Should we not re-evaluate, calmly and unemotionally, the possibility of expressing an interest in admission?
Undoubtedly, the prospect of Cyprus joining Nato is an emotionally charged issue for those who, during the Cold War were on the side of the Soviet Union. Those times may have passed but the idea of Cyprus joining Nato continues to be anathema, at least for some ‘left-wingers’. However, things are changing and this possibility must be examined and evaluated on the basis of objective criteria, by reference to the interests of the country, and not in emotional terms that have their roots in the past.
First of all, Russia, which succeeded the Soviet Union, is now a capitalist oligarchy, which has nothing to do with the socialist ideals that, at least in theory, formed the foundations of communism. Just as capitalistic is the economy of China, which has admittedly made impressive strides over the past 20 years, but remains an oligarchic superpower where freedom and the protection of individual human rights leave a lot to be desired, compared to the freedom and individual human rights enjoyed by the citizens of the countries comprising the North Atlantic alliance (Nato).
The 30 Nato member countries are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.
Of these, 14 originate from the communist coalition of the Soviet Union and have voluntarily joined Nato in the relatively recent past. Of the 27 member states of the EU, 21 are also members of Nato. With the accession of Sweden and Finland, the Nato member states of the EU will rise to 23, confining the Nato non-members to Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, which, however are all members (with the exception of Cyprus) of the Partnership for Peace, an organisation deemed to be Nato’s ‘entrance lobby’. Thus, Cyprus is the only member state of the EU that is not a member of either Nato or the Partnership for Peace. It is also worth noting that all European countries that are integrated into Nato (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey) aspire to become member states of the EU and, with the exception of Turkey, their ambitions are likely to be realised in the relatively near future.
The arguments advanced in favour of Cyprus joining Nato, are the following:
- Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is likely that the EU will revise its position concerning the non-European members of Nato (basically the US, the UK and Canada) and will seek to establish a common or, at the very least, a closely linked and coordinated defence front with Nato. In view of these developments, it will be a pity if Cyprus is left outside the decision-making centres of the defence alliance, with a clear risk of being ‘marginalised’, not only internationally, but also within the framework of the EU.
- Turkey will face a similar threat of marginalisation as full member status of the EU is unattainable for a variety of reasons unrelated to Cyprus. This threat will be compounded if Turkey continues to flirt with Russia. Under these circumstances, Cyprus could easily become the battleground, as happened in Syria a few years ago. As the crow flies, Aleppo (which was levelled to the ground, with thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees) is located just 146 miles from the Apostolos Andreas
- Some Cypriots, who for consider the admission of Cyprus into Nato anathema, argue that the dilemma is posed prematurely, because the logical sequence of events would be to solve the Cyprus problem first and then consider this issue, and that Turkey would veto Cyprus’ admission anyway. Given that in the past doubts had been – rightly or wrongly – raised in the minds of the Americans as to whether the unquestionable western orientation of Cypriots could be taken for granted, leading the US (under Henry Kissinger, when the American flagship was drifting without purpose) to “condone” the junta’s coup against Makarios and to “tolerate” Turkey’s invasion. Such a scenario could well be regenerated, with disastrous consequences for Cyprus.
- But even if – at this stage – it is not judged (by Nato) feasible for Cyprus to join the organisation, the knowledge that Cypriots are seeking admission would provide comfort to the United States, as well as other Nato members, that Cyprus is a reliable ally, which should be helped and supported to become an ‘alternative option’.
- A rationally-minded Turkey would not only not have any reason to oppose the admission of Cyprus to Nato, but on the contrary, it would seek it, because, once all the outstanding issues between Turkey and Cyprus are settled the latter’s admission to Nato would extinguish any concerns of the former that Cyprus represents some kind of a threat (save, of course, the case, where Turkey voluntarily chooses to abandon Nato and align itself, in military, political and economic terms, with Russia – an admittedly rather remote possibility).
- The practical experience over the last 70 years has taught those on the island that standing on two boats while navigating in the open seas, under rough conditions, is a dangerous game that often leads to catastrophe. In the era of the Soviet Union, such a course may have had some meaningful purpose, in the sense that the Eastern bloc (at least in theory) was supportive of ideals that had a following in a section of Cypriot people who felt that they were oppressed. Today, however, the Soviet Union does not exist and has been replaced by an oligarchy that is more capitalistic and illiberal than any country in the West. Under these circumstances, treating Nato as an ‘eternal enemy’ would probably be a mistake. In fact, the admission of Cyprus to Nato would facilitate the promotion of the popular views and positions of the Cypriot left-wingers, within the framework of the EU.
It is worth noting that in the past, Disy and the remaining parliamentary parties of Cyprus (save Akel) supported the admission of Cyprus to the Partnership for Peace. However, it has been reported that Nikos Christodoulides, the former foreign minister, had rejected the idea of Cyprus joining either Nato or the Partnership for Peace and, as a result, the effort was abandoned.
With these thoughts in mind, should we not re-evaluate, calmly and unemotionally, the possibility of expressing an interest in the admission of Cyprus to Nato on the strength of a unanimous decision of the National Council, and do so now and not at a later stage? Before answering my question, please think about it over a period lasting at least 24 hours.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia