75. Study Prepared by the Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia1


I. Summary

Cyprus is a foreign policy problem for the United States because strife between the Greek Cypriots and Turk Cypriots brings Greece and Turkey into military confrontation unhinging NATO’s southern flank; because Cyprus’ crises are invariably raised in the Security Council; and because such crises have the potential to complicate our evolving relations with the Soviets and affect the atmosphere in which the United States and the Soviet Union deal with the Arab/Israeli conflict.

In addressing the various Cyprus contingencies, the only asset effectively available to policy makers is the degree of diplomatic/political influence that the USG can bring to bear on the situation. The important decisions relate almost exclusively to diplomatic strategy and [Page 264] tactics, and focus on the questions of whether, when, with whom, and how to use our diplomatic influence in an evolving contingency scenario. We believe that the best answers to these questions are: (1) that the USG should use its influence, (2) that this influence should be used in any given Cyprus scenario before the situation degenerates into a crisis, (3) that US influence should be applied evenhandedly to all of the parties including Greece and Turkey and (4) that joint initiatives under UN or third party aegis are preferable, but that when the chips are down the US will be required at the crisis stage to act unilaterally.

Of the six contingency scenarios, the first deals with the status quo which provides tolerable stability. The other five contingencies involve various developments all of which have great potential to evolve in a manner that threatens basic US policy interests. A deadlock in the local talks (Contingency 2); a spontaneous outbreak of violence (Contingency 3); an attempted coup by pro-enosis forces (Contingency 4); a mainland Greek putsch against Makarios (Contingency 5); and a joint Greco-Turk attempt to occupy and partition Cyprus (Contingency 6) all provide real possibilities for generating a military clash between Greece and Turkey and a diplomatic clash between the US and the Soviet Union.

With respect to Contingencies 2 and 3 we recommend active US diplomatic involvement under UN aegis or jointly with interested countries and suitably supported in Nicosia, Athens, Ankara and the UN. With respect to Contingencies 4, 5 and 6 we recommend low-key joint diplomatic representations to Greece and Turkey to prevent them from undertaking potentially disastrous para-military or military adventures in Cyprus.

The continuing challenge for the United States is to avoid a Cyprus crisis without becoming too involved in the Cyprus dispute itself.

[Omitted here is Section II—The table of contents.]

III. Basic Plan

A. Contingencies

The permutations and commutations of contingency scenarios in the Cyprus situation are practically endless. The list below attempts to outline the basic directions in which events impacting on US policy interests would probably evolve. US diplomatic involvement in past Cyprus crises amply demonstrates that rapidly evolving situations invariably entail unanticipated combinations of and unexpected gradations between predicted contingency scenarios. However, this contingency study is based upon its 1970 predecessor and both are outgrowths of our historical experience with Cyprus. It is worth noting that in the 1967–73 period variations of contingencies 2, 3, 4, and 5 actually occurred.

The intercommunal talks, which the USG supports as the best hope for a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem, either continue in [Page 265] some form or are postponed with both parties accepting an uneasy status quo and avoiding armed clashes.
The intercommunal talks reach an impasse or break down completely with tensions rising rapidly. Fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities erupts with Greece and Turkey heading toward confrontation as they support their compatriots on the island.
A major outbreak of intercommunal violence occurs spontaneously (e.g. Makarios is assassinated and chaos ensues, pro-enosis guerrilla group attacks Turkish Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots initiate hostilities hoping to provoke mainland Turkish intervention) generating an immediate armed confrontation between Greece and Turkey.
Pro-enosis Greek Cypriots, possibly with the help of mainland Greece or Greek officers, initiate efforts to overthrow the Government of Cyprus (GOC). This effort might include an attempt to assassinate Archbishop Makarios.
The Greek Government attempts to subvert the GOC and remove Makarios from office or closely control his activities. This development occurs without the knowledge of the Turkish Government whose reaction remains unpredictable.
Greece and Turkey, acting jointly, attempt to “solve” the intercommunal problem through joint or parallel steps to occupy Cyprus militarily and partition the island between them.

B. US Interests

US interests in Cyprus are basically determined by the linkage of the impact of local crises, resulting from Greek and Turkish Cypriot communal conflict, upon other parties. The most important of our concerns flowing from the situation is to neutralize the Cyprus problem’s potential to embroil NATO allies Greece and Turkey in armed confrontation and/or conflict, thus unhinging NATO’s southeastern flank.

A second US interest involves the Soviet dimension. The Soviet Union over the years has monitored the Cyprus situation closely, consistently supported the island’s independent status, and opposed efforts to extend mainland Greek or Turkish influence or control. In reacting to the various contingencies—most of which would arouse Soviet suspicions of a “NATO plot” to subvert Cyprus’ independence—the US must therefore consider whether and how its moves might complicate our evolving relations with the Soviets and affect the atmosphere in which the US and the Soviet Union deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In the international sphere Cyprus crises have been invariably brought before the UN Security Council as posing threats to international peace and security. The problem is periodically before the Security Council which maintains a UN Force (UNFICYP) on the island and supports a good offices role for the SYG. Consideration of the Cyprus problem [Page 266] in the UN framework engages US interests in terms of our relations with the Security Council and other UN members, and focuses international and domestic attention on US reactions to the dispute. It also provides a proven and generally acceptable multilateral option to supplement, or, if necessary, supplant bilateral efforts during a Cyprus crisis.

Finally, the US has an interest in the maintenance of our now much reduced communications facilities on the island. It is likewise important for us that the two British bases on Cyprus (which are currently “sovereign” bases) remain in friendly hands.

Contingencies 2 through 6 would all engage in greater or lesser degree the US interests noted above. In the past we have reacted by using diplomatic capital to contain the situation. In 1964 Secretary Rusk sent the Ball mission and later the Acheson mission to try to resolve the crises. With the outbreak of the 1967 fighting President Johnson sent Cyrus Vance as a special emissary. Vance found a formula for avoiding a war between Greece and Turkey on that occasion, and, in 1968, US diplomacy was successful in arranging for local negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriot representatives. When these negotiations were broken off in 1971, the US participated in a diplomatic initiative which achieved resumption of the talks with the addition of constitutional experts from Greece and Turkey and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. Because of our interests in the wider ramifications of the Cyprus dispute, US involvement has been constant and in times of crisis intense. Our broad goal remains the promotion of a viable intercommunal solution that will remove Cyprus as a potential cause for a Greco-Turk clash on NATO’s southeastern flank.

C. Assumptions

The dominant factors expected to affect the Cyprus situation during the next two to three years are:


Archbishop Makarios will continue to be the major political force in the equation. In the last five years Makarios has twice been overwhelmingly and democratically elected President of Cyprus. He has the strong support of the Greek Cypriots. When the Government of Greece tried to use diplomatic and political means to pressure Makarios into resigning in February–March 1972, his reservoir of popular support was a key factor in his turning aside of the Greek effort. In addition to his domestic political support, the Archbishop has for over a decade been consistently successful in dealing with greater and more powerful countries (Greece, Turkey, Soviet Union, UK and the US) either in neutralizing their actions which he opposed or in mobilizing actions he supported. The Archbishop is a “big leaguer.” His stature and charisma far exceed that of any mainland Greek leader (which no doubt accounts at least partially for the dislike of recent Greek juntas for him). This international standing together with his internal sup [Page 267] port gives Makarios and the GOC a freedom of action not enjoyed by Greece with its political instability, or by Turkey with its fragile coalition government.

In short, the primary assumption of this study is that US reaction to any contingency scenario regarding Cyprus will have to take very heavily into account the qualities and capabilities of Archbishop Makarios. Conversely, the departure of Makarios from the political scene—through death, overthrow, or assassination—will transform the political equation (most likely bringing House of Representatives President Glafkos Clerides to the presidency), create considerable political instability, and increase the chances of a spontaneous outbreak of violence on the island (contingency 3).

Both Greece and Turkey will maintain to the extent possible their present policies of rapprochement in the context of NATO. Both countries place great importance on their NATO connection and understand the importance of friendly bilateral relations in this regard.
Animosity between Greece and Turkey is still a factor. The coexistence of Greece and Turkey within NATO is 25 years old while their ethnic antagonisms reach back 1000 years. It is important to understand that in the evolution of any of the contingency scenarios posited, once blood is spilled, Greco-Turk hatreds are likely to very quickly boil to the surface as they did in 1963, 1964 and 1967.

The Soviet Union will maintain its watching brief on Cyprus. The Soviet interest is in ensuring Cyprus’ continued independence and neutrality. If the Soviets see this interest threatened, they will not hesitate to use diplomatic pressure on other involved parties, including the US, to protect and promote their interest. Thus, when rumors of coup threats reached a peak in March (1974), the Soviets reminded Greece and Turkey that they would not remain indifferent to actions hostile to Cyprus’ independence or territorial integrity. At the same time, the Soviets requested Britain and the US to use their influence to dissuade Greece and Turkey from taking any provocative steps. The Soviet Embassy here approached us “in the spirit of détente.”

There has been and there is no evidence of Soviet intent to use its military power to influence crisis situations in Cyprus. Such action would risk confrontation with Western powers and run counter to the basic Soviet interest in the independence and neutrality of Cyprus. In any case, it is highly unlikely that Greece, Turkey, Britain, or the US would permit the situation on Cyprus to deteriorate to the point where the Soviets would find intervention either necessary or worth the risk.

On the other hand, Soviet military and operational capabilities are improving—witness the improved performance of the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron during the October ‘73 Middle East Crisis. Thus, the possibility of Soviet military intervention to forestall Greek, Turkish, [Page 268] or other Western military intervention can no longer be dismissed out of hand. If the Soviets ever did decide to intervene militarily, it would only be after Soviet diplomatic efforts to involve the US and others in stabilizing the situation and to counter Western (i.e. Greek and/or Turk) military moves had failed.

Soviet military intervention—were it to occur—would very probably take the form of subtle naval diplomacy. The Soviets, for example, might position a few ships just outside Cypriot territorial waters or, at Makarios’ invitation, they might make a show of naval force within Cyprus’ waters. In an extreme case—again at Makarios’ invitation—they might even make a port visit to Limassol or Famagusta to buttress Makarios’ position and to demonstrate that they would not remain indifferent to a Greek or Turkish invasion attempt.

During a crisis, the dispute will at some point be brought before the UN. Given the decade of UN involvement, the presence of UNFICYP, and the role of the SYG’s Special Representative, the UN Security Council is likely to be involved early in the crisis. Makarios is most likely to turn quickly to the Security Council to gain UN support for Cypriot independence and against Greek-Turkish intervention. The other three parties (Greece, Turkey, and Turkish Cypriots) are less likely to find a sympathetic voting line-up in the Council unless they seek to cool the crisis on the basis of continued Cypriot independence and territorial integrity.
U.S. interests in containing Cyprus situation will continue. Because of the fragility of the Cyprus situation and its capacity to threaten U.S. interests in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond, the imperatives of the situation will require the USG to continue to involve itself diplomatically in the situation in order to prevent another Cyprus crisis.

D. Key Issues

In addressing the various Cyprus contingencies, the only asset effectively available to policy makers is the degree of diplomatic/political influence that the USG can bring to bear on the situation. We have no military or AID relationships with Cyprus but we do make a substantial contribution to the maintenance of the UNFICYP ($66.5 million since 1964). The military and economic aid and assistance which the USG provides to Greece and Turkey is linked to our crucial NATO and bilateral relationships with these countries and is in effect unavailable for leverage except in the most extreme circumstances. U.S. military intervention—even the more subtle forms of naval diplomacy—is not a viable means of influencing the Cyprus situation. Such a course would be widely criticized and would provoke a Soviet counter-move (shifting their fleet). This would nullify any moves on our part, increase tension on Cyprus and involve us directly with the USSR. Above all—assuming that timely and appropriate diplomatic action were taken—US military intervention would be avoidable.

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Any Cyprus contingency situation is, therefore, almost totally and uniquely diplomatic. The important questions which will confront the policy maker in determining courses of action relate exclusively to diplomatic strategy and tactics and can be subsumed under four headings: whether to use U.S. diplomatic influence, when to exert such influence, with whom; and how.

Whether. In any given Cyprus contingency short of an acute military confrontation between Greece and Turkey, one attractive approach is to answer all four questions negatively on the grounds that the USG should “stay out” of the intricate Cyprus problems. The “no action” option is always appealing in that U.S. silence is less likely to offend the parties—particularly Greece and Turkey—than a more active stance. The risk of this approach is that the Cyprus situation itself is likely to deteriorate to the point of a Greco-Turk military confrontation requiring U.S. intervention in most difficult circumstances. As an example, in the summer and fall of 1967 Embassy Nicosia was recommending a USG request to the Government of Greece to recall General Grivas from Cyprus. Embassy Athens took the position that it was impossible to approach Colonel Papadopoulos and the junta with such a request. In November 1967 General Grivas overran two Turkish Cypriot villages generating a first-class confrontation between Greece and Turkey. The U.S. was then required not only to go to the Government of Greece with the request that they withdraw General Grivas but also that they withdraw 10,000 Greek troops from Cyprus. At the same time special emissary Cyrus Vance was required to put maximum pressure on Turkey to prevent an invasion of Cyprus.
When. The question of timing has in past Cyprus crises been crucial. Here again the power of inertia and the attractiveness of doing nothing rather than doing something unpopular—particularly with allies Greece and Turkey—has a critical impact on the problem. In opposition to the “no action” option, another approach which attracted a great deal of support just after the USG managed to scrape through a crisis (as in 1964 and 1967) is the activist approach. Following special emissary Cyrus Vance’s 1967 crisis diplomacy which was successful in avoiding a Greco-Turk war, both Deputy Secretary Vance and Ambassador Charles Yost undertook critical surveys of the Cyprus situation with a view to recommending a consistent U.S. policy approach. The main conclusion of both studies was that the USG should actively promote a viable intercommunal solution to the Cyprus problem to remove it as a potential cause of a Greco-Turk clash on NATO’s southeastern flank. Both studies recommended that the USG either directly or indirectly mediate the substance of the Cyprus dispute. While this approach had a great deal of support in the aftermath of crisis, USG policy has become more and more passive as the distance from the crisis has increased. In any case, policy makers must decide whether the USG [Page 270] should make representations to the parties before a crisis erupts. The hope in adopting this timing is to prevent a crisis, but the problem is that without a crisis the parties may be less amenable to accepting USG views. A different timing approach would be for the USG to move in the context of an ongoing crisis when it would be clear that our basic interests are threatened. The hope in this approach is that the pressures of the situation will make the parties concerned more accommodating, but there always is the risk that the crisis will be too far advanced to contain.
With Whom. The Cyprus problem is basically a quadrilateral dispute involving the Governments of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot Community. The path of least resistance is to put maximum pressure on the Government of Cyprus and the path of most resistance is to bring pressure to bear on NATO allies Greece and Turkey. The simplistic approach is for the USG to support or at least accept whatever Greece or Turkey can agree upon. The problem with this approach is that it is often difficult for Greece and Turkey to agree on anything and, if they do agree, Archbishop Makarios maintains an enormous capacity to upset any Greco-Turk agreement by playing the Russian card, and/or taking the matter to the UN Security Council. The historical record demonstrates that USG diplomatic successes in averting a Greco-Turk war over Cyprus in 1964 and 1967 and in achieving the establishment of negotiations in 1968 were based upon our even-handed pressure on all parties to compromise.
How. In the past the USG has acted unilaterally in truly emergency situations and, having gained time, has moved to involve others—particularly the UK, Greece and Turkey under a UN umbrella to take needed action. For example, during the 1967 crisis the USG averted a Greco-Turk showdown through the unilateral diplomatic vehicle of the Vance mission. In 1968 a joint UN–US–UK effort achieved the initiation of the local talks. In 1971 the local talks, which had reached an impasse, were rejuvenated through diplomatic activities in which the Government of Greece took the lead supported by ourselves, the British, the UN and to a lesser extent Turkey.

In summary, the policy maker will have at his disposal the single asset of U.S. diplomatic influence and will be faced with the questions of whether, when, with whom, and how to use this asset in an evolving contingency scenario. In general terms, the best answers to the questions posed are: (1) the USG should use its influence, (2) this influence should be used in any given Cyprus scenario before the situation degenerates into a crisis, (3) U.S. influence should be applied evenhandedly to all the parties including Greece and Turkey and (4) joint initiatives under UN or third party aegis are preferable, but when the chips are down the U.S. is likely to be required in an acute crisis situation to act unilaterally.

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[Omitted here are three sections, comprising 27 pages, detailing contingencies and options, and two summary attachments and 14 annexes, comprising 23 pages.]

  1. Source: National Archives, S/S–I Files: Lot 83 D 411, Box 3418, NSC Contingency Plans: Cyprus. Secret. The paper was drafted by Thomas Boyatt and Richard Erdman of the Cyprus Desk, reviewed by the Contingency Planning Working Group, and transmitted to the Washington Special Actions Group on May 6 by Brandon Grove, Jr., Alternate Chairman.