Cyprus Is Planning A New Military Buildup

The new president of the Republic of Cyprus has pledged to allocate 2% of the country’s gross domestic product for spending on the armed forces. Coupled with his Western foreign policy orientation and the recent lifting of the U.S. arms embargo, this pledge could have a transformative effect on the island republic’s modest military, — reports Forbes.

President Nikos Christodoulides made the pledge on Mar. 10 during a visit to a special forces training camp.

«As long as there’s an occupation in our country, we are obligated to bolster our deterrent capabilities,» he declared. The occupation refers to Cyprus’s division by Turkey’s 1974 invasion, which led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) over one-third of the island. Only Turkey recognizes the TRNC and maintains a force of 35,000 troops there.

While NATO has long obliged its members to allocate at least two percent of their GDPs for defense spending, Christodoulides clarified that he does not seek membership in the alliance for Cyprus at present. Instead, he wants to put Cyprus «at the core» of efforts by the European Union to enhance European defenses. «I also served as foreign minister and I know that without a strong deterrent force, without a strong defense, your say in foreign policy matters is clearly limited,» he said.

In light of all this, Cyprus could well be on the verge of the most significant military buildup since the 1990s. In the second half of that decade, Nicosia turned to Russia for military hardware since the United States had imposed a complete arms embargo on the island in 1987 under the pretext of preventing an arms race there. That embargo was finally lifted in 2022, which could mean Cyprus might buy Western weaponry to replace its aged Russian arsenal. Nicosia might even transfer that arsenal to Ukraine if it is guaranteed adequate and speedy replacements. Doing so would aptly demonstrate the seriousness of Christodoulides’ pro-Western foreign policy.