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Anti-colonial nationalism in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and beyond: Lessons for the Greek left?

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In recent years, popular displays of national affirmation have been labeled as “nationalist” and cited as evidence of support for right wing politics, racism, or even fascism. For example, many Greek leftists attacked the massive popular protests of early 2018 against official recognition of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as an independent state named “Macedonia.” Not only were participants (including the star speaker of the massive Athens rally on February 4, renowned composer and leftist legend Mikis Theodorakis) characterized as supporting or being manipulated by fascists, but leftists who questioned such blanket condemnation were also subject to personal rejection.
Another recent example is the “Brexit” referendum in Great Britain in 2016. Mainstream media as well as prominent leftists (with a few notable exceptions) blamed the result in favor of leaving the European Union on “populist British nationalism,” which was seen as nearly synonymous with racism and anti-immigrant sentiments. Apparently, in Europe (and to some extent elsewhere) “nationalism” is incompatible with leftist politics.
However, nationalism hasn’t always been so narrowly confined to right-wing politics. Anti-colonial movements throughout the world, including those firmly on the left, have often referred to their struggles for national independence and sovereignty as “nationalist.” Some point to Marx’ position on the “Irish national question” as the basis for a Marxist concept of “anti-imperialist nationalism” that later would be developed by Lenin’s theory of “national self-determination.” Lenin’s assertion that “it is impossible to fight for the socialist international revolution against imperialism unless the right of nations to self-determination is recognized” helped inspire many Marxist-influenced struggles for national liberation, for example in Vietnam.

Augusto Sandino


In Latin America, anti-colonial movements predated Marx and called for winning national sovereignty as well as Latin American and Caribbean unity. While it is true that oligarchical rulers in nominally independent 19th century Latin America often pursued exploitative and militaristic policies while espousing nationalist sentiments (which would categorize them as “right wing”), in practice they surrendered national sovereignty to imperialist interests as the price for remaining in power. By contrast, even non-Marxist anti-imperialist leaders, such as Nicaragua’s Augusto Sandino, made clear that their nationalism meant commitment to democracy and justice for the poor majority, which placed them firmly on the left. Interestingly, one of the young leaders of the non-Marxist, nationalist and anti-imperialist Cuban Orthodox Party would later embrace Marxism while remaining committed to anti-imperialist nationalism. His name was Fidel Castro.

Νationalism hasn’t always been so narrowly confined to right-wing politics. Anti-colonial movements throughout the world, including those firmly on the left, have often referred to their struggles for national independence and sovereignty as “nationalist.”

One of the most striking histories of Latin American nationalism is that of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. Like much of Latin America and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico saw various pro-independence struggles against colonizer Spain during the nineteenth century. The United States invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War of 1898; as part of the change of colonial rulers Puerto Rico lost what autonomy it had gained through years of struggle and once again became a colonial possession without any sovereignty, a political status which continues today. U.S. colonial rule was characterized by political and cultural repression, combined with divisive alliances with local elites, which weakened resistance to U.S. capitalist exploitation.
After Puerto Rico’s Unionist Party dropped national independence as a political status option, dissident members left and formed the Nationalist Party in 1922.The new party advocated for independence as the only solution to Puerto Rico’s colonial problem. While it participated in elections until 1932, the party forbade its members from accepting positions in the colonial government’s agencies. As was generally true among similar parties and movements, Puerto Rico’s Nationalist Party was not only anti-colonial and anti-imperialist but also supported economic and political alliances throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The party’s economic platform was less well defined, although generally favored small local businesses and landholders more than the oligarchy. However, its numerically small membership was generally whiter and more affluent than the poor workers and peasants who comprised the majority of Puerto Ricans. The Nationalist Party’s low-key profile would change radically after 1930, when Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected as its president.
Called “Latin America’s last liberator” by Gabriela Mistral, and the symbol of “Latin America unredeemed but untamed” by Ché Guevara, Albizu was a Black Puerto Rican, born into poverty, whose charisma and brilliance were recognized early in life. He was a distinguished student who earned advanced degrees with honors in chemical engineering and law from Harvard. As a student activist, he became involved in solidarity work in favor of Irish decolonization and independence. Albizu was befriended by Irish Republican leader Eamon de Valera, who later asked him to help draft Ireland’s constitution. He also pinpointed the root of conflicts in many countries as being the unjust concentration of wealth in the hands of an elite few.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos


>Albizu returned to Puerto Rico in 1922 and opened a law practice. While he had identified as nationalist and pro-independence since student days, he initially belonged to the Unionist Party until 1924, after the Unionists formed an alliance with the elitist, pro-colonial Republican Party of Puerto Rico (unrelated to the U.S. party). Albizu proposed an economic, cultural, and political program to the alliance which included return of lands to Puerto Rican ownership and improving workers’ wages and benefits; reversal of education policies that imposed U.S. history and culture and eliminated Puerto Rico’s own; removal of the U.S. territorial court and creation of a Puerto Rican court with full jurisdiction except in matters involving U.S. and international law; and a formal request for the U.S. Congress to make resolution of Puerto Rico’s political status an urgent priority. When the alliance rejected his proposals, Albizu understood that there was no room for an anti-colonial position, nor even a sense of urgency regarding the status issue. Consequently, he joined the Nationalist Party.
Albizu involved himself in all phases of party activity, including writing for the newspaper, speaking in small and large gatherings, and running for office in the colonial elections of 1924 in order to have a pro-independence party represented. In 1925 Albizu was elected vice-president of the Nationalist Party. Convinced of the need to promote Latin American solidarity in the struggle for independence, Albizu offered to undertake an alliance-building tour. During Albizu’s solidarity tour, which lasted from 1927 until 1930, he visited the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. In every country he met with political, economic, cultural, and student organizations, wrote articles, and gave large public lectures. Albizu called attention to Puerto Rico’s colonial oppression, U.S. efforts to dominate Latin America economically and politically, and the need to rekindle the Bolivarian dream of a Latin American and Caribbean alliance based on respect for national sovereignty as well as social and economic justice. He also attracted the attention of Washington, which exerted diplomatic pressure to limit his movement and sent spies to his public events. In the case of Haiti – which was under U.S. military occupation – Albizu was forced to illegally enter for only two days, and activists met him at a clandestine activity.
Albizu’s insistence on the necessity of Puerto Rico’s independence to achieve a free and united Latin American and Caribbean not only continued the work of nineteenth century liberation movements, but also sowed the seeds of active Latin American solidarity with Puerto Rican political prisoners that continues today. In each country, nationalist and other anti-colonial groups enthusiastically supported him. Moreover, while Albizu never embraced Marxism, he enjoyed mutually supportive relationships with many Communists; for example, the Communist student organization of Cuba publicly declared Albizu to be a mentor. He also supported workers’ unions, while warning that the (U.S.-sponsored) Pan American Labor Federation’s organizing efforts in the region were not meant to promote labor rights but to weaken resistance to U.S. economic colonialism.
Soon after returning to Puerto Rico, Albizu was elected President of the Nationalist Party. After the 1932 colonial elections, where once again a coalition of pro-colonial parties won amid widespread evidence of fraud, Albizu announced that the Nationalist Party would from then on boycott elections, condemning them as anti-democratic charades that pitted “Puerto Rican against Puerto Rican” and promoted “the death of the homeland.” Albizu helped revitalize the Party’s activities, giving many speeches and interviews, adding women’s and youth organizations, and supporting strikes by consumers and public car drivers against high monopoly prices of bread and gasoline.
Then in 1934, when the U.S.-affiliated sugar cane workers’ union sided with the growers, the workers called a wildcat strike and invited Albizu to lead it – and he accepted. The move sent shock waves from San Juan to Washington, as it appeared to signal a possible convergence between organized labor “class” struggles and the anti-colonial “nationalist” movement for Puerto Rican independence. The U.S. colonial rulers responded, first by directing the growers to agree to workers’ demands and terminate the strike. Second, they began a campaign of demonization and repression of the Nationalist Party, which would within a few years lead to assassinations, reprisals, and the incarceration in the U.S. of the Party’s leadership for a decade on charges of “seditious conspiracy” despite international outcry. In particular, US officials began to characterize Albizu’s denunciation of US colonial policies as “fascistic” – a charge that would later resurface during the Cold War repression of Puerto Rican independence and other left groups. The colonizers and their local supporters had no problem labeling the Nationalist Party as fascist despite the fact that its membership and leadership also included Communists; what mattered was that Washington’s self-image that it brought enlightened, democratic rule to Puerto Rico would not tolerate challenges.
Albizu returned to Puerto Rico at the end of 1947 and was re-elected as president of the Nationalist Party. At this time, the U.S. military machine was expanding in Puerto Rico – including occupation of almost three-fourths of Vieques Island – citing the “Cold War” as additional justification for its half-century colonial occupation. At the same time, Washington had found a charismatic politician named Luís Muñoz Marín to lead Puerto Rico’s transition to a “free associated state.” This would allow Washington to proclaim to the world that its colony had exercised self-determination, while not actually conceding any sovereignty.
Muñoz enthusiastically carried out repression of all pro-independence groups as well as Communists and Socialists, including signing a “gag law” that went far beyond the anti-subversive U.S. Smith Act on which it was based. For example, mere possession of a Puerto Rican flag was grounds for arrest and even incarceration. Muñoz publicly attacked the Nationalist Party as “fascist,” claiming that its rejection of colonial elections was “anti-democratic,” while its decade-long resistance to Puerto Rico’s inclusion in the U.S. military draft and denunciation of U.S. military base land expropriations were somehow evidences of Nazi and Communist sympathies. Armed actions in both 1950 and 1954 were Nationalist Party attempts to warn the world of the fraudulent “autonomous” government that the U.S. would install in Puerto Rico, but were used to justify repression while reducing international attention.
Today, the Nationalist Party is a small organization dedicated to keeping alive its legacy as an important movement for Puerto Rican independence. Despite attempts by some revisionist historians to portray it as fascistic, the record proves that it was well within the tradition of Latin American anti-colonial and anti-imperialist nationalism: pro-democratic, internationalist, and leftist even if not specifically Marxist.
Albizu defined Puerto Rican nationalism as “the homeland organized to rescue its sovereignty.” This tradition of nationalism still exists, for example in socialist Cuba, where it is common to identify as nationalist while rejecting the racism and imperialism of capitalist colonizers. This author has heard comments in Cuba that the “nationalism” of right wing groups, parties and governments in Europe and in the U.S is contemptuous of the sovereignty of other countries, thus not truly internationalist. Moreover, they note how the elites profit from the cynical manipulation of “populist” and “patriotic” symbols, while their people grow poorer.
What can Latin American anti-colonial nationalism – “the homeland rescuing its sovereignty” – offer to leftists in Europe who recoil from national flags and other popular symbols of sovereignty, but who in doing so allow their appropriation by fascist groups and their elite partners? Might it help Greece – whose experience since the nineteenth century of “dependent independence” has more in common with Latin America than with imperialist England or Germany – to recover its leftist tradition of combining resistance against foreign occupation with economic justice for the majority?
Sources:
Acosta, I. La Mordaza: Puerto Rico 1948-1957. Río Piedras: Editorial Edil, 1998.
Ali, T. “Why we need a left exit from Fortress Europe Dangerous Times 2016.” Video presentation, 28 May 2016. http://www.politicalirish.com/threads/tariq-ali-on-why-the-left-should-support-brexit.13004/
Blaut, J.M. The National Question: Decolonizing the Theory of Nationalism. London: Zed Books (1987) http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/Black%20Liberation%20Disk/Black%Power!/SugahData/Books/Blaut.S.pdf
Carrion, JM. “Albizu Campos y el fascismo.” 80 Grados, 11 November 2016. http://www.80grados.net/albizu-campos-y-el-fascismo
Ciappina, C. “Fidel Castro y la cuestión nacional en América Latina.” Diario Contexto (2016) http://www.diariocontexto.com.ar/2016/12/02/fidel-castro-y-la-cuestion-nacional-en-america-latina/
La Voz del Sandinismo. “Augusto Sandino” http://lavozdelsandinismo.com/sandino/
Lenin, V.I. (1915) “Socialism and war, Chapter 1, the attitude of socialists towards wars.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/lerin/works/1915/s+w/ch01.htm
Lenin, V.I. (1914) “The right of nations to self-determination.” Lenin’s Collected Works. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972, Volume 20, pp.393-454. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/self-det/index.htm
Lim, JH, “Marx’s theory of imperialism and the Irish national question.” Science and Society, vol. 56, no.2 Summer 1992, pp. 163-178. https://www.jstor.org.stable/404046
Mathur, C., and D. Dix, The Irish Question in Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engel’s writings on capitalism and empire” (2009) in Social Thought on Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, edited by S. O’Síocháin, pp. 97-107. Dublin: UCD Press. eprints.maynoothuniversity.ie/2994/
Pérez Cruz, F. deJ. “Comunismo, socialismo y nacionalismo en Cuba (1920-1058)” (2014) http://www.rebelion.org/noticias.php?id=181972
Rosado, M. Pedro Albizu Campos, Las llamas de la aurora: un acercamiento a su biografía. (Segunda edición) San Juan: Ediciones Puerto, 2001.
Opinions are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Greece: “Humanitarian Aid” Organization’s People-Smuggling

Greek NGO evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece.

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Authored by Maria Polizoidou of Gatestone Institute:


  • Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) describes itself as a “Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis….” It has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “nonprofit” with half a billion euros per year.
  • ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition).
  • With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its refugee crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them.

Migrants arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey in a rubber dinghy, on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

On August 28, thirty members of the Greek NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) were arrested for their involvement in a people-smuggling network that has been operating on the island of Lesbos since 2015. According to a statement released by Greek police, as a result of the investigation that led to the arrests, “The activities of an organised criminal network that systematically facilitated the illegal entry of foreigners were fully exposed.”

Among the activities uncovered were forgery, espionage and the illegal monitoring of both the Greek coastguard and the EU border agency, Frontex, for the purpose of gleaning confidential information about Turkish refugee flows. The investigation also led to the discovery of an additional six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals implicated in the case.

ERCI describes itself as:

“[A] Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis. ERCI’s philosophy is to identify the gaps of humanitarian aid and step in to assist in the most efficient and impactful manner. Currently ERCI has 4 active programs working with refugees in Greece in the areas of Search and Rescue, Medical, Education and Refugee Camp Coordination.”

In spite of its stated mission and non-profit profile, however, ECRI — according to Greek authorities, has earned considerable sums of money from its serving as a conduit for illegal activities. ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition). ERCI has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “non-profit” with half a billion euros per year.

This revelation, however, does not begin to cover the extent of the illegal activities surrounding the entry of migrants into Greece. In 2017, for instance, Greek authorities arrested 1,399 people-smugglers, some under the cover of “humanitarian” operations; and during the first four months of 2018, authorities arrested 25,594 illegal immigrants.

More worrisome than the literally steep price paid to people-smugglers by the immigrants themselves — or that doled out by the Greek government in the form of integration subsidies — is the toll the situation is taking on Greek society as a whole.

According to Greek police statistics, there were 75,707 robberies and burglaries reported in 2017. Of these cases only 15,048 were solved, and 4,207 were committed by aliens. In addition, the police estimate that more than 40% of serious crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. (Legal and illegal immigrants in Greece make up 10-15% of the total population.)

In 2016, Greek prisons reportedly contained 4,246 Greeks and 5,221 foreigners convicted of serious crimes: 336 for homicide; 101 for attempted homicide; 77 for rape; and 635 for robbery. In addition, thousands of cases are still pending trial.

In a recent heart-wrenching case on August 15, a 25-year-old college student from Athens — on a visit home from his studies at a university in Scotland — was murdered by three illegal immigrants while he was out touring the city with a female friend from Portugal.

The three perpetrators, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi ranging in age from 17 to 28, told police that they first attacked the young woman, stealing money, credit cards, a passport and a cell phone from her purse, but when they realized that her phone was “old,” they went for the young man’s phone, threatening him with a knife. When he tried to fend them off, they said in their confession, they shoved him and he fell off a cliff to his death. After the interrogation, it transpired that the three killers were wanted for 10 additional robberies in the area.

In an angry letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, members of parliament and the mayor of Athens, the mother of the victim accused Tsipras of “criminal negligence” and “complicity” in her son’s murder.

“Instead of welcoming and providing “land and water” to every criminal and dangerous individual with savage instincts,” she wrote, “should the state not think first of the safety of its own citizens, whose blood it drinks daily [economically]? [Should the state] abandon [its citizens] to ravenous gangs, for whom the worth of a human life has less meaning than the value of a cell phone or a gold chain?”

Although those were the words of a grieving mother, they are sentiments widely felt and expressed throughout Greece, where such incidents are increasingly common.

On August 29, two weeks after that murder, six immigrants in northern Greece verbally assaulted a 52-year-old man on the street, apparently for no reason. When he ignored them and kept walking, one of them stabbed him in the shoulder blade with a 24-cm (9.4-inch) knife, landing him in the hospital.

Two days earlier, on August 27, approximately 100 immigrants, protesting the living conditions in their camp in Malakasa, blocked the National Highway for more than three hours. Drivers stuck on the road said that some of the protestors went on a rampage, bashing cars with blocks of wood. To make matters worse, police on the scene said that they had not received instructions from the Ministry of Citizen Protection to clear the highway or protect the victims. Gatestone was told upon further queries, that there was no official statement from the police or the ministry, just the drivers’ statements.

With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its migrant crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them. The recent arrest of ERCI members underscores the need to scrutinize all such organizations.

Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in “Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East” from the University of Athens.

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Turkey’s Latest Power Grab: A Naval Base In Cyprus?

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them… Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.” — Lawrence A. Franklin.

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestone Institute:


  • The possibility of a Turkish naval base on Cyprus does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks, which were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Turkey’s Naval Forces Command has “submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” according to Turkey’s strongly pro-Erdogan daily, Yeni Safak, which recently endorsed the proposal for the base in an article entitled, “Why Turkey should establish a naval base in Northern Cyprus.”

“The base will enable the protection of Northern Cyprus’ sovereignty as well as facilitate and fortify Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, preventing the occupation of sea energy fields, and strengthening Turkey’s hand in the Cyprus peace process talks.”

Having a naval base in northern Cyprus would also strengthen the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus is strategically important: a naval base there would give Turkey easier access to the Eastern Mediterranean’s international trade routes and greater control over the vast undersea energy resources around Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has blocked foreign vessels from drilling for these resources; in June, Turkey began its own exploration of the island’s waters for gas and oil.

This is not the first time that Turkey has set its sights on the area’s resources. In 2014, Ankara dispatched surveillance vessels and warships to Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to search for hydrocarbons. This incident took place just before the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt deepened their an energy-cooperation, “freezing Turkey out.” As soon as the accord was signed, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades blasted “Turkey’s provocative actions,” saying that they “do not just compromise the peace talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots]… [but] also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region.”

At the time, UN-brokered reunification negotiations, which had been renewed after a long hiatus, ended unsuccessfully yet again, as a result of Turkey’s search for hydrocarbons in the EEZ. According to a November 2014 report in the Guardian:

“Turkey’s decision to dispatch a research vessel into disputed waters last month not only resulted in talks being broken off but has exacerbated the row over drilling rights.”

The possibility of a Turkish naval base does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The talks were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Another factor that may be contributing to the Turkish Navy’s desire for a base in Cyprus is Israel. Aside from Ankara’s extremely rocky relations with Jerusalem, Israel and Cyprus have been working to forge an agreement to join their electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link their gas fields to mainland Europe. Although they are in a dispute over development rights of one of these gas fields, Aphrodite, they are invested in reaching a solution that will not damage their increasingly friendly relations.

Erdogan’s considerations should concern NATO, of which Turkey, surprisingly, is still a member, and the rest of the West. As Lawrence A. Franklin recently wrote for Gatestone:

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them. The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.”

Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.

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