WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on February 28 issued the following statement:
On February 22, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to enter the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which he recognized as sovereign states independent from Ukraine, under the guise of a “peacekeeping mission.” President Putin initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, declaring a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “de-nazify” Ukraine.
President Putin gave a televised speech in which he justified the invasion. During his speech, he referenced the collapse of the Soviet Union, declaring, “In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union grew weaker and subsequently broke apart.” In addition, Putin challenged international norms and conventions, saying, “the old treaties and agreements are no longer effective. Entreaties and requests do not help.” In essence, Putin, is basing his invasion of Russia in irredentism and historical revisionism. Aggrieved at the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin wants to reconstitute a new Soviet sphere of influence. In addition, Putin views Russia as operating outside the international rules-based order.
Background: Turkey’s 1974 Invasion of Cyprus
On July 20, 1974, the Government of Turkey ordered its military to invade the Republic of Cyprus with the illegal use of U.S.-supplied arms and equipment, which violated the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The invasion also violated the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty, and the Treaty of Guarantee, which established the Republic of Cyprus and guaranteed the independence of the Republic of Cyprus; the United Nations Charter, and international law. Turkey occupied about four percent of Cyprus during the initial phase of its invasion. Furthermore, on August 14, 1974, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus was restored, Turkey launched the second phase of its invasion of Cyprus, occupying 37 percent of Cyprus’s sovereign territory, killing innocent civilians, including POWs; forcing 170,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and properties, and committing mass destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage, including an estimated 500 churches and religious sites belonging to Christian and Jewish communities. Additionally, Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus has had an impact on the ability of The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) to access certain Turkish military installations to excavate the remains of Cypriots missing since the tragic events that occurred on the island for proper identification. More than 800 Greek Cypriots are missing.
Parallels between Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine & Turkey’s Invasion of Cyprus
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine parallels Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Turkey, in invading Cyprus, broke international law to illegally invade and violate the sovereignty of a neighbor. Turkey grounded the invasion under false and misleading pretenses, also labeling its invasion as a “peace operation.” Turkey’s true motive for its illegal military invasion, like Russia’s, is an irredentist desire to reconstitute a sphere of influence in its former empire, in this case the Ottoman Empire. Radical President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made this readily apparent in recent years, especially with his expressed desire for a “two-state” solution for Cyprus. Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, while a larger-scale event, is in many ways very much analogous to Turkey’s military illegal invasion and continued occupation of Cyprus.
“First, and foremost, our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine as they endure a brutal attack upon their country and as they fight bravely to defend their sovereignty,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “We commend the actions of the Biden Administration and the world community to stand with Ukraine by imposing sanctions on Russia for its illegal and unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation.”
It is difficult to witness what is happening in Ukraine and not be reminded and draw a parallel to Turkey’s egregious violation of U.S. and international law when it illegally invaded the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, which it still illegally occupies and acts aggressively against to this very day.
Since the Second World War, the U.S. and its Western Allies have endeavored to build and perpetuate a stable and liberal world order based on the rule of law. Respect for the territorial integrity of nations is a central pillar of this world order. But no such world order is credible or can even be an aspiration as long as they are selective about when and whether other nations must operate within or outside of the world order.
The Biden administration, in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, must be clear eyed about dangerous rogue nations that threaten regional and world peace, which also includes Turkey.
Erdoğan has been operating outside of the world order with respect to the unlawful occupation of Cyprus. The U.S. and its Western Allies have slavishly indulged Erdoğan for many years. It should be no surprise that a fellow extreme religio-nationalist like Putin believes he is immune from the world order whenever he chooses to be.
As such, we encourage President Biden to carry forth the views he held as a United States Senator. In fact, then-Senator Biden himself wrote, in a January 27, 1989, to then-American Hellenic Institute Chairman Dr. Dean Lomis, stating: ‘…we must urge the new Administration [President George H.W. Bush] to make Cyprus a higher policy priority in American foreign policy…we cannot lose sight of the fact that the rights of Greek Cypriots have been trampled upon, and we must ensure that their claims to ancestral land and property seized during the 1974 invasion are not compromised. Finally, we must send a signal to Turkey that until it has removed every last soldier from Cyprus, it will never be recognized as a full member of the international community.’
At the time, Biden’s letter to the American Hellenic Institute reflected a clear-eyed view of Turkey. Similar to the Administration’s response in Ukraine, we call on the United States also to pursue multilateral sanctions on Turkey for its furtherance of a “two-state” solution for Cyprus. Anything less would reflect a double standard and will only encourage further illegal invasions and acts of aggression by malign actors, Turkey included.