TEN YEARS AGO this summer, the independent republic of Cyprus was twice brutalized by large neighbors.
First, the Greek military junta in Athens instigated a coup that sought to kill Cypriot President Makarios and install a known terrorist in his place. Then, to thwart that attempt, Turkey invaded and occupied northern Cyprus, driving thousands of Greeks from their homes and their land and establishing control over a large section of the island on behalf of the Turkish minority.
The Greek military dictatorship collapsed as a result of its adventurism on Cyprus and was replaced by a democratic government, and the democratic Turkish government that ordered the invasion was replaced by a military government several years later. But those changes have only reinforced the paranoia of Greece and Turkey about each other, especially regarding intentions on Cyprus.
A decade after the 1974 Cyprus crisis, a NATO member, Turkey, continues to occupy what was formerly an independent state and the 600,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots continue to live in tension.
The Cypriots, it must be said, are both agents and victims of the international indifference to their plight. There was so much antagonism between the two communities from the time of Cypriot independence in 1960 until 1974 that it has become difficult to rouse much international interest in a long-term settlement.
The Turkish sector comprises 36 percent of the island's territory and 20 percent of the population. It has a stagnant economy, with Turkey its only protector, benefactor and trading partner. The Greek Cypriots, pushed into the southern part of the island, are prosperous, but they say that they can never accept either the division of the country or separation from their villages now occupied by Turkey in the north.
Thus, there is an uncertain stability on Cyprus today. The more prosperous south lives on its own resources and considers itself the legitimate Cyprus, while the north constitutes a real, if tolerable, drain on Turkey's limited assets.
It is worth recalling the U.S. role in this situation, for the benefit of U.S. officials who were not on the scene in 1974.
The United States supported the Greek military dictatorship that provoked the first, failed coup attempt against the Cypriot government in July 1974, but the State Department steadfastly insisted it saw no signs of foreign intervention.
Without U.S. support, the Greek dictatorship could not have survived, since it was largely ostracized by the West European democracies. Many in Greece, and elsewhere, believe the United States was actually behind the 1967 coup which overthrew Greek democracy and brought the colonels to power. This interpretation of events remains highly dubious, but the dictatorship that emerged could not have survived without U.S. arms and support.
Secretary of State Kissinger opposed any U.S. role either to prevent or to respond to the first Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974. Yet a decade earlier, a similar Turkish threat to invade the island was stopped by a stiff letter from President Johnson.
In 1974, the United States, clearly antagonistic to Makarios' prickly neutralism, was apparently prepared to accept some turmoil on the island to see him gone. Kissinger, embroiled in the collapsing Nixon administration, later said he could not pay full attention. But even after Markarios survived, and before the decisive Turkish occupation move in August 1974, the United States failed to act alone or with its allies to stabilize Cyprus and preserve its integrity and independence. In the absence of such action, Congress imposed a limited arms embargo on Turkey to force that country's withdrawal from Cyprus.
In th curious ways of Washington, the arms embargo rather than the Turkish invasion became the issue. The Turkish occupation was all but forgotten as two American presidents sought to persuade Congress to repeal the embargo. Neither administration showed an interest in Cyprus except as it affected the issue of the embargo, and, indirectly, U.S. relations with Turkey. The embargo ended in 1978. But the Turkish army is still on Cyprus.
The Carter-Mondale administration took credit for ending the embargo, and then tried to induce a settlement. The plan failed after the administration tried to proceed without getting the needed support from West European countries. Subsequently Turkey fell under military rule and is now under scrutiny for human rights violations.
Unfortunately, the United States now displays the same tolerance for military rule in Turkey as it did for the Greek junta. In both cases, we seem to be telling our European allies that military cooperation and U.S. base rights are more important than a restoration of democracy or human rights.
American blindness to the fate of democracy among our eastern Mediterranean allies has been a theme of five administrations, from Johnson's to Reagan's. There is little likelihood that it will change with the Reagan-Mondale race this fall. Neither candidate has demonstrated great concern for human rights as a crucial element in our international affairs. Both have records of tolerating a military-centered policy in the area. And neither is likely to provoke Turkish irascibility by pressuring Ankara to end its 10-year occupation of Cyprus.
A renewed Cypriot nationalism, based on rejection of both Greek and Turkish interference in the island's fate, is one hope. President Makarios seemed, in his final years, to embrace true Cypriot independence from both Greece and Turkey. But before a new Cypriot nation can emerge, someone must extricate the Turkish military force without jeopardizing the security of the Turkish Cypriotminority.
With Europe diverted by more immediate problems and the United States indifferent, Cyprus has nowhere to look. Neither the United Nations nor the Third World, both of which profess interest, have the influence to move Turkey or the Cypriots to a solution.