The phrase "We belong to the West" belongs to Constantine Karamanlis and was uttered half a century ago and at a time when Greece was emerging from a traumatic seven-year period. Three decades later, under completely different circumstances, "We belong to the West" was repeated by Ioannis Kasoulides, who wanted to define the shift of Cypriot diplomacy towards the Western world. On the occasion of the Syrian crisis, the then head of the Foreign Ministry had told "K" that Cyprus was abandoning the role of a pretentious neutral by unconditionally siding with the Western coalition. Almost 10 years have passed since then and the turnaround attempted then was completed last Friday with the complete lifting of the US embargo. A development that, if considered in its broader dimension, comes to complete the puzzle of the geopolitical chessboard in the Eastern Mediterranean and the role of the US in the region. The formal cancellation of the restrictions imposed by the US embargo since 1987, at this point in time, can undoubtedly be considered a success for Cypriot diplomacy, which has managed to convince the West that Cyprus belongs to the West and therefore constitutes the easternmost border of the Western world.
The diplomatic benefits
If one attempts to identify the benefits for the Republic of Cyprus, one cannot only focus on the lifting of the restrictions imposed on access to military equipment markets. The diplomatic impact of the lifting of restrictions is an issue that will be revealed over time. With its decision, the US is essentially coming to complement and strengthen the grid of trilateral cooperation in the region, with the ultimate goal of enhancing security and stability. In this effort, Cyprus is formally becoming a strategic partner of the US in the Eastern Mediterranean, which in cooperation with the other countries (Greece, Israel, Egypt) is creating a strong geopolitical security bloc. On a bilateral level or a total lifting of the embargo seals the strong framework of cooperation with the US on a military, energy and economic level.
The military benefits
The military relations between the two countries entered a new period in the era of the Syrian crisis. Unofficially and for the first time, then, the National Guard cooperated with Western coalition forces in the region. Cooperation laid the groundwork for relations with the US to expand in the coming period. As "K" wrote in time, the presence of US forces at the Andreas Papandreou Air Base was the first sign of the new era in Cypriot-American relations. Co-training with US Special Forces, then, both inside and outside Cyprus helped the National Guard to turn the page and leave behind the introversion that had characterized it.
The lifting of the embargo and its benefits cannot exclude the military part. Without necessarily raising the issue of the National Guard turning directly to the US military market, Cyprus has access to it if and when necessary. The lifting of the embargo is considered certain to have a positive effect on other military markets which were closed to Cyprus due to the US embargo. After the lifting of the restrictions, the Republic of Cyprus will hardly continue to be treated as in the past, at the military level, even by European countries. At present, all that can be said with certainty is that the lifting of the embargo essentially marks the beginning of the de-Russification of the National Guard. De-Russification will extend beyond the Russian attack helicopters of the AF.
Five years ago, as "K" revealed, the US decided to grant the Republic of Cyprus two ships for patrol purposes. The concession decision was not implemented, possibly because of the embargo in place. The lifting of the restrictions that were decided upon may pave the way for the concession of the two ships.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]