Author Topic: A Geopolitics of Cyprus  (Read 2343 times)

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A Geopolitics of Cyprus
« on: January 30, 2012, 17:43:57 PM »
A Geopolitics of Cyprus

By James Leigh and Predrag Vukovic December 22, 2011

Due to its strategic location, Cyprus has been coveted by various external powers throughout its history. Today shipping routes for oil and competition for control of potential chokepoints make European powers, Turkey, and others very involved with that island country.


Cyprus is located at the juncture of the world island (Eurasia) with Africa. It is on the sea lane of the great maritime highway connecting the Mediterranean Sea through two sea gates–the Suez and Bab al-Mandab–with the Indian Ocean. From there, it links to two other sea gates. These are the Strait of Hormuz, leading to the Persian Gulf, and the Strait of Malacca, connecting to the Pacific. Due to its geostrategic location, throughout its history, external powers have attempted to project their influence over the island.

Cyprus has maintained its strategic importance in contemporary power politics. The “frozen” conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots has brought involvement by the European Union (EU), United Nations, United States, and Turkey. The parties, each with their own agendas, have attempted to work toward some form of resolution of the conflict. Until this is achieved, however, Cyprus will continue to be a great source of instability and conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cyprus has also been an arena of rivalry between Western and Eastern civilizations. In this geopolitical context, Cyprus has entered the EU as a divided country, a problem that war and diplomacy has failed to solve. Some would say this failure is the result of conflicting outside powers and their interests, which have perennially plagued the island. This study will consider how Cyprus’ recent history has shown the island’s geostrategic importance.

The “Hinterland,” as shown in Image 1, is the land area situated between the internal Eurasian land mass, the “Heartland,” and the maritime highway, the seas. This Hinterland thus includes the whole string of coastal land around the Eurasian continent from Norway to the Middle East to Asia to Russia.

This area functions as a vast buffer of conflict between sea and land power. It includes the countries of Western Europe, the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Southwest Asia, China, and the Far East. The Hinterland coast and maritime regions are also key strategic locations, as they include important trade routes.[1]

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. foreign policy objective has been to safeguard its position by making sure that no overwhelming power should have the ability to build itself up to hegemonic status in the Hinterland. Cyprus has thus been wedged between, and torn by, the greater powers’ conflicting foreign agendas.[2] This can explain Cyprus’ fragile Eastern Mediterranean position throughout history. The great powers vied for supremacy over the island. During the Cold War, this conflict took place between the Soviets and the Americans. Yet even in the twenty-first century, conflicting agendas between the British, Europe, the United States, and Turkey have continued to thwart the possibility for Cyprus to reach a secure status.

Furthermore, with Cyprus’ accession to the European Union (EU) in 2004, Cyprus has offered the EU an extended outpost position in the Hinterland maritime region for the projection of European power. Despite gaining independence in 1960, throughout its history, Cyprus has never been a fully independent country. Rather, the country has typically been subject to an external, greater power wishing to project influence. It is no different today, with several powers vying for influence over Cyprus.

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