IT IS STILL unclear whether the government plans to go ahead with the purchase of two frigates, which nevertheless sounds more like an April Fool’s joke than a rational defence decision. Defence minister Fotis Fotiou has reportedly sealed the deal, although little has been said about it, presumably because the troika could block it. There is also a possibility that the deal has not been finalised yet and that President Anastasiades would stop his minister from signing on the dotted line.
That the matter is even being discussed indicates that our politicians are not prepared to learn anything from the mistakes of the past, change their thinking and get real. They insist on perpetuating the myth that with the purchase of a few pieces of military hardware Cyprus would be able to defend itself and deal with any threats to its national sovereignty by Turkey. We have heard this myth time and again over the last 30 years, the politicians acting like they had won a war whenever they signed a purchase contract for arms.
Many will still remember the political grandstanding and mass hysteria that gripped the country when the Clerides government signed the deal for the purchase of the S300 ballistic missiles from Russia in the late nineties. Almost every night, the television news showed pictures of the missiles being launched. Glafcos Clerides secured his re-election thanks to the missiles which were never deployed. Once the government realised that Turkey’s threats of an attack were no bluff, the missiles were taken to Crete for safe keeping. Two hundred million pounds of the taxpayer’s money went down the drain.
It is doubtful Turkey would issue any threats over the purchase of a couple of frigates that her air force could take out in a few minutes. So why are we purchasing them? Does Anastasiades seriously believe that these could protect our EEZ and would ensure the drilling for natural gas would take place without incident? If anything their presence would increase the probability of an incident in the Mediterranean. In fact it is impossible to think of one good reason for purchasing two frigates which press reports claim would cost in the region of €100 million. We certainly cannot afford them.
Not that the purchase would have been justified if we could have afforded it. In fact the government should explain to the public the benefits of owning two frigates, before it finalises the deal, because we suspect it would convince no-one. People can longer be fooled into thinking that by squandering one or two hundred million euro on military hardware Cyprus would become a military power.