The Evolving European Operational Map: Cyprus Works with Russia


2015-02-26 We wrote earlier about the evolving operational map of Europe or what might more correctly referred to as the evolving Euro-Med security zone.

The Euro crisis is defining the end of a period of history. The era since 1991 has been defined by the expansion of Europe, the consolidation of NATO, and America as the hinge that held much of the strategic map together.

At the heart of these convergent developments is the idea that a European currency would be combined with a European foreign policy and a European defense. Security, defense, a common currency and convergent development and growth paths would create a new global entity, a new Europe.

But now, new centrifugal forces are widening political, social, economic and security differences within the EU and among its neighbors. The deepening recession is increasing differences among citizens and encouraging nationalism and political localization.

This crisis comes as new dynamics are emerging and rewriting the map. The Arab Spring, the rise of Iran, the Syrian crisis and the operations against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi are raising the global profile of the Middle East. The Russians are focused like a laser beam on an energy policy that will enable them to play a key role in Europe and Asia. The Arctic is one of the centerpieces to Russian strategy. And the Chinese are leveraging their global economic assets to find a new place in Europe and the Middle East.

Europe will be challenged as many intertwined strands of integration are rolled back, fraying what has been an intricate but incomplete tapestry.

Clearly, the euro crisis focused most clearly right now on Greece and its new government, the ISIL engagement within the Middle East spilling over into North Africa and into Europe itself, as well as the Russia map rewriting exercise and European responses to that exercise are crucial as well.

We also wrote earlier that we saw a clear effort on the Russian part to dip into this environment and try to reshape things to their advantage.

The Russians are building naval support capabilities in both the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. 

It is often noted that the current state of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean is not first rate, and is populated with many aging assets.

This is largely true, but misses the point that the Russians have set in motion a major naval and air modernization effort, and by laying down a solid geographical infrastructure, when capabilities are added, then they have tools to go with the infrastructure to shape regular influence in the region…..

With regard to the Western Mediterranean, Cyprus is the key target of the Russian effort. 

Cyprus hosted multiple visits by Russians warships in 2013. For example, last May, three Russian navy warships, which were part of a flotilla sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, docked at the new port of Limassol. The ships included the destroyer “Admiral Panteleyev,” the salvage/rescue tug Fotiy Krylov and the tanker Pechenga.

In remarks to Russian news agency Tass, the Cypriot leader (l) voiced "deep gratitude" to Russia for its economic help (Photo:
In remarks to Russian news agency Tass, the Cypriot leader (l) voiced “deep gratitude” to Russia for its economic help (Photo:

Now Cyprus and Russia have stepped up their game, and Cyprus, on the one hand, is asserting its sovereignty within the European Union to work to block any further sanctions on Russia and to expand Russian use of its ports, and, on the other hand, Putin seeks to aid Cyprus in their initiative and to use this effort to consolidate his position in the Ukraine.

According to a story by Andrew Rettman Cyrpuin the EU Observer:

The Cypriot president has, on a visit to Moscow, showcased his country’s economic dependence on Russia and the emergence of an increasing threat to EU and US unity on sanctions.

Nicos Anastasiades used the trip, on Wednesday (25 February), to formalise an accord for Russian warships to use Cypriot military bases and to speak out against EU policy on Ukraine. Referring to Russia as a “great country”, the 68-year old politician said: “I think it’s increasingly felt by our European counterparts that action against such a great country as Russia leads to countermeasures on the part of Russia which have negative results, not only for Cyprus, but also for a number of other European Union countries.”

He noted that his own “small homeland” is “largely dependent on the Russian Federation, whether it’s the economy, or services, or tourism, or defence, or solidarity on the Cyprus issue”.

He said he supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

But he went on to describe the situation as a “civil conflict” and to “welcome” Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s contribution to the peace process, which was recently revived in Minsk – remarks which go against the EU joint position that Russia is arming, commanding, and fighting alongside the anti-Ukrainian paramilitaries.

For his part, Putin told press the naval treaty concerns counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations, adding: “I don’t think this should worry anyone”.

He noted that Russian investors and banks are highly active in Cyprus – a relationship rooted in its favourable taxation regime and a history of laxity on anti-money laundering.

“Cyprus is in second place in terms of investment in Russia’s economy, with $65 billion. We know that a large part of this is repatriated capital, but that it is coming via Cyprus is already not a bad thing”, the Russian leader said.

He added that Sberbank and VTB Bank – both facing credit restrictions as part of the EU sanctions package – are “working actively” in Cyprus.

He also said Russia brings in 80 percent of Cypriot foreign investment and 600,000 tourists a year and reminded Anastasiades that Moscow recently extended the soft terms of its €2.5 billion “stabilization loan”.

Putin stopped short of publicly asking Anastasiades to help dismantle the EU sanctions policy.

But he said Cyprus, despite being “small”, is an “equal member” of the EU and has the “same voice” as others on sanctions.

He also said EU states should take sanctions decisions based on their “national interests” and not “on the basis of some obscure reasons of a general nature formulated by some unknown people”.

The Russian leader used the meeting to threaten the EU that he will cut gas supplies via Ukraine in the coming days unless Ukraine agrees to pay for gas consumed by Russia-occupied territories in east Ukraine.

Also see the following:

Editor’s Note: Russia and China in late 2014 agreed to joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean and the Pacific in 2015.

Published on Nov 22, 2012


According to story by Christopher Harress, and published November 19, 2014:

The navies of Russia and China have agreed to conduct naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean in spring 2015, according to a statement issued by the Russian navy on Wednesday.

That brings two potential U.S. adversaries closer together and sees China assert its presence in a region, the Mediterranean, far from its shores in another development that marks its emergence as a serious military power. 

Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu made the announcement after holding talks with his Chinese counterpart, Col. General Chang Wanquan, on Tuesday in Beijing.

“We plan to hold another joint naval exercise in the spring of next year in the Mediterranean Sea and also joint doctrine navy exercises are planned in the Pacific,” said Shoigu.

Shoigu remarked that cooperation between the two countries’ militaries has improved in recent years and joint exercises are now a regular military feature. An exercise in May marked the third time the two had worked together and the first time sailors worked on combat exercises in mixed groups.

The planned exercises are part of a new military relationship between Russia and China that has become warmer in recent years, and they represent a shift from Mao Zedong’s army-centric military to a more flexible and capable fighting force that includes the navy and air force.

In 2014, a Chinese crew performed in the World Championships Tank Biathlon and in Aviadarts, a large-scale aerial gunnery, navigation, formation and reconnaissance competition.

Both were held in Russia.

And while having conducted exercises in the Mediterranean as recently as January 2014 and July 2012, Chinese warships appearing in the region is still a relatively new development for an area that normally just supports NATO exercises.