By Andreas Metaxas

While the world seems increasingly more uncertain, with multiple crises currently erupting all around us, and some more patiently waiting for the right moment, it is crucial to establish what the deterrence capabilities of Cyprus are, in this deeply divided world between the democratic west and the authoritarian east. Although this may be a slightly simplistic approach to today’s geopolitical reality, it describes the correlation between the existence of democratic values and global order when those values start waning within powerful nations.

In a recent interview, the former British prime minister and current Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron mentioned that “the lights are flashing red on the global dashboard”, painting a gloomy picture of what the future may hold, as it is an alarming admission that things may get out of control. Meanwhile, in the same interview, he insisted that the decision of the British government to authorise a series of strikes on Yemen was the right thing to do, as Iran has been warned repeatedly about the effect of the trade disruption in the Red Sea, and that the Americans, the British and others are not willing to accept it.

While these developments may seem distant and out of touch for the average Cypriot, things suddenly became real when those fighter jets took off from the British military base in Akrotiri. More importantly, it has been noted that the Qataris, who also host a British base fully capable of executing the strike and much closer to the target, have refused to be included in this process, a refusal that the British government would not be able to ignore considering the Qatari involvement in the occasional negotiations with Hamas.

Therefore, the Cypriot government issued a statement the day after the strikes claiming that it has no involvement in the British actions in Yemen, but we understand that the Cypriot leadership was informed about the role that Akrotiri would play in the attack against the Houthis. While the effect of this strategy remains unclear, whether de-escalation is underway or not, what has been proved crucial is the geopolitical importance of Cyprus in this fast-changing world. The British government can safeguard the viability of global trade by keeping forces on the island while many left-wing political actors in Cyprus still see this as a curse, rather than a blessing.

Based on our constitution, the two British bases are considered sovereign British land and thus do not fall under the authority of the Republic of Cyprus, therefore any action taken there does not and should not involve the agreement of the Cypriot leadership. That may be true and to emphasise their “non-involvement” the Cypriot government issued the statement above, but the Houthis explicitly mentioned that even the bases and the allies of the British are legitimate targets for them as a response to the air strikes.

Then it is more imminent than ever for the Cypriot government to start a discussion with their British counterparts about a potential defence agreement to tackle any external threats that may occur for the Republic as a result of the British actions on key geopolitical issues.

Although it is unrealistic to expect the British to focus solely on the security threats that the Republic may face, there is clearly a case to be made and the Cypriot government should pursue these steps before it becomes an active problem.

Ideally what the Republic of Cyprus would need is a defence agreement, in the form of an “exchange of services” between Britain and Cyprus, while the first pursues its actions in the Middle East and the second feels secure about the future; such a move could mean that Cyprus ensures stability for itself while it demonstrates interest for a future Nato membership, one that should be supported by Britain and its allies.

The biggest issue for Cyprus is the unknown factor, what the future holds in a highly unstable region, as due to the Turkish occupation any Nato bet at the moment would cause loud laughter in Ankara, as Turkey still insists on the permanent partition of the island.

Other agreements with important stakeholders in the region have been made, such as the agreement with the Israelis to fly their fighter jets over the Cypriot FIR during military exercises, but those fell short of establishing a broader defence pact that would ensure the safety of the Cypriot skies in the event of an attack.

At a time when Israel’s priority is certainly its own security and the ongoing war against Hamas, the Cypriot government does not have the luxury of waiting for developments to unfold. There should be revolutionary, unprecedented plans that can safeguard our security in an event of a wider regional war, in which Cyprus may be attacked by air and sea, exactly as is happening a few miles away from our shores.

While Cyprus remains proud of its membership in the EU, that is not the case elsewhere. The anti-EU sentiment is growing stronger all over Europe, with far-right parties winning elections. Therefore, it would be unreasonable for Cyprus to count on any tangible European defence in the event of a wider war. Due to the lack of such policy in the treaties of the EU, the possibility to assist militarily would be up to each member state individually. We can bet that nobody would choose to have a war before it knocks on their door, thus we may very well be left alone.

Striking a defence agreement may be seen as a long and painful process, therefore, why should we not start by addressing the issue with the nation that already keeps two bases on the island and admittedly those are here to stay?

Understanding our weaknesses and planning ahead is not a sign of defeat but a responsible approach for any widely respected nation (look at Sweden). Cyprus can do much more with global actors in the region and Britain should be one of them, as both governments need each other while the war is growing rapidly around us. Turning to the British for help at this point may be a fruitful negotiation tactic that can help us build a stronger relationship with a global geopolitical actor that we are bound to accommodate. If we can’t defeat them, let’s join them!

Andreas Metaxas is a journalist based in The Hague