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Does Russia Have its Eye on Strategic Cyprus?

Russia's strategic geopolitical interests provide an important incentive for Russia to gain a foothold in Cyprus.
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The Cypriot bailout was supposed to have agreed upon on in principle at a meeting in Brussels last week and formally approved on February 10. But at the meeting in Brussels the potential bailout was pushed off. Meanwhile, Cypriot Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly has indicated that Russia might be asked to join the efforts to save Cyprus if the E.U. approves the bailout. “First there must be an E.U. agreement, then we might ask them [Russia] to join,” Shiarly said.

Some think that it is in Putin’s interest to do so, to avoid investigations into the role of Cypriot banks in Russian money laundering. However, Russia’s strategic geopolitical interests are a much more important reason for Russia to gain a foothold in Cyprus.

The same applies to Israel. The Jewish state and Cyprus are also currently strengthening their ties. Israel is seeking to work with Cyprus on national gas exploration and extraction. The Cypriot-Israeli rapprochement has already angered Turkey, which is bullying both Nicosia and Jerusalem.

Israel is also collaborating with Cyprus in the EurAsia Interconnector project. This is a undersea cable which will link Israel with Cyprus. The 286-kilometer link will be the world’s longest undersea power cable in the world.

If Europe fails to bail Cyprus out, there are at least two countries, Russia and Israel, for whom it makes political, economic and strategic sense to step in. Indeed, while a monetary union between different nations makes little sense, a monetary union between the Cypriot currency and the Israeli shekel would make more sense than the current conflictious monetary marriage between the Cypriots and the Europeans.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute, under the title “Cyprus: Russia’s Next Lunch?”

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About the Author: Peter Martino is a European affairs columnist for the Gatestone Institute.


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