VOLUME 17 ISSUE 6 December 2020

Van Coufoudakis, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Indiana University-Purdue University


I am writing this short essay as the unprecedented year 2020 comes to an end. The legacy of this year whether in the areas of health, the economy or on international politics will be felt for years to come. Because of space limitations, this commentary will focus on two issues: the recent US elections and the Cyprus problem.

As far as my country is concerned, the four years of the Trump administration have had a devastating effect on American society, our political system and the ties of this country with its traditional allies. Trump applied the tactics and practices of populist dictators. He was able to mobilize and legitimize the worst elements of American society, raising serious questions about the political maturity of the American public. He decimated and undermined American political institutions, democratic procedures and the credibility of our political system. Trump managed to do in four years what we accused the Russians of trying to do to our political system during the Cold War. He set back the social progress achieved in the US by appointing ultra conservative judges in vacancies in the federal courts. The damage done to American institutions and political processes would not have been possible without the complicity of the Republican Party that tolerated Trump’s actions fearful of the reactions of Trump’s political base. I have lived in this country on and off since 1955. I have witnessed momentous events including the Communist witch hunts of the 50’s, Vietnam,  the Civil Rights movement, Watergate, to just name a few. But the nation survived and came out of these crises stronger and united. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. The legacy we are leaving to the next generation is one of extremism and polarization that will not be easy to heal. Reading Ortega Y’Gasset’s “Revolt of the Masses” should be a wake up call for all who still believe in democracy and human rights.

Cypriots followed closely the American electoral marathon. The relations of the Trump administration with Turkey had a serious impact on Greece and Cyprus. Trump showed his deference for Erdogan because he considered him a “strong leader”. This was Trump’s characterization of the cadre of dictators he supported. Trump also had economic interests in Turkey. He and his associates were involved in the affairs of corrupt Turkish banks. Despite high level visits by US officials to Greece and Cyprus and the facilities made available to the US by both countries, Trump took no steps to curb Erdogan’s disregard of international law and aggressive behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Even though President Elect Joe Biden during his Senate career showed understanding of the issues affecting Cyprus,  his victory will need to be assessed realistically. Trump is leaving the Department of State in chaos. He has neglected and undermined US interests in the region. The pro-Turkish views of the Departments of State and Defense remain, despite Turkey’s actions in Syria, the support it extended to the Islamic State, its acquisition of the S-400 missile system, and its promotion of Islamic ideology. A Biden victory should not be celebrated by the ringing of Church bells, as it happened with the Carter election. In view of these developments and the absence of an effective Greek American lobby, US policy in the region will not change. US foreign policy priorities are elsewhere. This is why Cyprus must develop its lobbying presence in Washington and cooperate with Israel and the American Jewish community. Both have a significant presence and impact in Washington. With all the domestic and foreign policy issues that will confront the Biden administration, Cyprus will not be a top policy priority. The new staff in the Department of State will return to the traditional position of supporting a new round of talks aiming for the adoption of the elusive “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation”, regardless of the effects of that solution on the survival of the Republic of Cyprus.

Following the “elections” in occupied Cyprus and the rise of Mr. Tatar as Ankara’s favorite “Turkish Cypriot leader,” a new drive is underway for five party informal talks from the point where the Crans Montana talks deadlocked, despite Turkey’s continuing violations of Cypriot sovereignty and  Turkey’s demand for a two state solution. For all those who shed tears over Mr. Akinci’s loss, his “presidency” was not a missed opportunity for the resolution of the Cyprus problem. Despite his alleged “European” and progressive image, Akinci faithfully executed Turkey’s policies. Once again, the old theories of the “lost opportunities” have appeared in Cypriot political discourse along with warnings that new talks are needed in order to avoid the partition of Cyprus. All this, despite Turkey’s daily provocations and threats and Mr. Tatar’s endorsement of a two state solution for Cyprus.        Looking at what transpired in and around Cyprus in recent months, I want to remind readers that, had the Annan Plan been ratified in 2004, Cyprus would not have been able to articulate any of its limited diplomatic protests over Turkey’s violations of Cypriot sovereignty.

In 1939  Chamberlain believed that by negotiating with revisionist dictators he could achieve “peace in our time”. We all know what happened in Eastern and Central Europe in the late 30’s. Greek Cypriots have a major responsibility to protect their 60 year old Republic and the hard won rights of its European citizens. Working with like minded alliances of European states, Cyprus must resist the siren song of “reunification” under the unprecedented constitutional construct of the  “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation”, a system created in New York, London and Ankara with the tacit acceptance of Nicosia’s Presidential Palace thanks to the “constructive ambiguity” employed by foreign mediators. Turkey means when it says that the Republic of Cyprus is “defunct”. Turkey wants two states on Cyprus, one directly under its control and the other controlled by Turkish Cypriot and Turkish settler vetoes. The Greek Cypriot state with its strong economy will end up supporting the Turkish Cypriot puppet state and sharing equally with it the Republic’s hydrocarbon revenues.

The specter of new talks is upon us despite Turkey’s unrelenting threats. The Greek Cypriot negotiating backsliding is nothing new. Turkey and the UN negotiators know that. The most serious recent concession came two years ago when the Cypriot President adopted the idea of a “loose confederation” following secret talks with the Turks in New York. Like other constitutional abstractions that have gained currency in Cypriot vocabulary,  the average citizen does not understand the  implications of these unprecedented constructs on the survival of the Republic of Cyprus and on the rights Cypriots enjoy as European citizens..  Time has come for such a discussion because, as Cicero  said in his first Philippic, we have “Hannibal ante portas”.