Missiles in the Aegean


Cyprus is in a unique position right now. With one action it could accomplish several tasks in one fell swoop that could distance itself from Russia, potentially end the arms embargo imposed by the United States while upgrading their defensive capabilityes and assist Ukraine at the same time.

What task has the potential of having such a large yield? It is quite simple actually if its placed on paper. All the country has to do accomplish these tasks is to replace their aging Russian made Defense Systems. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

Even before the Russians launched their attack in Feburary the Cypriots were sending out feelers that the equipment was available for purchase. Roughly a year ago there were unconfirmed reports that a deal to sell its flotilla of 11 Mi-35P attack helicopters to Serbia. The deal which was valued at between 150 Million and 300 Million Euros (In USD that number translates to between 160 Million and 320 Million depending on daily value) would unload the stock that Cyprus has had since 2001.

Russian equipment has a history of being expensive to maintain. According to reporting in Forbes, it was revealed that the cost to maintain these aging airframes would cost an estimated 100 million Euros over the next decade.

There are other pieces of equipment currently in use by Cyprus that Ukraine may find extremely valuable in its current peril. Cyprus has surface to air Missiles that Kyiv may find useful in this conflict. The Cypriots already use the 9K330 Tor Short Range and the 9K37 Buk Medium Range SAM (Surface to Air Missile) Systems. The Country even uses the S300 system.

When Cyprus first ordered these systems in January 1997 it caused a Missile Crisis in the Aegean. In a paper released at that time the Heritage Foundation was concerned that it could lead indirectly to war between two traditional foes yet NATO allies Greece and Turkey. After 25 years the tensions remain however there has been no direct conflict between Athens and Ankara. Removing these weapons while upgrading using French munitions could remove an obvious threat while assisting another ally in need.

Another item in the Cypriot Arsenal that the Ukrainians have an interest in just happens to be the T-80 Tank. The Cypriot Army acquired these systems from Russia during both the late 1990s and the early 2010s.

Finally the United States had for decades placed an arms embargo against Cyprus. First imposed during the Reagan Administration it was not until the Trump Administration before they were even considered to be lifted. Transferring these systems to Ukraine and purchasing American systems to replace them would be seen favorably by Washington and would seek to reward Nicosia for taking this action.

It is not that much of a stretch of the imagination to see why Cyprus would take this course of action.


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Specialist in US Policy (Security, Assymetrical Operations and Business Development) towards Africa and Arab World (Washington DC – USA)

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