Turkey’s violation of our EEZ is undoubtedly aggressive and illegal, but we should act as rationally as possible. This is the exact same treatment that the Peoples’ Republic of China has been doling to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea over the past year or so.
Although these countries have voiced their anger, they have largely adopted a measured approach. They say: “Let China act like the neigbourhood bully and blow off some steam over the rumoured hydrocarbon reserves. Although it is unfair, even together, we are relatively weak against the Chinese. It is madness to start WWIII over some reserves of oil that may not even exist anyway. Eventually, China will incur a diplomatic and economic cost by getting labeled as obnoxious and domineering. Meanwhile, the US and others will realise we are acting sanely and will commit to helping us ward off the worst case scenario.”
It is in my humble opinion that Cyprus and Greece follow the example of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is not as if Turkey is the West’s golden child at the moment. Turkey has already incurred a high cost thanks to the mercurial behavior of Erdogan, who gives the impression of being off his rocker.
Erdogan himself admitted that he and Obama are barely on speaking terms. Last week, there was a UN vote to decide who would take up some of the non-permanent member Security Council Seats over the next two years. Turkey lost out to Spain in the voting by a large margin. Now, Spain is an important country, but it is not as strategically relevant for today’s various crises as Turkey, which is currently very much in the thick of it.
One would expect Turkey’s allies to lobby for such a powerful regional player to be voted in to the UNSC. One would also think that such lobbying would be successful because of its intensity. Apparently, either there was no lobbying on Turkey’s behalf by our two favourite bogeymen, Britain and America, or the lobbying was half-hearted. Maybe it had everything to do with the Kobani Crisis and Turkey’s generally unhelpful attitude so far regarding ISIL and her bad relations with Israel and nothing to do with Cyprus. Maybe Cyprus played a small role.
Regardless of whether we resume Cyprus Problem Talks anytime soon, it is undoubtedly wiser to let Turkey make a fool of herself. We can complain, but we must be careful. Even with Greek help, we are much weaker relative to Turkey than the Asian countries are relative to China. And we should be wary of making too big a thing of Russia’s actions, just as we should be wary of expecting our improved relations with the West to give us immediate results.
Russia’s naval exercises may have only a little to do with Cyprus and her EEZ and a lot to do with warding America off from attacking Assad’s forces should Obama decide to intervene further in the Syrian Civil War. After all, Assad is Moscow’s main client and the host of Russia’s Mediterranean Fleet. Russian sailors are a common sight in my neigbourhood by Limassol port. I bump into them at the convenience store at least once a month.
As for the West, Turkey is still a valuable partner, if a troublesome one. While they won’t throw us under the bus like Kissinger is alleged to have done, they won’t damage an already precarious relationship by giving Cyprus a signal to act over-confident in this situation. Best keep our head down, wait the situation out and continue our approaches for diplomatic support quietly.
Panayiota McGarry, Limasssol