A ‘new cold war’ could challenge Ireland’s long-standing strategy of neutrality, an Irish economist says.
Neutrality has been Ireland’s core international relations policy since the 1930s - including during World War II and the Cold War.
Even as Ireland plays a key role on the international stage through the likes of its EU membership, Irish governments have to date resisted all calls to join organisations such as NATO.
Dan O’Brien, Chief Economist with the Institute of International and European affairs and columnist with The Sunday Business Post, told The Pat Kenny Show that our long-standing approach could soon be tested.
He noted there’s a “deteriorating” situation in Eastern Europe, particularly amid the growing tensions around Russia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, he believes there’s also a ‘new cold war’ starting.
He said: “It’s more between the US and China, but Russia’s involved as well.
“Maybe we’ll be able to just keep our heads down. But I think this cold war will be a bit different in a couple of ways.
“One way is that we’re more important than we used to be. We used to be a bit of a backwater in the last cold war - now we’re a European and transatlantic centre for tech, finance and pharmaceuticals. We have a more important role.
“There’s also the issue of cyberattacks - governments can use cyber in a way that wasn’t the case in the last cold war.”
He said neutrality is a “perfectly fine” strategy, but neutrality can be challenged when a country has no way to defend it.
He observed: “We don’t have any air force - so when planes fly into our airspace, the British Air Force comes in and deals with it.
“As a proud Irish man, I don’t like the idea we have to depend on another country to make an ‘under the table’ deal where they fly in and protect our airspace.
“If we’re going to be serious about neutrality, then we make sure we can defend itself. In my long-term view, because NATO is a very important structure in Europe… I think we would be right to join NATO.
“We would be a more secure country going into this new cold war if we were part of NATO.
“Clearly, for Ireland, our side is with Europe and America - it’s clearly not with dictatorial regimes like China and Russia if things continue to deteriorate.”
Dan said he agrees the Irish people are unlikely to back any changes to Ireland’s strategy of neutrality.
However, he does believe the discussion needs to be had - not just if “somebody cuts our cables, hacks the economy or brings the grid down”.
You can listen to the full interview with Dan O'Brien here: https://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/highlights-from-the-pat-kenny-show/is-it-time-we-reconsider-our-neutrality-stance