The government cannot be in denial about the need to make a choice between Russia and the United States for much longer. The visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday piled on the pressure on the Anastasiades government, which predictably avoided saying anything about the matter in the hope it will go away.
A little over a week ago, we had written that Cyprus cannot have one foot in the West and one foot in the East indefinitely and it would have to make a choice. Of course, the pro-Russia political parties would not hear of such a thing, arguing that a small country cannot afford to take sides and that it was an imperative to be on good terms with all powerful states. They have titled this a ‘multi-level, multi-faceted foreign policy’, a meaningless phrase coined by Akel but adopted by foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides.
During his visit, Pompeo backed Cyprus’ right to exploit its natural resources – something his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov failed to do – adding, that “countries in the region need to resolve disagreements including on security and energy resources and maritime issues diplomatically and peacefully.” He also took a swipe against Russia, saying, “increased military tensions help no-one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity.”
It is clear the US have plans for the eastern Mediterranean and that Cyprus would have a role to play in this. During Pompeo’s visit, a memorandum was signed for the creation of a training facility in Larnaca, which will be named Cyprus Centre for Land, Open Seas and Port Security (Cyclops). Land has already been found and some funding for it will be provided by the US that will offer expertise and technical equipment as well as training programmes in security-related matters such mass storage of hazardous materials, port security and border control among other things.
Is it possible the US would have signed a memorandum for a facility that would provide training on security matters with a country whose ports offer refuelling and servicing to Russian military vessels? It seems very unlikely, which would suggest the Anastasiades government may have given some assurances to the US about Russian military vessels. Perhaps the government is afraid to make this public, given the pro-Russia sentiment of all the political parties.
This is one explanation. The alternative explanation is that the government had given assurances to the US that it does not intend to honour to keep Moscow happy. Either way, it would have made a choice about which camp it will belong to.