NICOSIA – After Greece, in a swap deal through Germany, sent armored vehicles to help Ukraine beat back Russian invaders, Cyprus is reluctant to do the same with its arsenal of Russian-made weapons unless they would be immediately replaced.
With the United States lifting an arms embargo against the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government that’s a member of the European Union, a spokesman for President Nicos Anastasiades earlier told the New York Times he “would be ready to consider” such an arrangement if it could secure replacements “of equal power and capabilities.”
In a report, Forbes magazine noted that Cyprus has a big stockpile of Russian-made weapons that ironically would be used against Russian troops if sent to Ukraine, as Greece had done.
But Anastasiades told reporters that his country “will not send arms to Ukraine” since “half of Cyprus is occupied, we need defense, and therefore without defense we cannot survive.”
That was in reference to Turkish-Cypriots occupying the northern third of the island since two unlawful 1974 invasions and all attempts at trying to bring reunification failing, Turkey keeping 35,000 troops on the isolated side.
But Anastasiades added that Cyprus would consider a transfer if another country would supply it with adequate replacements. “That is a different issue,” he said, without indicating who it might be.
But it was said that the US or European Union could offer to immediately lease weaponry to Cyprus so it wouldn’t be defenseless if Turkey decides to make a move to take the rest of the island.
The magazine said that ‘a direct swap is more likely and straightforward and would fulfill Cyprus’s stated conditions for agreeing to a transfer. Germany’s Ringtausch (or ring swap) program incentivizes countries to send their Soviet gear to Ukraine in exchange for provisions of Western-built replacements.”
George Tzogopoulos, a lecturer and senior fellow at the European Institute of Nice, told the magazine that he believes that the “potential shipment of Russian hardware from Cyprus to Ukraine is likely indeed.”
“First, such hardware or parts of it will be useful for Ukraine from a military and technical point of view due to its origins,” he told me. “And second, the lifting of the arms embargo by the U.S. a few weeks ago paves the way for the replacement of this weaponry by American equipment or makes such a development possible.”
However, Tzogopoulos also cautioned that “this is not a typical procedure or business as usual as it is happening with Czechia (Czech Republic).”
“The replacement of the Soviet-made Cypriot weaponry is an urgent national security issue for the Republic of Cyprus,” he said.