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Cyprus Editorial: Between a rock and a hard place

19 March, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

The crisis in Ukraine, enflamed by Russia’s ambitions over Crimea, has placed Cyprus in an extremely awkward situation. On the one hand, Cyprus has to face the hypocrisy of the U.S., the U.K. and their faithful EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs who are demanding that Russia “respect international law” while they do bugger all about Turkey’s blatant lack of “respect for international law” over Cyprus.
Ironically, Catherine Ashton said that Russia was “undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence” of Ukraine. Too bad she doesn’t have the guts to say that to Turkey, or maybe she’s not allowed to.
On the other hand, Cyprus can never condone Russia’s stoking of its fellow nationals seeking to break away from a legitimate state, and effectively going for union with the Russian Federation.
Admittedly, Russia is a vital trading partner for Cyprus, with Russian companies pouring in millions into our services sector, while Russian arrivals are projected to reach 800,000 this year, making them our second best market for tourism.
Even though the Kremlin shunned our pleas a year ago to extend a bigger loan for Cyprus to avoid a bailout, we have licked our wounds and moved on, trying to attract more investors from all parts of the Russian Federation, not just west of the Urals, as well as the rest of the CIS. Ukraine, had turned out to be a promising new partner, albeit proportionally smaller than Russia, as regards both investments, deposits and tourist arrivals.
However, the conflict between Russia and the West has been brewing for a long time, with some not sure if the Cold War had ever ended. Russia has been trying to revive its former international glory starting from the war in Afghanistan right up to maintaining a foothold in the Mediterranean through its alliance with Syria. In recent years, we have seen NATO antics at trying to put a defensive Iron Curtain along the eastern front of a now wider Europe, knowing full well that Moscow would not like it, no matter what excuse may have been offered.
The last round of arm-wrestling came between the two Olympics, the regular Winter Games in Sochi and the Paralympics that followed. With Viktor Yanukovich ducking out, the Russian President saw the chance of a lifetime and made a push for Crimea, in order to defend the “helpless Russian speakers” on the peninsula and in eastern Ukraine.
Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin’s bet, pushing his reach to extremes, has resulted in a lose-lose scenario for everyone involved – Moscow, Brussels and Washington.
Sanctions and rhetoric sound like barking dogs – they yap but never bite. And the Kremlin knows that three months from now the current round of sanctions will expire and it will be extremely difficult for Brussels to renew them.
If the EU really does have a foreign policy and if the foreign policy chief actually cares about the interest of ALL Europe, and not just her paymasters, then now is the time to embark on proper diplomacy and a political solution to the whole problem, even if this means Moscow winning this round.