(1) The longer of two responses submitted by the American Hellenic Media Project (AHMP) to Forbes magazine; and
(2) The version of AHMP’s letter as published in Forbes Global (or view it at Forbes' website)
American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008
Via fax & e-mail: (212) 620-2417, (212) 206-5534
(the longer of two responses)
September 8, 1998
To the Editor of Forbes:
Steve Forbes asserts that "in two months Russia will begin delivering S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Cyprus . . . to foment discord between two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece" ("Fact and Comment", p. 31, 9/7/98). Such a fiction only encourages Turkish threats to attack what the State Department has already characterized as a purely defensive anti-aircraft missile system. That Cyprus has no air force, and that Turkish fighter jets have violated Cypriot airspace with impunity, underscores the absurdity of the largest army in NATO, aside from our own, feeling threatened by Cyprus’ lilliputian defense forces.
Complaints that Cyprus turned to Russia for this single military purchase ring hollow given the fact that Russia has been selling these same S-300 missiles to other countries such as Hungary, India, and China with nary an objection from the US. The disingenuous nature of this criticism is laid bare by the fact that a 1992 military technology agreement has already made Turkey the first and largest NATO country to buy Russian weapons. Ankara is now looking towards Moscow for purchases of large-scale weapons systems including attack helicopters, multiple rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, naval ships, and surface-to-surface missiles, leading a senior research analyst from Washington’s Weekly Defense Monitor to lament that "the future of Turkey as a viable NATO member is open to question. Diversifying its weapon suppliers may be a signal that even a secular Turkey no longer will tie itself completely to the west" (2/26/98).
One need not resort to conspiracies of a Russian bogeyman attempting to undermine NATO cohesion to understand the real reasons behind recent threats of Turkish military strikes, but need look no further than Turkey’s dashed European ambitions. With 35,000 troops and 500 main battle tanks on the island, and a million-man army of potential reserves just 40 miles away on the Turkish coast, Turkey is not genuinely concerned about the S-300’s ability to meaningfully alter its overwhelming military advantage in Cyprus, but is desperately concerned about the European Union’s decision to admit prosperous, democratic Cyprus to the exclusion of the impoverished occupation regime to the north. After Turkey’s bid for admission to the EU was rejected, sneaking its breakaway state into the European Union on the coattails of the Republic of Cyprus seemed to the Turks their last opportunity for gaining both a foothold into the EU and securing recognition for their 24-year-old occupation regime.
When it was denied entry, the outraged Turkish government threatened to fully integrate the occupied territory into its own, issuing a series of barely veiled threats of war. It is within this context of renewed Turkish belligerence against both Greece and Cyprus, and our own government’s reckless tolerance for these and other expansionist overtures, that Cyprus’ decision to develop the beginnings of an air-defense system must be considered.
Standing in Cypriot shoes should lay bare the absurdity of blaming Cyprus’ fledgling attempts at self-defense (or Russia’s decision to provide Cyprus with the means to defend itself) for the region’s recent instability: protecting yourself from a neighboring aggressor your own allies have helped create and that has been occupying 40% of your country should be anything but controversial. That Turkey is threatening military strikes to preserve its absolute command of Cyprus’ skies should not make it so.
Significantly, the Republic of Cyprus has repeatedly offered not to deploy these purely defensive missiles in return for either a no-fly zone banning military flights over Cyprus or the demilitarization of the entire island. Turkey has summarily rejected these proposals and has instead reiterated its threats of military strikes against Cyprus if the missiles are deployed. Worse yet, the occupation government has demanded that it be legally recognized and that Cyprus’ EU accession be halted before the Turks would consider participating in any peace talks. In a rare instance of finger-pointing, even an exasperated Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Cyprus, recently declared that Turkish intransigence was to blame for this fatal breakdown in the peace process.
Cyprus’ good faith efforts at reconciliation and reunification between the island’s 80% Greek majority and its Turkish minority through diplomatic means stand in sharp contrast to Turkey’s policy of military adventurism. While Turkey has embarked on a strategy of domestic repression and foreign aggression during the past three decades—its 1974 invasion of Cyprus and its war against its Kurdish population serving as two prime examples—Cyprus has been strengthening its prosperous economy, its progressive democratic institutions and its EU ties. Is it any wonder why the EU scrambled for the chance to admit western-oriented Cyprus and excluded authoritarian Turkey, along with its puppet regime in Cyprus? Our own foreign policy, unfortunately, has followed a different tack. Rather than support the progressive and economically bustling European democracies of Cyprus and Greece, assist in their defense, and help them export democratic values and free-market economics to the Balkans and Middle East, our short-sighted policy in the eastern Mediterranean has instead opted to create a Turkish Frankenstein, and a dangerous precedent rewarding aggression.
That the Cyprus negotiations have yet again reached an impasse should not be surprising. Turkey’s unequivocal military superiority on Cyprus, in combination with our government’s unwillingness to exert any meaningful pressure on Ankara, have sustained the Turkish government’s lack of incentive for working towards a solution to the Cyprus problem.
When influential periodicals ratify pretexts that encourage aggressor states such as Turkey to maintain military superiority by threatening the use of force, and when journalists argue against the right of tiny democracies such as Cyprus to defend themselves from such transnational predators, they become accomplices to a cycle of violence that thrives on subterfuge and misinformation.
P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.
November 30, 1998
SIR: You assert that "in two months Russia will begin delivering S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Cyprus . . . to foment discord between two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece" (Fact and Comment). That Cyprus has no air force and that Turkish fighter jets have violated Cypriot airspace with impunity underscore the absurdity of the largest army in NATO, aside from our own, feeling threatened by Cyprus' lilliputian defense forces.
–P. D. SPYROPOULOS
American Hellenic Media Project