Relations with the United States and the Soviet Union

Cyprus Table of Contents

Cyprus had ambivalent relations with the superpowers during the Cold War. Despite its nonalignment, the cultural, political, and economic orientation of Cyprus was to the West, and NATO allies played crucial roles in the achievement of Cyprus's independence, the treaties guaranteeing that independence, and the composition of the UN peace-keeping force that was on the island continuously after 1964.

Relations with the United States after the 1974 crisis were shaped by Cypriot convictions that the United States had been too close to the Greek junta, could have prevented its coup against Makarios, supported or acquiesced in the Turkish intervention, and gave insufficient attention to solving the Cyprus problem. Relations between Cyprus and the United States were also haunted by the 1974 assassination of United States Ambassador Roger Davies in Nicosia. Yet, pressed by the United States Congress and the aroused Greek-American community, the Nixon and Ford administrations became involved in refugee resettlement and peace talks during the 1974 crisis and its aftermath.

As the Turkish intervention was consolidated, leading to a long-term division of the island, Greek Cypriots continued to have misgivings about the strategic intentions of United States policy. Cypriots occasionally pressed for new American initiatives, although none was offered after the 1978 ABC plan. A more activist American policy was institutionalized through the establishment in 1981 of a Special Cyprus Coordinator in the Department of State. The position was held by Reginald Bartholemew (1981-82), Christian Chapman (1982-83), Richard Haass (1983-85), James Wilkenson (1985- 89), and Nelson Ledsky after 1989. Yet efforts by these diplomats to stimulate discussion about confidence-building measures, intercommunal projects and cooperation, and new directions in the US$15 million annual aid program to Cyprus met resistance from the republic's government. The republic looked to the United States Congress and the Greek-American community to correct what they considered a pro-Turkish bias in United States policy.

Relations with the Soviet Union were more distant and reflected ups and downs in superpower influence in the Mediterranean and in United States-Turkish relations. The Soviets had supported the Greek Cypriot position after 1974 and generally pursued policies that fostered strains in intra-NATO relations. They worked with the island's communist party, but equally well with the centrist governments. In the late 1970s, the Soviets were cooler toward the Greek Cypriot view because of improved relations with Turkey. The Soviets under Mikhail Gorbachev became more interested in Cyprus settlement efforts. In 1986 the Soviets outlined their policy for a Cyprus settlement, calling for a withdrawal of all foreign troops and bases (presumably including the British sovereign base areas), a demilitarization of the island, and a new federal government. Greek Cypriots welcomed the proposal, although in subsequent months it was interpreted by many as part of a broad Third World-Soviet public relations exercise more than a serious diplomatic initiative to which resources would be devoted.

More about the Government and Politics of Cyprus.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress