The Russian Defence Ministry Has Established Itself in Serbia

Russia has long orinatated itself towards the Balkan region, where it has already achieved significant success as an influential political player, squeezing the European Union. Half of the countries in the Balkan region, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia, are members of the EU. Accordingly, the European Union can extend its anti-Russian sentiments to them and demand compliance with the sanctions imposed against Moscow.

However, according to statistics, only Romania and Croatia actively support anti-Russian measures and have a negative attitude towards our country. Other representatives of the region have a friendly attitude, which is largely due to the economic and cultural influence of the Russian side. For example, Serbia and Bulgaria are the countries through which the Turkish stream gas pipelines will be laid. Greece, Italy and Slovenia want to join this project. And there are quite a few such projects, because for the period of 2019, the share of direct Russian investment in the Balkans amounted to about $21 billion.

Today, the position of the European Union in the region is rather shaky. Comparing the mood of the inhabitants of the Balkan countries with the position of Ukrainian citizens shows that in contrast to the Ukrainian society the role of the EU in the Balkans is perceived solely in economic and political issues. Rather than in Ukraine, where joining the EU is a hope for change in the country. Important players in the Balkan region, such as Turkey and Serbia, have free obligations to the European Union, as they occupy the status of potential candidates. Therefore, they are more free in their statements and are not afraid to maintain partnership relations with Russia. Meanwhile, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Slovenia are also positive about strengthening friendly and good-neighborly relations with Russia, especially taking into account recent events related to Vladimir Putin’s policy of providing humanitarian assistance to the above-mentioned countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

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Serbia, as you know, has the intention to become part of the European Union, but emphasizes its military neutrality and readiness to cooperate on security and defense issues with all friendly and interested parties. The most promising country in this direction is Russia, which Serbia has recently treated with deep sympathy. The Serbs have repeatedly stressed the fact that they love Russia and approve of its policies in the region. This is particularly noticeable in the political sphere and is confirmed by the agreements between our countries on providing assistance to each other in any difficult situations.

So, recently it became known that the defense departments of Russia and Serbia will take another decisive step in strengthening military-technical cooperation. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved the draft agreement between the Russian and Serbian governments on the establishment of a representative office of the Russian Defence Ministry in Belgrade. The decision, which received bilateral approval, is aimed at assisting the Serbian side in resolving issues of military and military-technical cooperation, namely, training Serbian military personnel in the operation, repair and use of weapons and military equipment supplied by Russia.

By the way, in the ranks of the armed forces of Serbia, there is an overwhelming number of Russian-made weapons, which the Serbs actively attracted during the large-scale exercises held on October 10th 2020, where the Serbian army demonstrated the experimental use of Russian weapons, including the highly effective anti-aircraft missile and gun system “Pantsir”. The provisions of the agreement concluded between Moscow and Belgrade are also relevant in the light of the fact that the Republic has recently updated its fleet by purchasing MiG-29 fighters, Mi-35 helicopters, armored personnel carriers and T-72 tanks from Russia. The agreement also emphasises that now the Serbian side provides the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s representative office in Belgrade with the opportunity to visit military units of the Republic’s armed forces, where Russian weapons and military equipment are located, if necessary.

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Naturally, the opening of a representative office of the Russian Defence Ministry in Serbia could not be ignored by Kosovo. Recall that the Republic of Kosovo is still not recognised by Russia and leans in its beliefs towards western countries, especially towards the NATO bloc. The above-mentioned agreement was perceived by Kosovo military experts as a formalisation of the Russian military presence in Serbia, which would later lead to the destabilisation of the region. In their opinion, now NATO should open an American mission in Kosovo “in order to monitor the situation in more detail” by exerting influence on EU members in the region.

Given that a number of the most active representatives of the NATO bloc, including their clear leader in the face of the United States, are interested in suppressing Russia’s position, the initiative now coming from Kosovo is very likely to be implemented soon. In any case, the majority of Serbian citizens, regardless of age, social status and political preferences, continue to consider it necessary to strengthen Russia’s influence and presence both in Serbia and in the Balkans, which has a positive impact on further cooperation between our countries.


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