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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The wisdom of indifference : Henry Kissinger, Cyprus, and the value of deprioritizing Rigby-Thompson, Mina

Abstract

This thesis examines the ways in which top American policymakers, led by Henry Kissinger, crafted the American response to the Cyprus crisis in 1974. Cyprus is primarily comprised of two ethnic communities—Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The tensions between the two populations increased as Cyprus approached independence from Great Britain, which it achieved in 1960. Greece and Turkey maintained a vested interest in protecting their respective Cypriot communities, but the two countries had fundamentally incompatible goals for Cyprus. Athens desired for the island to unite with Greece, whereas Ankara wanted to partition the island into two separate states. The United States had no geostrategic interests in Cyprus itself, but as Greece and Turkey were two important Cold War allies, American policymakers had an interest in ensuring relative stability in the region. The 1974 Cyprus crisis began when Greek military officers helped to orchestrate a coup d’état to depose the Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios III. Turkey responded by launching a military operation on the island, which resulted in two rounds of United Nations-mandated peace conferences between the involved parties to negotiate a short-term ceasefire and then a longer-term solution. While not an official member of the peace conference process, the United States did have a significant interest in avoiding a Greek-Turkish war in the valuable Eastern Mediterranean region. The American response was led almost entirely by Henry Kissinger, particularly because Gerald Ford took office in the middle of the crisis. Against the advice of many within the broader American foreign policy establishment, Kissinger advocated for a policy of minimal American involvement.

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