When will the tipping point occur, at which Russia and Cyprus are no longer coy about it? Russian and Cypriot envoys keep talking, and the local media keep suggesting it may happen. Now sources in Cyprus are saying the agreement has been made:
The Russian military will now be given full use of a Cypriot airbase and the main port at Limassol.
According to the Ministry of Defence in Nicosia the use of the Andreas Papandreou airbase will be only used for ‘emergency scenarios’ and humanitarian missions, but the move highlights growing co-operation between Russia and Cyprus.
The timing is certainly interesting, with the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier task group having just entered the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday. The carrier group is to be followed shortly by a second group, anchored by a Ropucha-class landing ship, the Olenegorskiy Gornyak. Will Admiral Kuznetsov visit Limassol during her deployment?
My bet is yes. And although the agreement for use of Andreas Papandreou airbase is “only for ‘emergency scenarios’ and humanitarian missions,” I assume that Kuznetsov’s air wing will be doing touch-and-goes there in short order, and will use the airfield for an alternate recovery site during flight operations in the Eastern Med.
What’s the EU doing while all this is going on? What it does best, of course: threatening Cyprus over renewable-energy regulation. This while Cyprus’s best hope of financial recovery – by far – is her offshore oil and gas reserves. The main thing Cyprus needs is a stable security environment in which to develop them, an environment whose main unstable element is the territorial dispute with Turkey. The EU has been useless in solving Cyprus’s problems in this regard.
It comes as no surprise that Cypriots and others are souring on the EU. The Cameron government in the UK, meanwhile, is suddenly if quietly tending its longstanding ties to Cyprus – relic of the days of naval dominance – where the Royal Navy and Air Force still have the use of Cypriot bases. The joint communiqué issued 15 January by Cameron and Cyprus’s Nicos Anastasiades borders on the undiplomatic in its allusions to the EU:
The leaders discussed how the EU needs to reform to become more flexible, more competitive, and more democratic – including through a strengthened role for national parliaments, where appropriate, and the case for renewing citizens’ democratic consent and support for the EU.
Will the Brits offer Cyprus easy money and increased investment, as the Russians have? They don’t have the option of sending a fixed-wing aircraft carrier to the Med anymore; they no longer have one.
In any case, Whitehall’s foreign policy is as confused as anyone else’s in the West. The Russians have negotiated a significant new basing agreement, and have dramatically changed their naval posture in the Med, because they know what they want. They have a goal. The UK, France, and Germany – the “Troika” haranguing Cyprus like a collection agency instead of guarding her friendliness and independence, on the frontier with an unstable and radicalizing Islamic world – have no idea what they want.