The government of Cyprus is seeking a new, multibillion dollar bailout from Russia, which said last month that it would only grant additional loans in coordination with the European Union. In an email interview, Andreas Stergiou, a lecturer in modern European history and politics at the University of Crete, discussed Russian-Cypriot relations.
WPR: What is the recent history of Russia-Cyprus relations, and what has driven ties on both sides?
Andreas Stergiou: Cyprus’ position at the crossroads of three continents has historically lent strategic importance to the island. As a result, Soviet and postcommunist Russia have maintained a consistent policy of engagement in relation to Cyprus. The Soviets and their allies supported various Cypriot political groups and governments with a view to weakening their ties with the West and extending Soviet influence southward. They also capitalized on the mishandling of the Cyprus issue by Western countries so as to encourage governments in Cyprus to pursue a nonaligned policy. This strategy continued in the postcommunist era, as illustrated by the Kremlin’s stance on the Annan Plan to resolve the Cyprus dispute in 2004. At that time, Russia torpedoed a U.N. resolution backed by the U.S. and the EU intended to provide security guarantees for the implementation of the plan. (The Annan Plan was subsequently rejected by Cypriot voters in a referendum.)