Ireland is considering expanding its defence cooperation with NATO in certain key areas to defend “critical” European infrastructure.
A spokesman for Tánaiste and Defence Minister Micheál Martin has claimed that issues like cyber attacks, hybrid attacks, and naval intelligence will be key to a new partnership programme that Ireland is considering with NATO.
The remarks were made after NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană, offered to help Ireland protect its under-sea fibre-optic cable infrastructure this week. These cables are vital for transmitting fast internet signals across long distances, and are more reliable than satellites.
There are currently four of these cables connecting Ireland to the US, and eight linking Ireland to Britain. More are projected in the coming years to link the country to Norway, Denmark, Iceland and France.
Geoană said that modern warfare involved more than “guns and tanks,” and that it was necessary to protect such infrastructure in the modern era.
Speaking in Dublin at an event by the Institute for International and European Affairs, he said that Russian naval exercises in Irish waters last February, and the sabotage of the Nord Stream oil pipelines brought the safety of undersea cables into “sharp focus.”
He said that this was a “real point of concern,” adding: “So of course, if Ireland would be interested in our already very dynamic partnership to find ways to co-operate also on this topic, we will be very open to that proposition.”
Geoană said that Ireland’s high emphasis on information technology made it necessary to ensure the country’s “resilience.”
“Even here in Ireland, far from the frontline, Russia’s presence is felt,” he said.
“As an advanced knowledge-based economy, with thriving technology, pharmaceutical, biotech, and financial sectors, ensuring Ireland’s resilience will be critical in the years ahead. This is where I believe our partnership would be good to work.”
According to the Irish Examiner, a spokesman for Defence Minister Micheál Martin said that Ireland was considering the offer, and that the country had already been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) since 1999.
“We are currently progressing a renewed partnership programme for the 2023-2026 period,” he said.
“This presents an opportunity to enhance our cooperation in relevant areas, potentially including cyber and hybrid, enhancing resilience, improved maritime situational awareness, and emerging and disruptive technologies.”
Talks are reportedly still at an early stage.
Last month Minister Martin defended the decision to send several dozen Irish Defence Forces troops to train the Ukrainian military, saying that the move “does not threaten our neutrality in any shape or form.”
Irish troops training the Ukrainian army "does not threaten our neutrality in any shape or form,” Micheál Martin has said.#gripthttps://t.co/fRG74LyjMx
— gript (@griptmedia) February 23, 2023
Ireland is also reportedly set to join the EU’s new “rapid military intervention force,” which may be ready as soon as 2025.
The EU is working on creating its own armed forces, including ground, naval and air forces, with Ireland set to contribute troops, according to Defence Minister Simon Coveney.#gripthttps://t.co/1TT6BhLNJ9
— gript (@griptmedia) November 15, 2022