By George Ades
I was born and raised on the small Mediterranean Island of Cyprus that even today the population of which does not reach one million. Cyprus is considered firmly in the western sphere of influence, a British Colony between 1878 and 1959 when it earned its independence after an armed struggle that lasted four years that even the British government had trouble calling it a “terrorist insurgency” as no British civilians were ever targeted.
The first years of my life were under British rule, my original Birth Certificate bore the British Colonial Seal, my earliest memory as a toddler is of being violently manhandled and thrown through a window by a British soldier as I was playing in our yard when they had imposed one of their frequent curfews.
At a time when eastern European countries were suffering the oppression of the former Soviet Union with its free housing, free medical care and free education at all levels for all, my parents were bringing four children up in two tiny rooms, a small kitchen and an outdoor toilet/cold water shower.
Under the civilised western rule of the British, secondary education had to be paid for, something most Cypriots at the time could not afford and if you got sick and had no money for a doctor, you cured yourself with home-made concoctions or you died. Colleges and Universities were just something we heard about but that did not exist in our country. Those Cypriots that actually managed to get a University education, were either the offspring of the wealthy or those who got a free scholarship from impoverished Greece or the Soviet Union. No scholarships were ever offered to Cypriots by Britain, the US or as far as I know by any other free and civilised western country.
When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, supported by both the US and the UK, I resented the fact that Russia, that had always been friendly toward us, did nothing to prevent it. As I grew older and wiser, I realised that what had taken place in Cyprus was clearly a western “domestic affair” that the Soviet Union of the time, had no say in. At the UN, the Soviet Union, later succeeded by Russia, being one of the five permanent members of the UNSC have without fail, always supported the positions of the legitimate Cypriot government and have on more than one occasion foiled the underhanded attempts of the British to pass provisions at the UN favourable to both Turkey and themselves. On one occasion when the Cyprus issue was being discussed at the UNSC late into the night, the Russian Ambassador, suspecting that his British counterpart would try to pull a fast one, left a junior diplomat in his stead with instructions to alert him when he went to take a rest. True to form, the Brit attempted to introduce something that would not favour Cyprus, the Russian Ambassador was alerted, he entered the Chamber and announced: “I don’t know what you’re up to but VETO and goodnight.”
Again, after the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, Washington in its infinite wisdom and applying those “American values” we hear so much about, imposed an arms embargo, not on the aggressor, Turkey, but on the victim, the Greek Cypriot people. An embargo that is in place to this day. The Soviet Union, later followed by Russia, ignored this and provided Cyprus with the necessary means to defend itself, something our western “friends, allies and partners” were unhappy about.
When, as a young Republic, Cyprus needed loans to get on its feet, it was the Soviet Union followed by Russia that offered the most favourable interest rates. When our EU partners brought us to our knees, economically, about 7 years ago, Russia unilaterally extended the loan period for Cyprus and reduced the interest rates to give us a breather. I know that some of you will be looking for the “catch”; I can assure you, I looked long and hard for it. There are no strings attached, never have been to Russian generosity and solidarity. If Cyprus allows Russian ships to dock in its harbours to refuel or replenish their supplies, it is the least we can do for our Russian brothers and it’s not a courtesy we do not extend to everyone else.
We, the Greeks of both the mainland and the Island of Cyprus, have never been threatened, blackmailed, back stabbed, cheated or intimidated by either the Soviet Union or Russia. I only wish I could say the same about the treatment we received from our western “friends, partners and allies.”