Disgruntled Irish Fisherfolk Gonna Mess With Russian Navy. Go, Irish Fisherfolk!
Rachel Maddow ran a humdinger of a story last night, while reporting on the anxiety over whether Vladimir Putin will send Russian troops to invade Ukraine again. Maddow noted that Norway has had an ongoing problem with someone cutting undersea cables and wrecking undersea installations — a submarine detection system in November, and a satellite link two weeks ago (Norway says the satellites are non-military; Russia says they are).
The chief suspect seems to be Russia, whose navy has the capability to do such techno-nastiness with small crewed and remote-operated mini-subs that can dive deep. But the Russian navy hasn't been caught in the act, particularly with the sub detection systems all fucked up.
Also too, in August 2021, Ireland was super worried about the arrival off its coast of the Yantar, a Russian "oceanographic research ship" that the rest of the world is pretty sure is a spy ship. The Russian vessel (or wessel, as navigation experts say) carries those very mini-subs, and it was a bit worrisome that Yantar sailed around in international waters — all very legal, very cool — where the seabed has a whole bunch of transatlantic cables, although it seems none were damaged. That time.
Here's the "Maddow Show" segment. Enjoy!
Now that Russia may be on the verge of invading Ukraine, the Russian navy plans to conduct some war games off the Irish coast in February, complete with live fire of weapons systems. Legal, because again, international waters. But mighty upsetting, particularly if the exercise includes deploying those little submersibles to mess with transatlantic data and comms cables. But gosh, that would be illegal, so we bet Vladimir Putin would never even consider such a thing.
Ireland has protested, but is not a member of NATO, so protesting is about all it can do. It's a fine country, but it doesn't exactly have a massive navy (just nine operational ships) to send out to warn the Russians away. And here's where the Maddow story gets interesting. As Maddow says, it's quite the dilemma for Ireland. She said, "You know what Ireland does have to defend itself in this instance? It has very annoyed fishermen."
Members of the fishing fleet in County Cork are not at all pleased about the military exercises, which will take place smack dab in the waters the Irish boats usually work. So they've announced their plans to protest that threat to their livelihood by going fishing anyway.
Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers says Irish fishing boats are ready to disrupt the exercises announced by the Russians. [...]
“Our boats will be going out to that area on the first of February to go fishing,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that there are enough boats planning to take part that "When one boat needs to return to port, another will head out so there is a continuous presence on the water."
Noting that the Russian navy is a very professional maritime organization, Murphy added that if Irish boats are in the same waters as Russian vessels, "we are expecting that the Russian naval services abide by the anti-collision regulations.”
Somebody better say "Plucky Irish Fisherfolk" right about now, like we just did.
Maddow was pretty pleased by the development, saying,
The whole world is waiting on tenterhooks to find out if Vladimir Putin is going to start another war. Irish fishermen, on the other hand, are heading out to actively stop it, and fish for mackerel while they’re at it.
God bless them, every single one of them.
The Irish Times reports that the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, said Monday that Ireland has nothing at all to worry about, and that he'd informed Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that it would only be an itty-bitty naval exercise, with "maybe three or four ships, not more.”
Coveney nonetheless said the Russian visit was "not welcome," to which Filatov replied he'd be sure to let Moscow know of the Irish government's concerns. Also too,
Mr Filatov said he was unaware if any missiles would be fired during the exercise or whether the Russian navy would be using submarines.
The Irish Times also notes that on Irish network RTÉ radio Tuesday, Murphy, the fishing industry spokesperson, said it was a matter of economic survival, especially considering Russia's withholding of natural gas to Europe, which has hurt EU countries (remember, Ireland stayed in the EU when that other nearby island nation Brexited). The protest sounds like it's aimed almost as much at the Irish government as at the Russians:
We’re entitled to go fishing here. It’s our waters. Can you imagine if the Russians were applying to go onto the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets, how far would they get with that? It’s no different to fishermen, this is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living. [...]
We in our industry feel nothing’s being done here, like everything else, and we want to act. We’re not going to face down boats, we’re not going to take them on that way, but we are definitely making a point here and we want our Government to do something for us.
Ireland's Tánaiste (deputy head of state) Leo Varadkar said in an RTÉ interview today that Russia should call off the naval exercise to "demonstrate goodwill," and to de-escalate tensions with NATO. It certainly would! But maybe escalating tensions is the whole point.
Varadkar added that the fishing industry shouldn't be "naïve” about the potential dangers of their protest, saying "By all means, go ahead with the protests. . . if you feel that’s necessary, but please be careful.”
Also too, RTÉ reports that Ambassador Filatov has invited a delegation from the pissed-off Irish fisherfolk to meet with him at the Russian Embassy in Dublin tomorrow, and the group has accepted.
The delegation of fishermen is expected to highlight the potential harm to fish stocks and cetaceans from the effect of military sonar use and possible disruption from live ammunition drills in the area during the drills.
It is expected that they will also formally request that the planned area for the exercises be relocated further south west into deeper water off the continental shelf.
Well yeah, but that's not where the internet cables are. Or the best waters for completely innocent wargames, yeah, that's it.
The Russian Embassy yesterday issued a statement dismissing the fishing industry's concerns as not supported by scientific data, and calling the planned protest a "reckless and irresponsible act which could put in harms way both sailors and fishermen." The meeting with representatives of the industry may be a start to a solution, or it may just be an excuse to make it look like Russia Cares.
Pack extra cold-weather survival gear, Irish folks!
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