British Strategy on Cyprus; Past and Present
Professor, University of Cambridge
Ever since 1878, when Britain took control of Cyprus from the Ottoman Empire, British politicians and commentators have looked for ways in which the island might be employed to influence events in the Balkans and Middle East, first as a naval and military base, and later as an air base, a broadcasting station and an Intelligence gathering post. How far any of these ambitions could be realised depended crucially on whether decision makers understood political developments in the region but secondly on whether British agents in the area could put their decisions into effect. Analyses of great power intervention in the Third World are divided between those who believe that policies are primarily decided on Machiavellian grounds of ruthless interest and those who believe that a mixture of interest, good intentions and incompetence generally lies at the root of policy. This essay falls firmly into the latter group; it suggests that British policies towards the region have failed when their Intelligence has been poor and politicians have misunderstood the tide of events and thus their ability to influence them.