Michael D. Higgins is by far our most popular political figure. So much so that even when he criticizes government policy – as he did recently with the failure of the housing plan – some cabinet members consider him to be beyond reproach. Of course he’s not. Nobody is.
But being intimidated by its popularity doesn’t mean some right-leaning ones don’t resent the left’s elusiveness. So if they feel they’ve found a loophole in the President’s armor, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.
For now, they believe Chink is Sabina Higgins, the President’s wife, because she had the audacity to voice an opinion on the war in Ukraine.
Basically, she was calling for an end to the war and suggested that the best way to achieve this might be a truce on both sides, followed by negotiations.
At first glance, no one could disagree with these feelings. But for some, the mere suggestion of a truce by both sides and negotiations involving both sides means equating the moral position of Russia – the invader – with that of Ukraine. But that is wrong and grossly unfair.
By mentioning both sides, Sabina Higgins was just stating the obvious: Negotiations require at least two parties. Nowhere in her letter does she ask Ukrainians to accept certain conditions just so that peace can be achieved.
For example, she is not proposing to cede any territory to Russia. She merely acknowledged the reality that militarily, Russia is a much stronger nation than Ukraine in terms of weapons and troops.
There are no signs that Russia is unilaterally ending the conflict. Vladimir Putin is still popular in Russia, and thanks to the authoritarian nature of Russia’s sham democracy, there is no large-scale opposition to the war there.
The Russians believe the West is trying to suppress them, with a number of NATO countries lining their border and Finland and Sweden threatening to add to that list. The Ukrainians, who were almost fellow citizens and certainly allies in the old Soviet Union, now threatened to tighten that noose around their necks by bidding to join NATO.
Many Russians have also swallowed the lie that the invasion was a rescue mission for oppressed Russians in Ukraine, straight out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook. Many have also fallen for Putin’s lie about the need to rid Ukraine of neo-Nazis.
Because of the Russians’ superior firepower and because there is no real domestic pressure on Putin to end the war, there is a good chance it will continue.
Unfortunately, the fact that the Russians proved somewhat inept on the battlefield does not mean that Ukraine will triumph. It just means that this war will last much longer than initially thought.
As a result, tens of thousands more on every side will die or suffer horrific injuries. Many more will be driven from their homes and forced to seek refuge abroad. Europe’s breadbasket has the potential to turn into a wasteland, with tragic consequences for the rest of the world.
The current reluctance of the Ukrainians to sit down for negotiations with the Russians is understandable. They don’t trust them for a reason given what has happened since the war started. And in Putin they know they are dealing with a liar and a war criminal.
Despite this, they managed to negotiate at a distance through Turkey and the UN to free grain shipments for export through the Black Sea ports. You could build on that.
As a neutral country, Ireland has gone beyond its duty to help Ukraine, taking in tens of thousands of refugees, providing non-military assistance and working hard to support Ukraine’s bid for EU membership.
Many Western countries have sent arms to the Ukrainian army, but not enough and not with sufficient firepower to take on the Russians.
The effect of the sanctions imposed on Russia early in the war was disappointing. And Western countries have made it clear that they will not send troops. NATO is playing a Catch 22 of sorts with Ukraine – if you were a NATO member we would join you in the conflict in a flash, but you are not and these things take time, so hard.
The West will continue to cheer Ukraine from the sidelines, bullied by the possible escalation to a nuclear conflict in the background, but essentially the message to Ukraine is: “You are on your own.”
This is a great consolation for Putin. Not only did he reassure him that he would be safe from any Western retaliation unless he attacked a current NATO member directly, but he also knows that we in the West have lost any moral authority to dictate to Ukraine like they did to act in the conflict. This includes any thoughts we might have should the two sides find a way to speak to each other.
Sabina Higgins said no more, as if it were a choice between life-saving negotiations and this horrible ongoing war, until Russia finally and almost inevitably crushed the Ukrainians, she would rather see negotiations sooner than later.
Those who criticize them are effectively saying that there can be no negotiations – and Ukrainians must keep fighting and dying – until Russia surrenders unconditionally. Nothing in what she said indicated that she believed in moral equality between Russia and Ukraine.
Her critics urged her to be explicit, and she has done so, pointing out that she has repeatedly condemned the illegal Russian invasion. But now their critics have turned on the President and demanded that he disavow their opinions because they appeared on the Áras website for a while.
As if he would. And what reason is there to assume that the President – who himself has done much to condemn Russia and encourage Ukraine – does not share his wife’s perfectly valid views?
Churchill liked to say that “pine, pine” is better than “war, war”. And no one ever accused him of being lenient with Hitler.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/those-who-take-issue-with-sabina-higginss-letter-are-effectively-saying-the-war-between-russia-and-ukraine-must-go-on-41893252.html Those contesting Sabina Higgins’ letter are effectively saying that “the war between Russia and Ukraine must go on.”