Cyprus Mail
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Our View: Looking to Russia has never worked and it won’t now

Vladimir Putin with Recep Tayyip Erdogan

DURING the Cold War era the government of Archbishop Makarios and Spyros Kyprianou propagated the myth, helped by AKEL which took orders directly from the Kremlin, that the Soviet Union was Cyprus’ most dependable supporter in the international arena.

This was a myth based entirely on political spin than factual reality which did not help the Republic in any way, either in the lead-up or after the Turkish invasion. On the contrary, it caused our governments, understandably, to be viewed with suspicion and distrust in the West.

After the end of the Cold War this blind faith was transferred to the Russian Federation, even though there was at least some justification. Not only did the Federation sell arms to Cyprus – including the ill-fated S300 ballistic missiles – but many Russian businesses moved to the island giving a big boost to the economy. It was therefore easy to keep the myth of our most dependable ally alive. And whenever we are in trouble, our politicians automatically announce that Russia will come to our rescue, a claim that proved hollow whenever it was put to the test, March 2013 being the most recent.

Now, with Turkey’s incursions into the Cypriot EEZ and the UN Secretary-General’s report that has angered all the politicians the latter have once again turned to Russia. They are all attacking the government for making openings to the US and siding with our EU partners on the issue of sanctions against Russia over Crimea, simplistically claiming that this was the reason Moscow has not helped out. They ignored President Putin’s recent visit to Turkey during which the big value he attached to Turkey as a major trading partner was evident.

Last week, on two successive days Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas censured President Anastasiades for not preparing an agreement giving Russia military facilities in Cyprus for signing when he visits Moscow next month. This will not happen – EU member states do not offer Russia military facilities – but the suggestion is indicative of how politicians maintain the myth that Russia will save us from all our troubles, as if it has any obligation to do so. The idea that our EU partners would green-light such an agreement is ludicrous, but even more ludicrous is that tiny Cyprus would stand up to the West by offering military facilities to Russia. Makarios played this game, aligning Cyprus with the Soviets, and we lost half the island as a result.

But our politicians have still not learnt that Cyprus is far too small and powerless to play power games. This is why Green leader Giorgos Perdikis also urged Anastasiades to “talk seriously with Russia because the Russians, for some time now have specific demands which the government refuses to discuss”. It is the right decision by the government, but for how long Anastasiades will resist the pressure of our international relations experts, remains to be seen.

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