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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: February 25 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Signs Military Agreement with Cyprus
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Russia has just signed a military agreement with Cyprus, Business Insider reports:

Russia and Cyprus have signed a military agreement that will allow Russian ships to call into ports in the EU member state, according to Tass news agency

Independent Russian news service Interfax also confirmed the agreement, describing it as a "memorandum on cooperation in the naval area between the defence ministries of countries and an agreement between governments on military cooperation."

Part of the deal is a postponement of a repayment of a €2.5 billion loan from Russia used in the bailout of Cyprus in 2013.

As Business Insider explains, "the country frequently plays host to Russia's jet-setting super-rich, earning the Cypriot town of Limassol the nickname LimassolGrad."

Many Russian business people have registered companies in Cyprus because procedures are simpler -- and more secure -- than in Russia itself. When Cyprus was hit by a financial crisis, Russia helped out for self-interested reasons, and got controlling shares in the Bank of Cyprus. Russians continue to register their companies there, although President Putin has launched a crackdown on "offshorization" of the Russian economy.

This military agreement seems to stop shy of permitting Russia to set up an actual base on Cyprus; it is merely permission for Russia to call at Cypriot ports. 

Earlier this month when the agreement was being discussed Business Insider reported that President Nicos Anastasiades was going to allow Russia to "install bases" on the island. But as Foreign Minister said, there was no question of actual bases.

As Cyprus, an EU member that Russia calls "its best ally in the EU" is also home to two of the largest British naval bases in the Mediterranean, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, often used by NATO forces en route to the Middle East, it will be interesting to see how Cyprus gets along with both Russian and British naval bases at the same time in its country. The Cypriot parliament voted unanimously in 2012 to remove British bases from their country, saying they are used to attack neighboring countries.

While it does seem as if technically Russia will not actually have a base, it will have a presence and that may prove awkward. When Kyrgyzstan found itself with both Russian and American bases, used to supply troops in Afghanistan, eventually Russia prevailed and the Americans were forced to leave.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick