THE GOVERNMENT, understandably, was taken aback by the threatening comments made by the spokeswoman of Russia’s foreign ministry Maria Zakharova. It would never have expected such a thinly-veiled threat coming from a so-called friendly country, which supposedly has very good relations with Cyprus and had always taken a principled stand on the Cyprus problem.
Differences between countries that enjoy good relations are invariably resolved through diplomatic channels and if this fails, behind closed doors at the highest government level. They are not resolved by public warnings threatening “countermeasures” in the event that Cyprus gave military facilities to the US, at a press briefing. Cyprus was treated with the kind of hostility Moscow usually showed to Ukraine.
“The further militarization of the island and its involvement in the implementation of American and Nato plans will inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilising consequences for Cyprus itself,” Zakharova said and added: “Moscow cannot but take into consideration the anti-Russian background of these schemes. We will have to take countermeasures in case of their implementation.”
The Cyprus government responded apologetically, spokesman Prodromos Prodromou, stating that US military build-up “was never our goal” before explaining that the Republic provided facilities for humanitarian purposes to many countries. He avoided mention of the threat while on Thursday he made it clear that, as an independent state, Cyprus shaped its international relations and foreign policy accordingly. At the same time, he repeatedly reassured Moscow there was “no attempt of militarisation of Cyprus.”
Foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides also contacted his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and said they agreed to discuss the issue when they met at a later date. It was damage limitation for public consumption, the government going through the motions in order to be seen doing something. The reality is there was nothing of substance it could have done. It could not have demanded a retraction that it would never have received nor could it have publicly told Moscow it had no right interfering in the decisions of a sovereign state as this would have increased tension.
The objective was to play down the matter domestically, although the threat still stands, Moscow saying nothing that could be interpreted as a watering down of its clearly-stated position. In a way, this was a lesson to all those that propagate the myth about Russia being a reliable ally and offering unwavering support for Cyprus. This support, which was never unwavering, was offered as long as our government obeyed Moscow’s diktats. As soon as Nicosia deviated from the path Russia wanted it to follow, a threat was issued by our reliable ally.
The myths about unwavering support and the principled stand have finally been shattered.