Analysis 30 May 16

Serbian Army Inches Closer to NATO

Serbian neutrality rests on a delicate balance between East and West but an escalation in military cooperation with NATO runs counter to public opinion and risks upsetting Russia.

Sasa Dragojlo, Dusica Tomovic
The Serbian army has participated in a series of joint military exercises. Photo: Serbian Ministry of Defense.

While Serbian leaders, including Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, issue reassurances that the country will not join NATO, a recent series of military agreements and exercises with the Western military alliance challenges assertions by Serbian leadership that the country remains “militarily neutral”.

Many see Serbia’s increasing logistical cooperation and strategic ties with NATO as an overt shift away from traditional ally Russia that defies public opinion, as well as a move that violates Serbia’s constitutionally mandated neutrality.

To further complicate Serbia’s neutrality juggling act, parallel with the recent drills with US and NATO allies, Belgrade on May 18 signed an agreement with Russia setting out an agenda for military cooperation between the two partners through 2016.

But that equilibrium may not last. Some analysts argue that as NATO expands and relations between Russia and the western military bloc worsen, Serbia will have to choose between NATO, which bombed the country less than 20 years ago, or preserving its long-standing alliance with Russia.

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