In a bid to point blame at NATO for the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited the NATO bombing campaign of Kosovo and its eventual independence from Serbia. The Kosovo referendum and independence remains highly controversial to this day with split recognition across United Nations members. In truth, Putin has styled his invasion almost verbatim as Turkey’s inhumane invasion of Cyprus, which also was reflected the disastrous and controversial foreign policy of NATO members that has put strategic interests over human lives.
“Protecting Ethnic Minorities”
The Republic of Turkey claimed it intervened in Cyprus twice in the summer of 1974 due to the ethnic violence between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot militias that killed hundreds of innocent civilians through the years. Likewise, a red line for Turkey was the coup against President Makarios, led by disenfranchised Greek Cypriot officers, EOKA-B, and the Greek junta (supported by the U.S.). It should be noted that the Russian military buildup and rhetoric towards Ukraine in the winter mirrored the “protection of ethnic minorities” line in Ukraine accompanied by constant reference to the Maiden Revolution. In the aftermath of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, many Turkish Cypriots were replaced in their villages in the north by mainland Anatolian Turks with a hardline pro-Ankara stance compared to many Turkish Cypriots who wanted to distance themselves from the Republic of Cyprus, but never saw themselves as part of Turkey.
Creation of Proxy States
A few years after the Turkish invasion, Ankara created the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.’ This was globally condemned and a major violation of United Nations Security Council resolution and only the Republic of Turkey recognizes the breakaway state.
The TRNC still to this day is considered sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus and is occupied by 40,000 plus Turkish military forces with missiles aimed at Nicosia. Likewise, in 2022, President Putin used the ‘LPR and DPR’ states as a platform for a permanent Russian presence in Ukraine. The LPR and DPR have also been globally condemned and recognized as Ukrainian territory by the United Nations, with only Russia, Syria, and North Korea, three of the most heavily sanctioned nations on Earth, recognizing the Russian proxy states.
Turkification and Russification
Due to the long-standing occupation in the occupied cities and villages in Cyprus, a cultural genocide has taken place against Greek Cypriot heritage. The occupied north has gradually gone through a process of Turkification. The crown jewel of Cyprus, the city of Famagusta is, is occupied territory, and its renowned beach suburb of Varosha is known as a ‘ghost town’ where the Turkish government has offered contracts to mainland Anatolian Turks to settle in the occupied areas – Turkish citizens who have never had any family lineage on the isle compared to the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Icons have been destroyed, graves have been desecrated for photoshoots, and Ankara promotes beach bars and nightclub parties in deserted areas where tens of thousands of families were forced to flee.
Despite claiming a ‘humanitarian’ mission to ‘protect’ their ethnic minority, Ankara quickly implemented Turkification and colonization in Cyprus. All this has happened under UNESCO’s nose with little repercussions.
Russia’s current plans in Ukraine include a full pro-Russian curriculum change in the occupied oblasts, including Kherson, an oblast that was not even part of Russia’s “initial aims” in Ukraine. Filtration camps have been set up across occupied areas and Russian collaborators in Ukraine have begun a process of Russification on the local population. There have been several documented cases of Ukrainian cultural destruction with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs openly stating they have no plans on withdrawal from occupied territories.
This only further underscores their ‘humanitarian’ mission which looks like a renewed colonization of Ukraine.
Setting up an eventual annexation, Russia has not tried to hide their aims of formal annexation of occupied Ukrainian lands, displaying maps showing a fully landlocked Ukraine to compete ‘Novorossiya’. They are also currently preparing for a referendum in Kherson with no international monitors – signs Russia fears a potential counteroffensive by the Ukrainian military with now British, German, and American-supplied heavy weaponry. In the occupied areas of Cyprus, Ersin Tatar has acted more like a full representative of Turkey than a Turkish Cypriot President of his so called republic. Instead of attempting reconciliation with Nicosia and Athens, President Erdogan of Turkey has severed full relations and there are growing fears Ersin Tatar may attempt a full referendum to allow the Turkish Republic a full annexation of the occupied north. This would of course lead to a disastrous and costly Mediterranean War as both Athens and Nicosia see this as a major red line.
The parallels between both invasions have caused a humanitarian crisis in Europe and left both Cyprus and Ukraine divided – but one should note the damming hypocrisy of Western nations towards the imperialistic ambitions of Russia compared to Turkey. After its highly-condemned invasion, Moscow was thoroughly sanctioned and now faces an economic collapse according to a new Yale 2022 report, whereas Ankara was only given a mild reprimand. As countries that border Russia such as Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltics see the country as an existential threat to their security, NATO and the EU have been oblivious to the plight of Cyprus, Greece, Syria, Armenia, and Iraq – all which border Turkey and see the NATO member as an existential threat.
As tensions continue to grow in the Mediterranean, it is important for the United Nations and the moral world not to forget Cyprus and the continued Turkish expansion on the isle. By emboldening Turkey through the lack of sanctions and near meaningless UN Resolutions, this has only emboldened other imperial powers to enact the same invasion methods as 1974.
Julian McBride is a forensic anthropologist and independent journalist born in New York. He’s the founder and director of the Reflections of War Initiative (ROW), an anthropological NGO. He reports and documents the plight of people around the world who are affected by conflicts, rogue geopolitics, and war, and also tells the stories of war victims who never get their voices heard.