Cyprus, Russia and a geopolitics chess amateur
by Kakaouskia, Vineyard of The Saker It was with interest that I saw the Saker mentioning today that the government cabinet in Cyprus is actually considering granting Russia’s “wish” for an air force base on the island. Being a Cypriot, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a – very brief – history lesson for the community as well as some thoughts on the matter. Brief history Cyprus became “independent” from being a UK colony (since 1878) in 1960 following a 5 year guerrilla-type resistance movement which had the peculiarity of seeing more Cypriots being killed by the rebels as “traitors to the cause” – read Communists and leftist in general – than British troops. Cyprus Republic was then imposed with a British-made constitution, which under the guise of equality made things completely unworkable and allowed Greece and Turkey to each legally have about thousand soldiers on the island. In an attempt to find stability, Cyprus joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. Things collapsed within three years, resulting in one of the longest missions of the UN to date as both sides formed militias (guided by the respective “Motherlands”) and attacked each other. In 1974, following a coup-d’état against the Cypriot president carried out by Greek Junta-guided elements of the Cyprus Army, an all-out war broke out between Turkey and Cyprus which resulted in Cyprus losing about 38% of the island to Turkey. This is the only war so far where forces from two NATO countries (Greece and Turkey) openly fought each other; although formal war was not declared. Military interests and a fine middle-east deadlock Parting Cyprus, apart from being a guarantor to Cyprus’s independence (along with Greece and Turkey), the UK kept a few pieces of prime real estate around the island namely: – R.A.F Akrotiri, an all important Sovereign Base Area. In the words of UK’s MOD, “RAF Akrotiri is an extremely busy Permanent Joint Operating Base that supports ongoing operations in Afghanistan as well as support for the Sovereign Base area on the Island of Cyprus. It is used as a forward mounting base for overseas operations in the Middle East and for fast jet training.” Akrotiri is only 50Km away – in a straight flight line – from Paphos base. True to that, Eurofighter Typhoons are stationed there as well as Tornado jets conducting sorties all over the Middle East plus the occasional U2s flights – see video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIP4W9_hwkI) – R.A.F Troodos, formally a signals station, effectively a big radar and intelligence gathering facility. – Dhekelia army base Note that Akrotiri and Dhekelia are called Sovereign Base Areas and have their own police force, even courts. Apart from the British, almost everybody else in the area is or was involved with Cyprus militarily one way or the other. Cyprus was caught in the Arab-Israeli wars with terrorist attacks rocking the island in the early 80s. In 1978, Egyptian commandos attacked Larnaca Airport in an attempt to rescue hostages taken by Palestinians; this resulted in a heavy firefight between Cyprus National Guard and the Egyptian commandos. Syria was also involved in this by sending their military attaché to help negotiate then surrender of the Egyptians.