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Gene Rossides, Kissinger and Cyprus: A Study in Lawlessness. Washington, D.C.: American Hellenic Institute Foundation. 2014. Pp. 250. 9 illustrations, 7 cartoons, 1 map. Cloth $24.

This is a difficult book to review for anyone with some knowledge of the Cyprus issue. The author makes valid points, some indisputable. Henry Kissinger’s entire public career was a study in lawlessness. From wiretapping his subordinates to carrying out secret warfare, to toppling regimes in Latin America, to covering up his mismanagement of the Cyprus coup of 1974, America’s so-called Doctor of Diplomacy was normally on the wrong side of international agreements and custom. Rossides is certainly right that Kissinger terribly mismanaged the July–August 1974 crisis in Cyprus; that Turkey carried out a military invasion and ethnic cleansing; that Cyprus is largely an afterthought for international diplomacy; and that the rule of international law is preferable to the present system of prioritizing national interest over international agreements.

Regrettably, this poorly organized, badly written, weakly sourced, repetitive, self-adulating, pseudo-legal brief should not be confused with a historical or legal study. Kissinger and Cyprus is factually unreliable. Anyone who invests a few hours reading it would be well advised to have a copy of Facts on File handy (for example, Kosut 1970; see also Keesing’s Contemporary Archive 1960–1976). Rossides frequently gets his facts wrong or omits important data, as he pursues his indictment of Kissinger and Turkey for war crimes. His outrage over post facto toleration on the part of the international community and press does not extend to his and Kissinger’s former boss, Richard Nixon, who was the directing hand in all the major decisions affecting Cyprus, Greece, and the US response to the 1974 coup.

Rossides initially embraces Henry Ford’s well-known viewpoint that “history is bunk.” Fittingly, Kissinger and Cyprus offers instead a simplistic conspiracy theory as a substitute for research and reasoned analysis, whereby Henry Kissinger, in the midst of one of the major constitutional crises in US history, decided on an apparent whim [End Page 206] to overthrow the government of Cyprus and to unleash the Greek dictatorship to carry out the deed. The author never provides any reason, much less evidence, to support this fantasy. Kissinger was racking up frequent flyer miles journeying between Washington, D.C., and San Clemente, California, trying to nudge an alcohol-dependent Richard Nixon toward resignation and to save his own job. Why would he arrange a messy foreign intervention to present to his new boss, Gerald Ford? Moreover, Rossides claims that a few days after he had overthrown the legitimate government of Cyprus, Kissinger agreed to a Turkish military invasion in order to overthrow the Greek dictatorship-backed regime that he had just installed in Nicosia. However, the author provides no explanation for this strange behavior.

Since the author’s charges appear farfetched, he should provide solid proof to support them. The bibliography is threadbare, consisting heavily of books and articles that seem to partially support either Rossides’s conspiracy theory or his views about Kissinger. Over the last 20 years, the American archival record of the events of 1974 has been released, as have Kissinger’s papers and telephone conversations. The Foreign Relations of the United States series has printed thousands of pages of National Security Council, Nixon and Kissinger papers, State and Defense Department records, along with CIA reports, relating to Cyprus 1969–1976 (Miller, Selvage, and Van Hook 2008). In support of his theory, Rossides cites one of Kissinger’s phone conversations and one NSC (National Security Council) subcommittee meeting. A credible study of Kissinger’s Cyprus diplomacy would at a minimum review and incorporate extensive US archival material into an analysis and would need to make extensive use of the massive British record. (Rossides cites a few British cabinet documents, but there is no evidence that he has mined British archives.) His research can charitably be described as cherry picking. The only contrary view that Rossides cites is that of Henry Kissinger, setting up a straw man whom he can refute. He does a quite effective job of pointing out Kissinger’s gross inaccuracies.

Largely missing from the Rossides narrative are some of the major protagonists of the Cyprus crisis, namely, Greeks, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots. The author informs us that there is no need to review the lead-up to July 1974 because the two Cypriot communities had always lived alongside each other, suggesting perfect harmony on the ground. The London-Zurich negotiations get a couple of brief mentions. Colonel George Grivas never appears in his recital, nor does EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), the Akritas Plan, nor is there any mention of the fact that between 1963 and 1974 Turkish Cypriots lived in enclaves, protected from their Greek Cypriot neighbors by a United Nations peace-keeping force. For international law to work both sides have to respect written agreements. Rossides slides by the inconvenient issue of Greek violations by loading responsibility on its military dictatorship. In 1964, the elected George Papandreou government flooded Cyprus with more than 10,000 troops and plotted to overthrow Makarios in violation of the London-Zurich Pact. All sides violated their undertakings, not just Turkey. If we are searching for those responsible for the coup, this is the starting point.

The author claims a central role in organizing the so-called Greek Lobby and directing appreciative congressmen to action against the Ford-Kissinger administration’s policies. Missing from his account are the long-term efforts of a group of US congressmen, mostly Democrats, to challenge the Nixon Administration’s policy of virtually [End Page 207] unlimited support for the Greek dictatorship. Richard Nixon, as evidenced by his extensive, handwritten annotations to White House basic policy papers (printed in Miller, Selvage, and Van Hook 2009), was directly and actively involved in policy-making for the Eastern Mediterranean. Rossides claims—without presenting any evidence—that Kissinger tricked the president into supporting a coup.

Frequently, what is left unsaid in Rossides’s account is more revealing than the author’s main narrative. Most notably, Rossides makes no reference to the Greek-American community’s support for the Greek dictatorship after 1967. Also missing is a discussion of Rossides’s views when he served as a senior Nixon political appointee (1969–1973). Did he raise any objections to the management of Eastern Mediterranean affairs?

Rossides devoted the second part of his book to a discussion of international law. In that discussion, he extolls the advantages of having an international criminal justice system but ignores consistent Republican opposition to any derogation of US sovereignty. The logical consequence of the discussion would be a bill of indictment of Henry Kissinger. However, as a result of the opposition to any such derogation, no US citizen, not even Henry Kissinger, can be extradited for prosecution before international courts.

The final part of Kissinger and Cyprus is dedicated to the internal and international defects of the Turkish state. Turkey has violated many international agreements, including those relating to Cyprus over the last 40 years. Turkey’s relationship with the United States is marred by conflicts over many important issues, including those concerning Syria, Israel, and Iraq. At best, Turkey is a sometime US ally. Unfortunately, Turkey is the most important player in the Eastern Mediterranean, and US diploma-cy—whether directed by Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or Barack Obama—has to deal with Ankara if it is to both influence Turkey’s behavior and achieve US regional priorities. Rossides offers no alternatives to working with Turkey, limiting himself to denying its strategic importance. I doubt anyone in Athens or Greek Nicosia agrees with his claim.

Moral outrage not controlled by a respect for fact or a willingness to do serious research is key to the defects of Kissinger and Cyprus. One can sympathize with Rossides’s outrage without being convinced by his account of the recent past or his policy suggestions.

James Edward Miller
Retired from the Foreign Service Institute and Georgetown University
James Edward Miller

James Edward Miller is retired from the Foreign Service Institute and Georgetown University and is currently working on a study of modernization in Southern Europe since 1700. His interests include Modern Greek history and the Cyprus issue. He is the author of The United States and the Making of Modern Greece (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).


Keesing’s Contemporary Archive. 1960–1976. Vols. 12–22. London: Longmans.
Kosut, Hal, ed. 1970. Cyprus, 1964–68. New York: Facts on File.
Miller, James E., Douglas E. Selvage, and Laurie Van Hook, eds. 2007. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976. Vol. 30, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. [End Page 208]
———, eds. 2008. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976. Vol. 29, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.