Cyprus’ behaviour in relation to Russia is of concern to the West
I am not sure whether my thinking has been influenced by the fact that we are half way through the Great Lent (Sarakosti) and the time is approaching when “Behold, the Bridegroom is coming!” will be heard in the Orthodox churches or whether the continuing leveling of Ukraine has enabled me to recognise the dangers confronting us here in Cyprus. Whatever the trigger, these thoughts have induced in me a strong feeling of fear.
The story of Evangelist Matthew describes the ten virgins, who came out with their lamps lit to meet the bridegroom. However, his arrival was delayed, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. In the meantime, the oil in their lamps burnt out. Five of them were “wise” and carried with them some extra oil, but the other five were “foolish” and had to run in search of oil. While they were searching, the bridegroom arrived, he got into the wedding banquet and closed the door, leaving the foolish virgins out in the cold. The Lord said: “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” The moral of the story is that you should always anticipate future events. The procrastination and the lack of courage on the part of the Greek Cypriot leadership (and on the part of the Greek Cypriots themselves), somehow reminds me of the foolish virgins.
Ukraine has come under attack because it became the “bone of contention” between the West and the East. Ukraine was to blame for nothing other than daring to assert its right to decide its future for itself. Could Cyprus find itself in the same position? I would unreservedly say “yes, it could” and it will, if the Cypriots carry on behaving like the foolish virgins.
It is well-known that ever since independence Cyprus has given the impression of being ambivalent between the West and the East. Cyprus joined the non-aligned nations and then she consistently sought Russia’s support and advice on the Cyprus Problem. Russia exerted an ever-increasing economic influence over Cyprus – both as a basis for effecting Russian investments as well as serving as a destination for incoming Russian tourists. Many observers believe that one of the principal Russian goals was (and still is) setting foot in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is an objective that has been at least partially attained through the links established between Russia and Syria; a relationship which theoretically could be extended to cover Cyprus.
Its interest in Cyprus explains Russia’s systematic undermining of all efforts towards reuniting Cyprus, despite its rhetoric of supporting any solution that the two Cypriot communities would jointly favour. One wonders why a Russian blessing is necessary if a solution acceptable to both Cypriot communities could be found without Russia’s involvement.
Of course, Cyprus’ EU accession and the adoption of economic liberalism (with the country’s accession to the euro area) have acted as a barricade to Russia’s plans. However, these moves were also seen (by Russia) as an opportunity to penetrate the European area, both for the purposes of information gathering and for being able to exercise influence on the decisions taken. The case of president Christofias, who half-jokingly stated in the European Council that “I am a communist and I am not ashamed to proclaim the fact” is a case in point. This attitude has been in the air since then with Akel refusing to explicitly and categorically renounce communism and transform itself into a modern socialist party. Instead, Akel continued to promote friendly positions towards Russia and remained hostile to Nato and the United States. Admittedly, Akel accepted Cyprus’ accession into the European Union, but reserved the right to seek the transformation of the union into something different, despite Cyprus’ Lilliputian size.
Undoubtedly, Cyprus’ behaviour in relation to Russia is of concern to the West, a fact that deprived Cyprus of full and unconditional support. As a consequence, Cyprus is treated by the West as a thorn, which must be eliminated, or as an unreliable ally, which must either be isolated or forced to go along with the other players.
I am sensing that the tragic Ukrainian war has convinced most of my compatriots that in the world we live in, there is no room for small players raising their own flag, and, if they do, they will end up paying for the mischief dearly. The audacity with which Russia invaded Ukraine and the vigour of Ukrainian resistance leaves little room for doubt that the experiences of the satellite states of the Soviet Union, in their relations with each other, were very painful. As I have said in a previous article, this universal rejection of Sovietism was the smack that prompted the current leader of Russia to try to regenerate the Soviet empire by the force of arms. However, in the history of the world, we do not have a single precedent of a crumbling empire being saved by military action. What we do have is revolutions establishing an entirely new order that is totally unrelated to the past.
In my mind, the sun of the Soviet Union has set, as did so many other suns in the history of mankind. This truth must be acknowledged by Akel. If it wants to survive (and allow Cyprus to survive as an independent entity), the party must align with the West. In this reorientation, Akel has both the right and the obligation to adopt an approach that is sensitive to the needs of the poor and the underprivileged.
Please allow me to make one final comment. Akel’s recent adoption of the goal of change as an end in itself undermines its prospects to elect a presidential candidate. In other words, when you adopt the position that you are prepared “to dilute your wine with lots of water” (on issues of the utmost national importance, such as the reunification of our country), in order to get back into power, you end up “shooting yourself in the foot”, as a well-known foreign diplomat (who has been serving in Cyprus for many years) would say.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia