Cyprus: The geopolitical dimension

Cyprus: The geopolitical dimension

By Alexis Papachelas

Cyprus’s entry into the European Union was billed as one of the greatest silent victories of Hellenism. It was the product of a long and organized battle fought by Athens and Nicosia against the objections of the British and others who didn’t want to see Cyprus join the bloc.

For many, it was a pivotal moment as it placed the island republic in the safest possible haven following decades of perilous adventures.

For Ankara, it was a major strategic defeat as it was forced to observe two Greek nations joining a private club to which Turkey did not have access.

The crucial question is whether Tuesday’s decision by the Cypriot House of Representatives not to accept a tax on the vast majority of deposits in the island’s banks in order to qualify for a 10-billion-euro bailout from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund will change the geopolitical direction of the country and in what way.

The Germans are playing hard and in a clumsy fashion, without giving the impression that they understand the geopolitical implications of the position they have adopted.

The obsession regarding the “Russian oligarchs,” in other words, could very well lead Nicosia into Moscow’s arms for good.

Of course a crucial questions arises here: exactly what do the Russians want from Cyprus? Is the island country only useful for as long as it is part of the eurozone? Or is it that they simply wish to see all Russian funds return to their own banks? Do they foresee the possibility of the Cypriot democracy taking on the role of a Russian partner, possibly outside the euro?

So far, there have been no clear answers to these questions. In the next few days the Russian government’s actions will give a clear indication as to where it stands because up to now everything was based on rumors and leaks.

At the same time the Cypriot political leadership must weigh everything right now: Germany’s intentions, the geopolitical importance of the natural gas reserves that have been discovered in Cyprus’s continental shelf, the position adopted by Israel as well as what Russia plans to do next.

My impression is that the decisions that will be reached by Cyprus and its President Nicos Anastasiades over the next few days and weeks will reach far beyond the issue of who is going to pay what.

These will most likely be the kind of decisions which will determine the geopolitical orientation of the country for many years to come.