Putting Putin in his place
IRISH MEDICAL TIMES
By Terence Cosgrave May 21 2021
The Skibbereen Eagle was famous for its supposed line that it would be ‘keeping an eye on Mother Russia’. It is a story told among journalists warning of the excesses of journalistic pride and self-importance. And though the story may have more than one origin, the Eagle has historically gained the credit. (For a fuller account of the history of journalists warning the Russians see here.)
What the paper actually did was warn, in a leader article in September, 1898, that the paper would ‘keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia and all such despotic enemies – whether at home or abroad – of human progression, and man’s natural rights, which undoubtedly include a nation’s claim to self-government’.
The story is told as joke – how could a small paper in west Cork hold the gilded might of the Russian empire to account?
We face an enemy today that is an enemy of human progression and the natural rights of people.
An enemy that is quite open about its plans and its strategic reasons for causing chaos and confusion right across the world. This is not the old-fashioned ‘guns and mortars’ approach, but a more secretive, conspiratorial strategy designed to hurt the ‘West’, which, of course, includes Ireland.
It was that enemy – Russia – who was, if not behind the cyberattack on the health service, a source of comfort and aid to those behind it. This is not a ‘country’ as we understand a country in the EU. This is an oligarchy that is totalitarian in its hold on power, and expansionist in its foreign policy.
It is little more than a criminal enterprise itself – masquerading as a government.
It has attacked dissidents in other countries – using poison to assassinate people in the UK and elsewhere, and it has supressed dissent within its own borders – imprisoning its enemies with little or no evidence of crimes being committed, and allowing the persecution and intimidation of minorities to thrive – simply because that atavism is popular with some of its population. Its denial of rights to gay people is but one example of its regression and oppression.
The ransomware attack is the logical extension of what the Russians have been doing for many years. They have been investing in chaos, disruption and mayhem in the West, and it has paid off mightily.
I made a good friend in my teens and we were, for a while, young angry men together (and naturally, very happy with that). The middle of the road was anathema to our rebel hearts – when asked what we were rebelling against, the only true answer was James Dean’s ‘What’ve you got?’ We were good friends until he disappeared abroad years ago.
He lives abroad now in Canada, but has much of the same wonderful scepticism and independence of thought. We even talked recently about him coming home for a visit – with his family whom I’ve never met – but we ran into a bit of a roadblock. He can’t come until the ‘fascist forces’ withdraw their demand for travellers to be vaccinated. He will not subject himself or his family to ‘poison’ simply to travel.
And yet, you have my word for it – this man is neither stupid nor uneducated. He has simply gone down the rabbit hole of Facebook, YouTube and all the other books and tubes that fry the brain with their ‘analysis’ of the world.
This is the world that gave us Brexit and Trump. The bots on Twitter, the fake news on Facebook, and the nascent prejudice in human hearts – ready and willing to believe lies that confirm the individual’s own misguided notions. This is a world created by Putin.
The people responsible for the cyber attacks are not merely Russians – in fact, their actual nationality is unknown – but they are actors for the Russian State. They operate from Russia, and they seem to never have Russian targets. That’s not an accident.
We know this. But the days of sending a gunboat to the Crimea – as the British Empire was wont to do – are over. You can’t send a gunboat to Facebook. In the modern era, when a country like Ireland is attacked – and make no mistake, that’s what this is, an attack on our State – you hit back with economic and political sanctions.
So, am I threatening to withdraw Vladimir J Putin’s subscription to Irish Medical Times? Or promising to keep an ‘Eagle’ eye out for his nefarious activities?
No. I don’t need to. The attack on Irish hospitals has already made it to The New York Times.
The former KGB man – who once boasted that he could do more damage to the West with a billion dollars invested in cyberterrorism than a F-16 aeroplane – has already realised that he has gone too far. We’re a neutral country. This attack will hurt our citizens and cause injury, harm and potentially, death. This is above our pay grade, but thankfully, that’s what then EU is for.
It has also substantially increased the case for this country to join NATO. I’m not saying we should, I’m saying it has substantially increased the case. If the EU is unable to impose meaningful and punishing sanctions on Putin’s totalitarian regime for this attack, then NATO might be our only option, as the man said, ‘going forward’.
None of this, of course, excuses the HSE for investing less than one per cent of their resources in IT – well below the international average – but it should wake us all up to the chaos that Putin is trying to create in the West.
We will come back from this – and the word today that the key to encryption has already been given back indicates maybe we’ll be back sooner rather than later – but we will still face the misinformation and propaganda that the Russian State is putting out every single day. As the woman said: “They’re always at it.”
To diagnose a problem, you go to the root cause. A despot in Russia did this, allowed this to happen. We shouldn’t blame the foot soldier, but the Mafia boss.
Russia is not a ‘State’ in the normal sense of that word. It is a criminal conspiracy headed by Vladimir Putin. We should close his Irish office. We should send his co-conspirators home. We should press all our allies to impose the highest possible sanctions on the people who run the Russian State. We should raise it at the Security Council of the United Nations where we currently have a seat at the table. We should do all of that and more to ensure this never happens again.
If you tolerate this, your children will be next.