Russian ships sighted off west coast were ‘cheap way to send a threat’ – The Irish Times

The presence of Russian cargo ships off the coast of Ireland was “a cheap way to send a threat” to Ireland, the European Union and NATO, according to an Irish scientist at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

The three ships – the Umka, the Bakhtemir and the Fortuna – sparked alarm among defense officials earlier this month when they were spotted performing unusual maneuvers off the coast of Co Galway near a new underwater communications cable.

It is believed that the ships were equipped with technology capable of jamming underwater cables.

The Defense Forces used ships and planes to keep tabs on the ships, which later turned south and appeared to continue their originally planned voyage to the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa.

Eoin McNamara told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that while the ships were operating commercially, “all lines lead back to the Kremlin” as has been the case with companies like the Wagner Group and energy companies.

“They say they are cargo ships; They can be all of those things, but they send a signal that they know where the wires are and that they have the equipment to jam them.”

Ireland is “not set up” to properly monitor incidents like the Russian ships, he said.

The Irish Defense Forces were dependent on information from other countries and there was a ‘gap’ in the force’s capacity.

Meanwhile, Independent TD for Kildare South and a former Army Ranger, Cathal Berry, have said the Defense Forces’ lack of ability to shadow Russian ships off the Irish coast is “simply not good enough for a sovereign state”.

“That’s really the big problem that Ireland has very little ability to counter what’s happening off our west coast,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“Because of the current problem at Haulbowline in Cork we were unable to get even a naval vessel there over the weekend. If you have a sensitive convoy moving through your economic waters, you would normally deploy at least one of your naval vessels to shadow that convoy.

“Unfortunately Ireland were unable to deploy a ship from a crew shortage perspective so we had to rely on the Air Corps. You can station an aircraft for several hours at a time and monitor the situation, but there is no substitute for having a naval vessel on station.”

Ireland is also unique in not having a sonar capability, he added. “Ireland has absolutely no sovereign underwater capabilities. Not only can we not intervene in relation to what is happening beneath the waves, we cannot even see beneath the waves.

“We don’t have ships with sonar capability, which makes us unique in the European Union.

“We are an island nation, we are responsible for over 15 percent of EU waters. It is simply totally unacceptable that three Russian merchant ships can sail down the west coast of our country and float in and around our territorial waters in time of war.

“They were no more than 13 nautical miles off the coast of Kerry and that’s just not good enough for a sovereign state,” Mr Berry said. Russian ships sighted off west coast were ‘cheap way to send a threat’ – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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