SERVILITY OR SELF-DEFENCE: CYPRUS CAN DEFEND AGAINST THE TURKS WITHOUT AMERICAN PROTECTORATE OR RUSSIAN ADVICE
by John Helmer - Dances with Bears
September 10, 2019
Russia has been warning Cyprus (lead image, left) for months to beware the risks and consequences of offering its offshore oil and gas to US companies in exchange for promises of a US military protectorate against Turkish invasion. So far the American response (lead image, centre – Secretary of State Michael Pompeo) has been to require Cyprus to block Russian Navy access to its ports; expel Russian capital from its banks; and put a stop to what Washington calls pro-Russian journalism in the Greek-language press. For details of this scheme, read this.
For the first time, however, Cypriot and Greek military officers and experts have joined to plan Cypriot military tactics against Turkey’s attempt at taking over the Cyprus offshore seabed and at fresh Turkish troop landings on the island.
Not since the Cypriots fought a successful guerrilla war against the British for independence in the 1950s, and then in 1974 fought the Turkish invasion of the northern part of the island has a Cypriot military approach appeared. Self-defence by the Cypriots – without alignment with Americans or Russians, and without backing from Athens — is unprecedented.
In mid-July the Cyprus government went to the United Nations Security Council (UN) in New York, and then to the European Union (EU) in Brussels for support against the Turkish invasion of the offshore seabed northeast and southwest of the island. Turkish seismic exploration and drilling vessels in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have been accompanied by Turkish Navy escorts and Turkish airforce exercises. The July 11 Cypriot application to the UN, and the EU’s response on July 15 can be followed here.
A third Turkish vessel was confirmed in August by Turkish officials to enter the Cyprus EEZ to join the Yavuz (“Resolute”), operating off the northeast coast of the island, and the Fatih (“Conqueror”), off the southwest of the island. Read: https://safety4sea.com/
On July 8 the Russian Foreign Ministry reacted with a declaration carefully avoiding condemnation of the Turkish moves: “In connection with incoming reports on the visit of yet another Turkish ship to conduct geological prospecting in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, we are watching with concern the developments in this area. We believe that any violation of Cyprus’s sovereignty can only hinder conditions for a durable, viable and fair resolution of the Cyprus issue. We urge all countries to refrain from steps leading to the buildup of a crisis potential in the Eastern Mediterranean, to display restraint and political wisdom, and to strive to resolve any dispute through dialogue and respect for each other’s interests.”
The Moscow document implied that although the Cyprus EEZ seabed is sovereign Cyprus territory, the Cypriots must negotiate terms for developing the oil and gas with the Turks: “There is an obvious need to relaunch the intercommunal negotiating process on a settlement in Cyprus as soon as possible with a view to finding solutions based on relevant UN resolutions. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we are ready to support such efforts.”
Foreign Minister Lavrov last met Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides (right) in Moscow on February 22, 2019. The press conference and other reports of what was said omitted the EEZ issue entirely. Read: http://www.mid.ru/
The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the Cyprus application for EU sanctions against Turkey, announced on July 15. “Sanctions should not be used as a tool for exerting pressure,” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova on July 17, “although unfortunately this has become an important factor in international relations today. This is by no means a diplomatic tool and should not be at the core of international politics. Sanctions lead to dire consequences: the erosion of international law and civilised forms of communication.”
From Washington there has been no US Government declaration in support of the Cyprus EEZ, neither at the UN nor in any other forum; no US fleet move against the Turkish seabed drilling vessels and their Turkish Navy escorts; and no parallel US sanctions against Turkey.
Instead, a new report, just issued in Washington by a group of retired US military officers, ex-Pentagon officials and the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), has welcomed the conflict as their main chance. “The remarkable geopolitical realignments…underway across the Eastern Mediterranean,” JINSA says, “create new strategic opportunities for the United States.” Like the Russian Foreign Ministry, the JINSA report refers to the Cyprus EEZ as “still disputed”, adding that “many regional boundaries offshore remain uncertain”. There is no endorsement of the Cyprus EEZ and its seabed as Cypriot territory to be defended against Turkish invasion.
To this group, the seabed is more American than Cypriot. “The importance for U.S. interests is reinforced by the critical role of American energy companies in discovering and exploiting these resources”. So the strategy the JINSA report proposes is an alliance with Israel: “Shared interests in developing energy resources and containing Turkey are driving increasingly close alignment – and growing willingness to shoulder the burdens of regional defense – among Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. With U.S. leadership, these new partnerships could help anchor regional stability and weaken Turkish, Iranian and Russian influence.”
Civilian Cypriot leaders, led by President Nikos Anastasiades, has endorsed the American protectorate, but there have been signs the Cyprus military has a different view, which is slowly being leaked into the Greek-language press on the island and in Athens. The first signal came from retired Rear Admiral Costa Fitiris. In July he wrote in opposition to the terms of the American protectorate.
In November 2015, then Captain Costas Fitiris (left), commander of the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center, briefed Rear Admiral Flavio Brasil (right) of the UN’s Maritime Task Force in Lebanon: http://www.mod.gov.cy/ Fitiris was subsequently retired with the rank of rear admiral.
“The Americans’ demand for a ban on the entry of Russian warships into our commercial ports lacks fundamental respect for the Republic of Cyprus,” Fitiris wrote in an opinion piece published by the Sigma media, https://www.sigmalive.com/news/opinions_sigmalive/575704/sxeseis-hpa-kypriakis-dimokratias-pikres-alitheies describing the US demands on Cyprus as posing “many risks to our survival…we will now be a disposable pawn on the chessboard of the USA-Russia game.”
Fitiris warned the Americans were as unpredictable and unreliable as the Turks; less so the Russians:
“If we lose our relations with Russia, we will obviously lose its support in the [UN] Security Council, and if at the same time the US re-establishes its relations with Turkey (which is very likely!) then things will be very dangerous for [Cyprus]… ‘Positive Neutrality’ is the only safe path in this global expansion game of the Great Powers’ areas of influence.”
“The Republic of Cyprus should NOT now choose a camp between the US and Russia. Although we belong to the western world, the US as it has turned out, and as it appears, will not hesitate to abandon us if the need to revive relations with Turkey so requires…we need to study… and find the right solution for our survival and the realization of our national goals.”
Fitiris’s piece appeared on July 2. It was followed the same day by a statement from the Cyprus Defence Minister, Savvas Angelides, opposing the ban on Russian Navy portcalls.
Then a few days ago in a little noticed Greek defence publication, the first concrete analysis appeared of how to implement Admiral Fitiris’s call for the “right solution”. This is a naval warfare strategy for Cyprus – the first to appear publicly. It is written by Konstantinos Grivas (right), an associate professor of geopolitical affairs at the Evelpidon Military Academy, the officer cadet school of the Greek Army since 1828.
Grivas also teaches geography of security in the Middle East in the Department of Turkish and Modern Asian Studies of the University of Athens.
Earlier, he held the post of chief investigator at the department of modern weapon technologies of the Institute of Defense Analysis at the Greek Defense Ministry. Between 1996 and 2004 he was an accredited journalist at the Defense Ministry.
The Grivas report represents a decisive break with the military and intelligence planning of the previous Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras; he secretly negotiated the terms of the US protectorate with the Pentagon and State Department before the Americans announced them publicly, and before Tsipras was replaced in the Greek election of July 7 by Kyriacos Mitsotakis. The Grivas report can be read in Greek here.
Here is a translation into English (the maps and picture illustrations have been added):
Cyprus: Can it create a special underwater naval deterrence force?By Konstantinos Grivas
One of the historical errors of the Cyprus government system is that it has overlooked the fundamental role that military power plays in the geopolitical identity of a country. To put it quite simply, a country without power projection capabilities in its own space is not exactly a country. It’s something else. It has no full sovereignty and cannot operate within the international system in the same way as other states do. Of course, the Republic of Cyprus after the invasion of 1974 developed a notable military force on land. But it downgraded the role of naval power. That is, the capacity to be able to exert decisive supervision of force in Cyprus’s maritime space.
Consequently, this has given Turkey the opportunity to conduct its recent invasion (because that’s precisely what it is) in the maritime area of the national sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. Of course, the prevailing view is that Cyprus could not acquire similar skills and, even if it could do so, it would make no sense, because it would amount to just a fraction of the corresponding Turkish power.
Actually, it’s not like that. First of all, military power does not necessarily have to be of such magnitude as to ensure parity with the opponent. One of the military’s missions is to give potency to the country so that international law and the mechanisms of international organisations can be activated in the event of an invasion.
That is, the opponent needs to overcome resistance in order to be interpreted and formally understood in the appropriate way that the opponent is carrying out an invasion.
Even a small military force which can put up armed resistance, even if it has no chance of success, creates in this way a clear threshold for the opponent so that he will know that if he crosses the threshold, his blow will be considered to be an undeniable invasion And to that there will be reactions.
If this threshold is not established, then the intruder may pretend (and with him the so-called international community) that there is no invasion but simply a ‘bilateral dispute’.
Not, of course, that the reactions of the ‘international community’’ might be a crucial factor in halting Turkish aggression. In any case, however, Turkey will have thought much more about whether to proceed to its drilling in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) if it knew for certain that such actions would trigger a military response and would in the outcome be treated as an armed attack on a sovereign state.
CYPRUS MAP OF THE DELIMITATION OF EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONES (EEZ) IN EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
MAP OF TURKISH POWER PROJECTION FOR SEABED ENERGY RESOURCES IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN – TURKEY’S ‘BLUE HOMELAND’
The red line marks the westward and southward extent of the Turkish “Blue Homeland” concept, blue meaning the sea, homeland meaning seabed gas and oil. Including the yellow and orange areas of the Mediterranean, the “homeland” line extends west to Kastellorizo, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, and eastern Crete. For a description of “Blue Homeland” by retired admiral Cem Gürdeniz, who coined the phrase, read this.
WE CAN WIN AT SEA
This is so with regard to the important role to be played even by symbolic resistance. However, the writer is of the opinion that Cyprus could (and can) develop serious naval power projection capabilities, such as to be able to protect its maritime sovereignty and defeat Turkish air forces if required.
Naturally, this cannot be done by conventional means, that’s to say by surface ships. Indeed, the proximity to Turkey and the existence of Turkish aviation do not leave much room for action by a Cypriot surface fleet, even if they were able to inflict economic and other possibilities.
Even the last-generation  US destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class, which is probably the surface ship with the greatest air defence capabilities in the world today, could not hope that it would survive more than a few minutes in such seas close to Turkey without air support.
In the martial arts, however, when there is no possibility of developing a force equal to that of the opponent, we try to sidestep the problem. In this case, if the opponent dominates the air and the surface of the sea, we move under the sea, and there achieve ‘contact denial’.*
Indeed, it is power underwater which could provide the Republic of Cyprus with the naval force to protect and to defend its maritime sovereignty. And this power does necessarily require costly submarines, like the Greek Papanikolis Type 214-class, as one could argue that these are outside the potential of Cyprus.
In recent years we have had a dramatic development in the field of underwater weapons systems, which probably renders unnecessary the use of large submarines for the ability to exercise effective power projection in the EEZ of a country, namely in the zone of 200 nautical miles around it.
THE SUPER-TORPEDO AND OTHER SOLUTIONS
For example, during tests in the Baltic in 2012, the German torpedo DM2A4 Mod 4 ER (Extended Range) Sea Hake achieved the impressive range of 140 km. Since then, given the progress made in battery technology, this range may have increased, reaching or exceeding 200 km. This means that similar long-range torpedoes are ‘emancipated’ in manner of operation from costly submarines and can be fired from safe distances from smaller and much cheaper platforms, or even directly from the land at shorter distances.
Indeed, if the firing platform of a comparable torpedo is able to launch it from a long distance away from the enemy’s submarine capabilities, then it can be of low cost. A submarine – a low-tech midget, for example, like the Iranian Ghadir — or a submerged or semi-submersible vessel or even better, a unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).
For a report of the Iranian military capability to deter much larger naval powers in the Persian Gulf, including the US, read this.
The increase in range, combined with the dramatic reinforcement of the capabilities of autonomous audio detection and target discrimination by the torpedoes themselves, thanks to advances in computing and especially in the field referred to as perceptual artificial intelligence (Perception AI), allows their use even in environments where there are both friendly or neutral vessels.
It is noted that as long as a ship or group of ships has strong anti-submarine protection, it is very difficult to cope with similar smart torpedoes arriving over ranges of hundreds of kilometres. In addition, similar weapons and methods of [torpedo] delivery, because of their small size, can be concealed much more easily than ‘normal’ submarines, so that they are protected from the action of Turkish aviation or artillery before they go to sea.
NO MORE SECOND THOUGHTS
Here, of course, the ‘cynical’ observation may emerge that even if Cyprus had such capabilities it would not dare or even use it. So, it’s pointless to consider.
But it’s not like that. Such a serious power projection capability for which the opponent has minimal ability to defend himself effectively does not need to be used. But it can be the base on which a soft deterrent can work.
For example, lightly armed coastguard ships could block the entry of a Turkish research vessel and its companions into the territory of Cypriot national sovereignty, with the submarine’s force deterring Turkey’s ability to open fire on the Cypriot ships.
In more ‘extreme’ scenarios the underwater explosion of a torpedo is officially anonymous. It thus offers deniability even if it is chosen to be used, so as not to ‘compel’ the opponent to retaliate, at least immediately.
In addition, this explosion does not need to be lethal in the first instance. It can be a ‘warning’ at some distance from the invading ships. By itself, the likelihood of a ‘signal’ strike is of value as a deterrent.
And, of course, underwater weapons are not the only things in which the Republic of Cyprus can invest in order to dramatically enhance its capabilities to defend its maritime territory.
Some other low-cost systems which can be considered are swarms of unmanned surface-to-air (USV) aircraft armed with missiles of various configurations and types, or modified to serve as suicide bombers loaded with explosives (VBIED), as well as unmanned aerial vehicles using the ground effect (UGEV). These vessels use the effect of the land or sea surface (ground effect) and essentially ‘float’ on an air layer very close to the surface of the sea, which can reach one metre. Thus, they achieve a significant fuel economy and significantly increase their range, while flying so low it is very difficult to locate and to intercept them.
These vessels do not require high-tech precision; they can be relatively easily manufactured; and they function as cost-effective and possibly more efficient substitutes for cruise missiles. Even so, of course, the objection may arise that Cyprus could not under any circumstance make use of its power, because this would cause Turkey to invade its territory. However, in that event the international response will be a very long one, while Greece, even under the most ‘cautious’, reluctant, defeated and servile government, would be forced to intervene through arms; knowledge of this would make Turkey think twice before making such a choice.
WITH A POWERFUL DEFENCE, JOHNNY TURK WILL NOT COME BACK FROM HIS HOLIDAYS
Most importantly, the National Guard already has serious combat capabilities, which can be further enhanced to enable it not only to counter a strong defence, but to be able to completely defeat the Turkish forces stationed on the island.
In addition, similar underwater projection capabilities as those mentioned above could create an impenetrable barrier for Turkish ships attempting to transport military forces from Turkey.
If the Republic of Cyprus decides at some point to deal seriously with its defence, without phobias and paranoid readings of reality, but with realism, knowledge of developments in the art, science and technology of war, and with imagination and practical spirit, then the Turkish Army will have to go on vacation, as improbable as that sounds, because there will be no ships to carry it against Cyprus.
[*] Term of naval strategy meaning the capacity to deny an adversary the ability to use the sea for his purposes for a period of time without necessarily being able to exercise control of the sea for oneself. Sea control would require superiority in the air, on the surface, and on both the Cyprus and Turkish shores. Turkish strategy aims for sea control; Cypriot strategy can deny it.