Russia is not the horse Cyprus should bet on
Our relations with the Soviet Union and Russia have seldom proved beneficial
Two days after the independence of Cyprus, the new state was officially recognized by the Soviet Union on August 18, 1960. The Kremlin immediately saw the opportunity to acquire a presence on a strategically positioned island which until then was the exclusive stronghold of the West.
At this point, the only left voice in Cyprus was Akel and his closely related union, PEO, founded in 1941. Ideologically, they both had a particular Cypriot mark of communist orientation which indicated a close relationship between the Cypriot left and the ‘Soviet Union.
The first president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, flirted with the Soviet Union in the hope that Moscow would support its plans for the political integration of Cyprus with Greece. Certainly, ideologically, Makarios was an anti-Communist for various reasons, including the hostile stance of all Communist regimes against the Orthodox Church. (The Russian Orthodox Church was historically linked to the Czars, whose reign ended with the October Revolution of 1917).
Thus, Makarios ended up following the “middle path” of the non-aligned bloc because he believed that by doing so he was serving the interests of Cyprus. Makarios’ approach suited the Soviet Union perfectly, given that Cyprus was clearly placed in the sphere of Western influence and any direct Soviet interference in Cyprus would inevitably have given rise to serious problems at a time when relations East-West stretched to the limit.
However, this did not prevent Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, from visiting Cyprus in February 1962 and receiving an unprecedented welcome with banners bearing slogans in Russian and Greek, declaring that “the friendship of the people Cypriot and Soviet is in the process of being founded ”. .
This climate of “platonic relationship”, characteristic of these early years, still persists today, with one exception in substance. This was the case with Cyprus, which accepted an order from Russia for 40 S-300 missiles in 1997. In the end, the order was thwarted by Turkish intervention and the goods were delivered to Crete.
The basis of the relationship between the two countries was and continues to be based on the following principles:
- Support Cyprus with regard to its national problem with general, non-specific and inexpensive declarations of principles, such as “Russia supports a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem” – a declaration which can be interpreted as you wish – or “Russia would support a solution which would be acceptable to both Cypriot communities”, as the Russian ambassador has repeatedly stated. Of course, one wonders whether there are circumstances in which Russia would oppose a solution accepted by the two Cypriot communities.
- No substantial involvement in supporting the Greek Cypriot positions, without the consent of the West. This is precisely what happened in the case of the Turkish invasion in 1974, as Glafkos Clerides shows in his memoir. The same position was taken in 2004 when Russia intervened in the UN Security Council to thwart efforts to ensure the implementation of the famous Anan plan, but also by pushing Akel in this memorable statement that “we vote NO, in order to cement YES ”. The response to Cyprus’s call for help in dealing with the economic crisis of 2013 has been similar. Cypriot Finance Minister at the time, Michalis Sarris, toured Moscow to ask for help, but left empty-handed.
- By contrast, on numerous occasions Cyprus has acted against its own interests in the hope of obtaining something in return from Russia. The example that stands out is the support that was given to Russia, at EU level, for the Crimean problem and earlier for Kosovo. Cyprus’s position alienated the Baltic States, which today continue to keep Cyprus at bay.
In contrast, the development of relations between Russia and Turkey in recent years has been very different. The epicenter was the establishment of a multidimensional base of cooperation in the military field (S-400), in the field of energy (nuclear power plants) and in the economic field (tourism and cooperation in the achievement of major construction projects). These developments are a source of constant headaches for both the European Union and the United States.
You can argue that Russia supported Cyprus with the massive capital transfers from Russia to Cyprus that occurred during the first phase of Russia’s political transformation. To begin with, much of this capital was repatriated to Russia, thus elevating Cypriot “offshore” companies to the ranks of the largest investors of “foreign” capital in the former Soviet Union. Certainly, some of these funds remained in Cyprus and drained the Cypriot economy because the banks were paying lavish interest rates there on these bank deposits, compared to the interest rates prevailing internationally. These expensive funds were then invested by the Cypriot banks in the acquisition of foreign banks, which were in a precarious financial situation, or in the purchase of junk-bonds in the futile hope that these investments would yield the super-profits which would make us all rich. .
As you know, what happened in practice was exactly the opposite, leading to the bailout of banks using part of the deposits (loans) on a certain amount. As is often the case, with dry wood, some green trees have suffered the consequences of the bush fire.
As it stands (and it is not expected to change in the foreseeable future), this horse is not the one Cyprus should bet on. Cyprus must finally realize that it is not a great power and, if it continues to pretend that it is, it will be sorely disappointed, as has happened in many cases in the past.
If Akel, in particular, wishes to play a leading role on the Cypriot political scene in the 21st century, the party must find the courage to fully free itself from Russian influence and develop into a politically and economically liberal, oriented party. social. and sensibilities which embrace and express the Cypriot people.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail, Cyprus Mail and Alithia