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News 28 Jul 17

Macedonia Hosts Joint Military Exercise With US Troops

Some 300 US and 95 Macedonian soldiers are taking part in a joint military exercise codenamed 'Dragoon Guardian 17' that is taking place at Macedonia's Krivolak army base.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

US and Macedonian troops have started a joint 14-day military excercise in Macedonia aimed at strengthen the operational readiness of Macedonian Army engineers as well as of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence units.

The joint exercise held at the country's Krivolak base will also strengthen the interoperability between the two armies.

During the exercise, the troops will jointly build a drone take off and landing strip at Krivolak, practice de-mining, exchange experiences about their personal arms  as well as enjoy some leisure and sporting activities together.
The arrival of the US troops and their 120 vehicles on the country's western border with Bulgaria has sparked some interest among locals as well.
A community event will take place later on Friday in the northern town of Kumanovo, the US troops' first stop on their way to the Krivolak base.

Over the coming days, Macedonians will be able to see some of the US equipment up close at displays staged in the capital, Skopje, and in other towns.

Macedonia has long aspired to join the NATO alliance and its troops have for over a decade served alongside US soldiers in peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other places.

At NATO's 2008 summit, Macedonia appeared on the point of joining the alliance but found its path blocked by neighboring Greece, which deployed a long-standing bilateral dispute over Macedonia's name to make sure that no invitation was offered.

The joint exercise comes at a time when Macedonia's new Social Democrat-led government is renewing the drive to join both NATO and, eventually, the EU as well. It is also engaged in trying to find a solution to the name dispute with Greece.

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