As the Tánaiste said in recent days, the unfolding crisis in Ukraine is the most serious to have affected Europe since the end of the Cold War. The armed aggression of the Russian Federation against a fellow European country is absolutely unacceptable, and it is a threat to European security and peace. It is to be welcomed that the Ukrainian authorities have up to this point been remarkably peaceful in their response. It is only owing to their restraint that we have not had open military conflict to date. What will be the response of the European Union to the crisis? What action will be taken by way of economic, political or diplomatic sanctions against Russia for its aggression?
What was the outcome of the Tánaiste's discussion with the Russian ambassador yesterday? Could he brief the Dáil on that meeting? The actions of Russia are absolutely reprehensible but it must be stated that its behaviour is predictable, most obviously in the case of Crimea, because there is a Russian population there and because Russia has a naval interest there. Russia has a track record of interfering in former Soviet republics, including Georgia. Aside from Russia's unacceptable aggression and the response of the European Union, questions must be asked about whether the European Union has behaved in an entirely prudent manner with regard to Ukraine recently and whether it anticipated the likely Russian backlash. One does not have to be too astute to realise Russia is willing to go to war in some of these circumstances. Surely somebody in Baroness Catherine Ashton's office was tasked with analysing the likely Russian reaction to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych.
There is an argument, given the past behaviour of Russia, that the European Union should have been more prudent in its handling of the crisis in the Ukraine and that, had it been so, it might have helped to avoid the current circumstances whereby part of Ukraine is under military occupation. We can only hope the crisis does not lead to open conflict. I look forward to the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Paschal Donohoe.