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Cyprus could freeze in Cold War II

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Seeking validation as a useful ally to Washington comes with strings attached in a volatile region where Turkey is ready to pounce and Russia is like a bear with a sore head.

This week, Cyprus welcomed the lifting of a US arms embargo as proof it is a “reliable partner” in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Washington stressed the move was not aimed at Turkey.

Although the US ambassador took a swipe at Russia calling it a malign influence in the region, especially in Syria.

This hurt Moscow’s feelings with its top diplomat in Nicosia accusing the Americans of trying to engineer a messy divorce between Cyprus and Russia.

For so long a happy couple in a well-defined relationship of needs must.

Cyprus is also a slave to the complex politics of keeping the P5 happy within a dysfunctional UN ‘family’.

The United States announced Tuesday that it would lift for one year its three-decade-old arms embargo on Cyprus to allow “non-lethal” military goods to be sold to the island.

Like waving a red flag at a bull, Turkey went ballistic over the decision claiming it “poisoned” peace and stability in the region.

Of course, tranquillity in the East Med has nothing to do with Turkish naval ships cruising around Greece and Cyprus trying to pick a fight.

Ankara is loath to see Cyprus – a country it does not recognise – gain any kind of recognition or status on the international stage.

After years in the wilderness, treated with a dash of suspicion by Washington, Cyprus is now seen as a trusted friend in the region able to wear big-boy pants in a backyard where Israel and Greece are the favourite sons.

At a press conference in Nicosia on Wednesday, US ambassador Judith Garber said, “Cyprus is an important partner, a key player in the Eastern Mediterranean region”.

Words that Turkey doesn’t want to hear as it tries to bully Cyprus with threats.

A bit rich Ankara decrying the move when it has thousands of troops occupying European soil equipped with US military technology.

And if you read the small print, the US is only promising to provide Cyprus with “non-lethal defence articles and defence services”.

The Cypriot government has no intention to buy US military hardware like patriot missiles and F16s.

One, it doesn’t have the money to spend on such weaponry or have anywhere to put them.

No fears

So, there are no fears about Cyprus getting involved in an arms race while seeking world dominance.

What Cyprus can look forward to is being able to buy taser guns and pepper spray from the US which aren’t much good as the first line of defence.

It’s more a symbolic gesture that opens avenues for Cyprus in burgeoning ties with the United States, be it better trade deals or visa-free travel.

But sitting at the big table to eat with a superpower comes with an entrance fee and pledge of allegiance to the American Way.

The American Way, is a bit like the Russian Way, don’t do anything to upset them and come to the door when they come knocking.

They will come without warning and the knock may be no louder than a ghost whisper, but they will come with demands and expectations.

And Garber made this clear when she pointed out that partially lifting the 1987 arms embargo was part of wider US legislation incorporated in the East Med Act.

“The legislation that enabled this policy decision calls on the Republic of Cyprus to…take the steps necessary to deny Russian military vessels access to ports for refuelling and servicing.

The United States urges the Republic of Cyprus to take those steps,” said Garber.

Russia is not going to walk away quietly to let the Americans have all the fun when it prefers to recreate the frosty landscape of a new Cold War II.

A world defined by ‘them and us’ suits Moscow.

Cyprus sees itself as a mover and shaker able to make friends and influence people because it poses no threat.

In the world of polarised politics, being a friend of someone automatically qualifies you as an enemy of someone else by default.

Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus claiming the US is trying to harm its relations with Nicosia is a consequence of the Cypro-US love-in.

Now the squeeze from Washington is going to come when it pressures Cyprus to choose between East and West.

Cyprus pretends it doesn’t have to choose, able to be friends with everyone in a holy alliance of mutual benefit.

It might be unkind to say beggars can’t be choosers, but Washington and Moscow expect just that which is why Mr Lavrov is coming to town.