Russia-Southern Cyprus Relations On the Axis of the Missing Spy

12 July 2010
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55 years old Robert Christopher Metsos was arrested in Larnaca in Greek Cyprus who was wanted with a “red notice” on him. Metsos was among 11 suspects who were wanted by the police for more than 10 years. This member of the “Russian spy ring” (1) escaped after being arrested in Cyprus and released on bail of 27000 Euro.


Metsos was released on bail but was told not to leave Cyprus and he had to check in every night with the Cypriot police. However he went missing at the first night.

The prosecutors stated that the agents were benefited for collecting information from the relevant people about the nuclear weapons, the USA’s Iran policies, CIA’s leader personnel, political events in the Assembly etc.

Desertion of Metsos turned Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus upside down with the worry of that the relations with the USA would worsen. The media declared that America would think the Greeks connived at Metsos’ escape because they need the support of Russia against the Turkish side. And if America would think that Greeks have done such a kind of thing on purpose to continue to take the support of Russia, this would be cut in favour of the Turkish side (2).


Background of the Bilateral Relations between Greek Cyprus and Russia

Traditionally, Russia and Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) have friendly relations since 1960s. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics recognized the GCASC on 18 August 1960; two days after it declared independency from the United Kingdom. The diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Cyprus were started on this date. On 7 April 1992 the GCASC recognized the Russian Federation as the successor state of USSR. Since 1990s the relationship between the two states has become deeper. Today there is a Russian embassy in Nicosia and in Moscow there is Greek Cyprus’. Their positions to the international problems are close and Russia seems committed to a fair solution for the Cyprus conflict. Collaboration between the two states’ bureaucratic units is growing. And this collaboration is developed by the continuous contracts between the two governments. For instance the Intergovernmental Protocol on the Inventory of Bilateral Agreements entered into force in 2002.

Economically, the GCASC is officially the third biggest investor in Russia. But it is a fact that most of the foreign direct investments from Southern Cyprus to Russia are hidden offshore for tax and legal protection. Greek Cypriot administration is the leading state that makes the biggest investment to Russian economy. Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service declared that the investments of Greek Cypriot businessmen was 49,5 billion Dollars at the end of 2007 and 33,4 billions of this was direct investment. In the same year trade volume between two states was 4,9 billion Dollars (3).


Also the cultural relations between the two countries are evolving. For example the Russian Center of Science and Culture is functioning in Nicosia (4). Today almost 40,000 Russians are living in Southern Cyprus and thousands of others travelling to the island to spend their summer vacations. Also the current President of Greek Cypriot Administration underlined that he accomplished his university education in Russia, thus he has emotional ties with there.


Politically, the GCASC and Greece are called the “Trojan Horses” of Russia in the European Union (5). The reason of this metaphor is the closest position of these two states to Russia’s EU policies. Their support for Russia grounds on ancient cultural roots and a more recent geopolitical and economical base. Generally the associated departure point of these three states is vetoing common EU decisions.


Cyprus is an international issue for Turkey, Greece, Britain, the USA and Russia. Also it is in the concern area of the United Nations. Actually Cyprus is like a test case for the United Nation’s ability to struggle with such unclear conflicts. Plus Cyprus case is effective on the NATO and the policy-making status of the European Union. Actually the future of Cyprus is determined by these 5 factors:


 “1- Turkish concerns and motivations over its security and protection of the Turkish Cypriotic Community, 2- Greek concerns over the perceived Turkish threat to their own security and their commitment to a united Cyprus, 3- American commitment to stability and security in NATO’s southeastern flank, 4- Russia’s attempts for an increased role in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and 5- domestic politics in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus” (6).


On 22 June 2010 Greek Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou returned from Moscow and brought reassurances with him to Larnaca Airport. According to his words, Russia would continue its “steadfast support” for the ongoing peace process and come out against any “suffocating timeframes”. Kyprianou also underlined that this October the president of Russia Dmitry Medvedev will visit Greek Cyprus and this is a historical event. Because, this will be the first visit of a Russian president to the GCASC in the Republic’s 50 years of existence (7). 


Briefly the relations between Greek Cyprus and Russia can be gathered in three points: “1-Cyprus is the most important hub for Russian offshore companies, 2- Russia supports the Republic of Cyprus over North Cyprus, and 3- The Greek Cyprus is formally the biggest investor in Russia”. Also Russian policies on Cyprus are two-fold. First of all Russia opposes full ownership “unbundling” of the energy companies in the European Union and it is ambitious of greater integration in the Eastern neighborhood (8).


On the other side there is a non-governmental organization called Cyprus Turkish Russian Business Council. Business people from Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Russia come together to develop the economic relations between the two sides. The hope is to vitalize the shrinking economy of the Turkish side. In this respect Russia is an important player of the tourism market in TRNC. Today billions of dollars are passing from Cyprus, but not from the North part. The council that is preparing to attend another conference in Russia asserts that it will be the “leading economic and nongovernmental organizations” in TRNC (9). From Northern Cyprus’ point of view, Russia is an important market in tourism sector to vitalize the shrinking economy.


What Does Russia Target?

In 1990s, Russia entered into this tense game as one of the important actors. The already troublesome problem of Cyprus became more insoluble with the existence of Russia in 1996. In April 1997 Russia proposed a plan for the solution of the impasse, “Basic Principles for a Cyprus Settlement” which was supporting the arguments of the Greek side. Through the military build-up of Greek Cyprus Russia can find a chance for active involvement in the Cyprus problem since 1996. It is a fact that Turkey has superior military force than both Greece and the GCASC and it is another fact that S-300 missiles are Greek Cypriot’s main military targets. In this framework Greek Cypriots’ need for Russia is desperate in militaristic terms. However the US government has made a warning about if the S-300 missiles are reached to the Greek Cypriot side the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region would enter into Russian authority. As a result Russia would have easy control over the region and by this it might threat NATO with its radar system that would be placed in Cyprus (10).

On the other hand, Russia’s military targets are more diversified. Russia sees Cyprus as its new gate to the Middle East. With this gate Russia can assess itself a new role in the post-Cold War period, a more effective one. While playing this old-aged play Russia is using its “military technology and arms trade” and its geo-strategic partner the GCASC.


Russia is against referees or in other words, negotiators. According to the Russian government, the problem in the island can be solved when two sides want a solution mutually and without the pressure from third parties and any restriction of time. Also Russia and Greek Cyprus signed a manifest which was declaring that, Russia as the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council will support the mutual understanding agreement between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots without arbitration or any artificial timetables and by protecting the Cypriot identity.


Cyprus places on the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe. This position of the island gives Russia the chance to make its ancient dream of reaching warm seas real. More importantly, Cyprus takes a place on NATO’s oil routes to Europe. Through its military presence in the island, Russia would “gain access to all the information regarding NATO movements in the Mediterranean.” Moreover Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic signed accession treaties with NATO in 1997. Thus, Cyprus is a “bargaining chip” for Russia against NATO’s eastern enlargement (11). Although Turkey is one of the biggest investors in Russia and their diplomatic relations are nearly perfect, Russia uses the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus against Turkey’s capacity in the Caucasus region.


Since the Cyprus Republic’s formation 50 years ago, Russia always has given its consent to Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus and supported it. Both before and after the 1974 period, Russia has become a crucial agent in the Cyprus problem and made contribution to the important elections about the future of the island.


The relationship between the GCASC and Russia based on a strong legal ground which is composed of more than two dozens of agreements. Russia stands against to every kind of opinion that would challenge the status-quo, the strong position of Greek Cypriots. Kremlin stated that its military existence in the island and technical collaboration with Southern Cyprus are supplemental factors of Russian foreign policy.


The high level diplomatic relations between the two states is also a partnership against the European Union and the NATO. Cyprus and Russia consider each other as strategic partners. Also Cyprus supports Russia in its improvement in the European Union and its continuous dialogue with it. Moreover the GCASC espouses full abolition of visa requirements of Russian citizens in the EU.


Since past times the relations between Russia and the GCASC are known as bilateral, on the international level, and fruitful. However there are assertions that contaminate these innocent attributions. But some analysts just ignore these negative claims and try to create a fake image that Russia is just like a protector to Southern Cyprus. When President Dimitris Hristofyas almost dropped President Dmitry Medvedev a curtsy while they were shaking hands this belief became stronger (12). Moreover it is a fact that Greek Cypriot administration bought almost all of its armed equipment from Russia. Also Hristofyas is the first European President who officially accepted the theses about the new international security system that Russia found and improved that Cyprus’ partners objected.


What Russia and Greek Cypriot Administration are saying that they reached to consensus about a fair, viable, comprehensive solution which is based on the decisions of United Nations Security Council. But consequently it is seen that Russia has clear military and economic advantages in Cyprus. By getting involved with the Cyprus impasse, Russia will reach out its strategic benefits. Becoming a part of the Cyprus conflict will make Russia an important actor in the Eastern Mediterranean, the region between the Middle East and Europe. It is supposed that the struggle between Russia and the USA over Cyprus will be a crucial determining factor for the future of the conflict in the island and Cyprus will be a bargaining chip for Russia against Turkey, NATO and the US.




5-Leonard, M and Popescu, N. (2007): Power Audit of EU-Russia Relations. Policy Papers. European Council on Foreign Relations. November.
6-Bac, M. M. (1999): The Cyprus Debacle: What the Future Holds. Futures 31. p. 559-575.
8-Leonard, M and Popescu, N. (2007): Power Audit of EU-Russia Relations. Policy Papers. European Council on Foreign Relations. November.
10- Bac, M. M. (1999): The Cyprus Debacle: What the Future Holds. Futures 31. p. 559-575.
11-Bac, M. M. (1999): The Cyprus Debacle: What the Future Holds. Futures 31. p. 559-575.

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