Russia to gain a foothold in Cyprus?

The Voice of Russia, quoting Cyprus Weekly wrote on January 10th:

Cyprus is allowing Russian military aircraft to use the Andreas Papandreou military airbase near Paphos, as well as opening Limassol port to its naval vessels, Cyprus Weekly said on Friday.

The same piece goes on to say that ” an agreement to that effect is yet to be concluded.”

So for now it’s happening on an ad hoc basis, but according to the same article “(Cypriot) Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou on Thursday submitted a proposal, in agreement with the Foreign Ministry, that initial use of the base will be limited to aircraft for humanitarian and emergency situations.”

OK, so the Russians are not going to have a permanent base in Cyprus, like the Royal Air Force does.

Nevertheless, this is still an important achievement for the Russians. It allows them safe passage to evacuate their citizens and personnel from Syria, if the situation gets worst there.

More importantly, Russia has managed to convince a country which has close relations with two NATO member states (UK and Greece), to allow it to use an important airbase and a port on its soil. This does not happen very often. I am sure the Brits and the Americans are not pleased, to say the least.

So how did Russia do this?

The Cypriot based Famagusta Gazzette has its own theory:

Analysts have long predicted that Russia has been using the velvet glove of diplomacy to gain a military foothold in Cyprus – after the fallout to Russian depositors from the March 2013 bailout soured relations, followed by Russian reluctance to restructure Moscow’s €2.5bn loan to Nicosia.

According to reliable sources, there has been a fluid series of communications between the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Cyprus Defence Minister Fotis Photiou over the past nine months.

“Russian reluctance to restructure Moscow’s €2.5bn loan to Nicosia” seems like a plausible enough theory. You gotta hand it to Putin.

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