and modernising its military and nuclear forces for some time. Continental European members of Nato, in particular Western Europe, have not. As a result, there will be no ‘no-fly zone’.
Have we done enough to get Putin to back down?
No. He has committed most of his military forces to the campaign. He is not for turning, unless many of his demands are met in relation to Ukraine. Otherwise he will lose face. And a bargain with the West to partition or neutralise the Ukraine is unlikely as Western leaders do not wish to be seen as appeasers of aggression.
Clearly, the sanctions are swingeing and the most biting we have seen against any regime in recent years. The calculation that they might fuel a popular rebellion against Putin or that the elites could turn on him is a gamble.
It is hurting ordinary Russians who had no part in Putin’s decision to go to war. Even in the medium term there is a possibility they might boomerang and feed Russian nationalism.
That is the directly opposite effect desired. More worryingly, from a US and general Western perspective, in strategic terms the relationship between Russia and China is likely to grow. After all, Russian oil and gas will find an infinite market there. That would change the world order we were familiar with. We are at a watershed moment it seems. The next decades may be defined by what transpires.
If Putin succeeds in Ukraine do you think he will stop there?
The current reinforcement of Nato’s eastern defences is designed to prevent a move into Nato space. If Nato was aggressed against, a major war would result but Nato is more united than ever before. Putin should be aware of that. So the non-Nato space would be most vulnerable.
That is if strategic logic prevails and he retains power and annexes all or a substantial segment of Ukraine. However, I doubt that such expansionism would be immediate. He’d probably consolidate his gains in Ukraine first.