This week a group of US senators has proposed to leave Turkey in control of the northern part of Cyprus, and force the Greek Cypriots to choose between the US and Russia for the economic and political future of the south of the island.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed by a large bipartisan majority on June 25 to put into law a new Eastern Mediterranean strategy. If the bill is enacted, Cyprus will be required to decide that in exchange for American protection from Turkish military threats, including Russian-made S-400 missiles to be based in southwestern Turkey, the Cyprus Government must not allow Russian naval vessels to dock at Cypriot ports, and should block all Russian money and investments on the island. At the same time, Greece has been told the US military intends to expand its occupation of Crete around the Souda Bay base; at Larissa Air Force Base, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki; and at other Greek locations.
The proposed new law is the most comprehensive plan for American military occupation of Cyprus and Greece since the Greek civil war of the 1950s. The US plan also establishes State Department censorship of the Greek-language media in Cyprus and Greece, and threatens US sanctions against the Orthodox Church bishops of the two countries.
Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, initiated the new policy as an amendment to Senate Bill No. 1102, “to promote security and energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean, and for other purposes.” Menendez chaired the Foreign Relations Committee until the Republicans won control of the Senate last November. He has made a long record of legislating sanctions against Russia, while he himself has been under FBI investigation for corruption. Read the Menendez indictment here and the dismissal of the case a year ago, after a federal court jury could not agree on a verdict.
In the preamble, Russia is identified as a “malign influence” in the Mediterranean:
US policy in the region should be aimed, the Bill declares, at backing the development of the Cyprus offshore gas deposits, as well as future regional pipelines and liquefaction plants, in order to compete against Russian gas supplies to southern Europe:
Without naming Turkey, which is currently threatening Cypriot gas exploration at sea with drilling vessels of its own, the Bill claims that Cypriot seabed exploration “must be safeguarded against threats posed by terrorist and extremist groups, including Hezbollah and any other actor in the region.”
The Bill promises to supply US weapons to Cyprus, ending the arms embargo introduced by Henry Kissinger after he backed the Turkish invasion of the island in mid-1974. But there is no parallel US promise in the Menendez bill to halt US arms from being deployed by the Turkish military command in northern Cyprus. Nor does the new US policy alter US acceptance of Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus.
There are two explicit pre-conditions for the supply of US arms to Cyprus; one is aimed at Russian investment in Cyprus – referred to in S-1102 as money-laundering — and the other at Russian Navy port calls in Cyprus.
The Senate is also promising US scholarships to “future leaders” of Cyprus, plus $1.5 million in US training for Cypriot military officers over the next three years.
With a requirement for a report by the State Department on “Russian Federation malign influence in the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel”, the Senate bill launches an attack on the Cypriot and Greek media and the Orthodox Church in both countries. The Greek-language media are to be targeted if the State Department report judges them to “promote pro-Kremlin views”.
Ranking churchmen in Cyprus and Greece are threatened with investigation and sanctions to deter them from siding with the Russian Orthodox Church against the breakaway Ukrainian church in the autocephaly controversy; for details of that, click to read.
During the Obama Administration, the US strategy for combating Russia’s relationships with Cyprus was to create a NATO base in the occupied Turkish zone, and to pressure the Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades into accepting the Turkish partition as a NATO protectorate of the island. This was the plan of then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (right); for that plan and its outcome, read the archive.
Nuland’s ambassador to the Ukraine at the time, Geoffrey Pyatt, is now US Ambassador to Greece. “Pyatt’s scheming in Athens,” comments a veteran Greek political observer, “may turn out to be longer lasting than his scheming in Kiev. Whether his new success will be as destructive as the old one remains to be seen.”
GREEK AND CYPRIOT BRANCH OF THE ANTI-RUSSIA LOBBY IN WASHINGTON
Left: Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC). Right: Tasos Zambas, Chairman of the Justice for Cyprus Committee for the Federation of Cypriot-American Associations.
The new Senate plan is to isolate Russia and Turkey simultaneously, pushing them closer together and pressuring the Cypriots and Greeks to position themselves against both.
The Greek-American lobby in Washington has declared its support for the Menendez bill to make “the region more stable and prosperous and… advance both American interests and values.” The Federation of Cyprus-American Associations has added:
“the East Med Act is a huge leap forward in U.S. relations with both Greece and Cyprus. It places Greece in the centre of a new American strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean, and it stops the treatment of Cyprus as merely a problem but positions it as a solution. The Greek-American community thanks Senator Menendez for his decades of unparalleled leadership on these issues and to Senator Rubio for championing this new Eastern Mediterranean strategy.”