By CDR Demetries Andrew Grimes, USN Ret.
“Fortune favours the bold.” – Aristotle
For nearly half a century, Western leaders have shown an extreme lack of courage and boldness in dealing with Turkey’s illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus. Turkey’s invasion and military occupation of Northern Cyprus remains a glaring, but ignored, international issue, reflecting not only the regional complexities of the Cyprus problem but also exposing the ineffective diplomacy and economic muscle of the EU and US in dealing with their rogue ally, Turkey. This longstanding territorial dispute fuels tensions between Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey and perpetuates a cycle of violence, instability, and emboldened adversarial powers such as Russia, China, and Iran to continue their policies of aggression beyond their own borders unchallenged.
Despite the EU and US’s proclamations of upholding democratic values and advocating for the rule of law, their response to Turkey’s illegal occupation has been steadfastly tepid. The inability to hold their NATO ally accountable for its actions highlights a striking failure in leadership and a habitual willingness to compromise principles for short-term interests. This failure in diplomacy serves as a disheartening example to the international community and weakens the West’s position as a defender of international law and justice.
One cannot ignore the significant economic leverage the EU and the US have over Turkey as major trading partners and sources of foreign investment. However, time and time again, Western leaders have fallen short in utilizing these tools to rein in Turkey’s expansionist territorial ambitions. Sanctions and economic pressure applied decisively can be powerful instruments to influence countries to comply with international norms. But when it comes to Turkey, the EU and the US have displayed a severe lack of political will to apply such measures, even when blatant violations of sovereignty and human rights are at stake.
This failure in leadership undermines the credibility of Western powers and emboldens other aggressive nations around the world. Russia, China, and Iran have closely observed the West’s passive and weak approach towards Turkey’s aggressive actions. This lack of resolve has only fueled their own ambitions to pursue aggressive policies without fearing any significant consequences from the international community. The message sent is clear: global aggressors can continue their expansionist agendas unchecked if they maintain a strategic position and possess economic value to Western powers.
The West’s inability to address Turkey’s actions effectively has damaged the cohesion and unity within NATO. As a military alliance founded on principles of mutual defense and cooperation, NATO’s credibility is eroded and compromised when member states flout international law and the alliance’s founding principles without facing meaningful consequences. This failure to address the Cyprus occupation has created divisions and mistrust among NATO members, making it challenging to build a united front against common adversaries.
In conclusion, the lack of principled and effective action by EU and US leaders against Turkey’s illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus is an embarrassing reflection of their failure in diplomacy and a disregard for the principles they claim to uphold. By overlooking Turkey’s aggressive actions, the West undermines its own credibility and contributes to a dangerous global atmosphere where adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran feel empowered to act without fear of repercussions. It is high time for Western leaders to demonstrate true leadership, uphold the rule of law, and take decisive action to end the illegal occupation and bring about a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. Only through consistent application of diplomatic and economic tools can the West regain its standing as a champion of justice and stability in an increasingly volatile world. As “fortune favors the bold,” it’s time for Western leaders to unite and embrace being bold.
Commander Demetries Grimes is a combat decorated former US naval aviator, SECDEF Executive Fellow, and diplomat. He served as US Naval Attache to Israel and Greece, deputy commander of the U.S. base at Souda Bay, and adviser on Ukraine and non-NATO partners to NATO’s Maritime Commander in London, UK.