Billions of euros have been spent on defence over the years, but no party or individual politician has ever questioned this expenditure because security issues cannot be the subject of public debate. Another reason is that all defence spending is considered to be in the national interest and nobody would dare express the slightest doubt about it in public for fear of being labelled traitors ready to surrender the country to Turkey.
The only criticism the parties and deputies make every year is that not enough state spending has been allocated to defence. We witnessed this tradition on Monday when the defence ministry’s budget for 2022 was discussed at the House finance committee. Presenting his ministry’s budget, which will exceed €500 million next year, Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said Turkey’s continued intransigence and increased aggression created the need to strengthen Cyprus’ defence and security as well as to buy new weaponry.
This was not entirely satisfactory for the deputies. Committee chairwoman, Christian Erotokritou spoke of the need to upgrade the National Guard as a means to secure a Cyprus settlement! Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos said that in recent years there had been an increase in defence spending, which he hoped to continue. Disy’s Giorgos Karoullas proudly noted that defence spending was on a continuous upward path, while Elam’s Christos Christou said the defence budget must increase because the country needed this.
Nobody ever says how much more should be spent for the National Guard’s upgrading to be satisfactory. As long as the budget is bigger than the previous year, the politicians are happy and convinced that the country is more secure. But is it? And can it ever compete militarily with Turkey, the annual defence spending of which is about the same as Cyprus’ GDP? It would make no difference to the glaring imbalance of power even if the government increased its defence budget by 100 per cent. It would still only be about five per cent of that spent by Turkey, which has the second largest army in Nato.
So will our increased defence budget for 2022 be an effective way of dealing with Turkey’s continuing intransigence and increased aggression, as the minister claimed? Or will the upgrade bring us closer to a settlement as some deputies suggested? Do the politicians have such a low regard for people’s intelligence they believe they can get away with uttering such platitudes? It appears that when it comes to defence, honesty is not permitted.