Recent developments, namely the military coup in Turkey and the alarming global effects of Islamic terrorism, have projected Greece and Cyprus in a very favorable light, much different than the negative picture painted as a result of the financial crises that hit both countries in recent years. Greece and Cyprus are now lauded as the cornerstone of the West’s defenses against the Islamic threat and as pillars of stability in a troubled neighborhood. Once more in 3,000 years of tumultuous history, the borders of Hellenism have become the eastern borders of Western civilization, fending off the latest threat from the East, this time the deadliest of all.
A Long Greek History Lived on Principle
The ideals of humanism were not only born in this rugged, sun-drenched parcel of land at the most important crossroads of the planet but deeply rooted in people’s value system today. Nowhere this deep conviction has been more tellingly displayed than in the recent refugee crisis. Greek government agencies, as well as plain citizens, have been dealing with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees sent to Greek territorial waters via a deliberate, if not corrupt, loosening of border controls in neighboring Turkey. In the midst of a disastrous financial crisis, public hospitals in Greece have hardly enough supplies to perform basic operations and some people are surviving in conditions bordering starvation. Nonetheless, many Greeks found enough food in their cellars, enough room in their houses and enough warmth in their hearts to provide these Syrian refugees with the one thing no government agency could ever supply: love and dignity.
Western powers have never had to apply any pressure on Greece and Cyprus when it came to dealing with such threats as Fascism, Nazism, and Islamic terrorism. Greeks have fought on the right side of history in the two world wars and in every other occasion ever since. Remarkably, long before WW II was about to begin, the notoriously pro-German dictator of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, had already decided that Greece will take the side of the Allies. Why? Not only because Greece had always been a great naval power and as such it would naturally ally with the dominant sea-power of the time, Great Britain (and later on with the United States); but also because the Greeks are innately conditioned to act on principle and would never sit idly on the sidelines when humanity was facing such grave threats. Immediately after WW II, Greece fought a long civil war against communism. Despite the utter devastation of 10 continuous years of war, the country became the fifth largest contributor to the Korean War, where its expeditionary force excelled and was repeatedly recognized for valor.
The Greeks are fierce fighters and have proved it on every occasion. No other country had proportionately more casualties than Greece during WW II, not the United States, not Britain, not Russia. Not even Poland. And it was not because of aerial bombardment, but because of the fiercest resistance of any European nation against the Nazis, period.
Persistent Complaints of Unfair and Unjust Treatment
And while Hellenes have always been on the right side of history, has the West always been fair in dealing with their staunchest ally? The Greeks have to this day one very serious complaint and it has to do with the thorny “Cyprus Question.” Cyprus was never supposed to be a “Question.” Both Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill promised, albeit vaguely, that the Cyprus problem would be solved favorably after the end of WW II – which Greeks and Greek-Cypriots took to mean the “union” of Cyprus with Greece. Instead, intense geopolitical concerns (which even today make Cyprus the only country on Earth, where the long-expired British Empire has retained not one, but two sovereign military bases) turned Cyprus into an experiment in state-bastardization: A country with three flags and two national anthems, invaded by a NATO-member, Turkey. Britain and the United States, also members of NATO, pretended they were unable to “act.” Not only did they not act against the invaders, but it was proven by the investigative work of Michael Ignatiou, the publisher/editor of this web site, that Dr. Henry Kissinger, then Head of the State Dept., had a hand in drawing the final dividing line between the invading Turkish forces and the remaining free half of the island, the line that made the invasion and occupation of Cyprus a “fact on the ground” to this date.
Cyprus has, for 42 continuous years, been suffering under a most dehumanizing occupation: Churches and ancient monuments in the occupied north are in ruins, over 2,000 people are still missing, and close to 200,000 refugees (and their children and grandchildren) are subjected to the daily agonizing torture of having to look across the fence of the so-called “Green Line,” to see their houses and their villages occupied by the settlers brought in from the mountains of Turkey by “Operation Attila” in the years after the 1974 invasion.
As history has now made a full circle and the geopolitical concerns are reversed, in 2016 it has become evident that Islamist Turkey has assumed its primordial geo-political stature, i.e. that of the deadly threat to humanity from the east. It is now time to allow Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004, to live free of the Turkish occupying forces and unchained of any “warrantor powers.” It is now time for the principles that govern every other European country to apply to Cyprus. And it is time for both its Greek and Turkish citizens to enjoy peace in their beautiful, “sweet land of Cyprus”, as the poet/chronicler says. It is finally time, 27 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for the infamous “Green Line” to become an “invisible line” and fade into memory.
On another front, Greece has long been battling Turkey over territorial disputes in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, regarding the delineation of airspace, territorial waters, the continental shelf and the “Exclusive Economic Zone” (EEZ). It is hoped that, as the borders of Greece and Cyprus are now seen as the eastern borders of Europe, the U.S. and the E.U., instead of playing the role of the neutral intermediary, will finally take sides and help settle once and for all these disputes. Since the combined EEZ of Greece and Cyprus is proven to hold enough oil and natural gas reserves to supply Europe for the next 50-100 years, this is simply not only a defense issue but a monumental security question for the western world.
The West Must Invest in Greek Economic Growth and Armed Forces
The Greeks are sincerely grateful for the intense efforts the United States has made over the past few years to convince the European Union that a different, pro-growth, economic policy is needed, part of which must be the proposed re-structuring of the Greek debt. It is well understood that this debt is being held by European Nations and has to be repaid; but it is also clear that the United States, the power that single-handedly rebuilt Europe after WW II and allowed Germany to grow out of its misery through generous debt forgiveness, has enormous leverage to such an effect. This time the United States cannot be satisfied with promises and counter-promises from Germany’s finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble. This time the United States must take action, if it really wants Greece to stand on its feet and fight – in the heroic way that only the Greeks know how to fight – against the new threats from the East.
And since the talk is about fighting, what could be a better “return-on-investment” (ROI) than the West investing in the Greek Armed and Security Forces? The Greek Air Force, among the best in the world with the best pilots, is dealing with deteriorating equipment, lack of parts and even a lack of fuel. The Greek Navy, with thousands of years of experience, is facing similar problems. All of the Armed and Security Forces are manned with remarkably well-trained and capable personnel, who are demoralized because of salary cuts and equipment problems. Despite this, they constitute a magnificent force, capable of producing miracles at any front. It makes absolute sense for the United States and the European Union to provide any assistance necessary in equipment and finances in order to guarantee that, at the minimum, no threat from the East will ever cross these Greek and Cypriot borders of Europe.
Much more help is needed in re-structuring Greek governmental institutions out of corruption and bureaucratic chaos. The first step would require Germany to stop hiding the culprits of the infamous “Siemens Scandal” and allow justice to be performed. Germany cannot expect to lead Europe out of a position of immorality, while preaching “protestant ethics” to everybody else. After basic justice has been done, the United States and the E.U. have to provide Greece with the blueprints of government restructuring and assist in the process; the harsh reality is that when it comes to government practices, the political class in Greece, left on its own, will quickly revert to well known “bad habits”. But first, the West has to help justice to be delivered.
Greece and Cyprus have not simply always been the birthplace of all the social, political, economic and moral principles we all live by today and the birthplace of all the arts and sciences. The 3,000 year long history of both countries shows that they have always been a testing ground for humanity’s endurance to new challenges. Both Greece and Cyprus are now ready to rise up again and perform their usual role of defenders of these eternal principles of western civilization. But they cannot fully perform their history-given role if they are hindered by the (partial) responsibility of those same western allies they are supposed to defend. It is time for justice and fairness to be done to Greece and Cyprus.
New York, 22 July 2016,
Dedication: To my sons, Andreas and Nicholas, to always remember their roots.