- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
Serbia’s new defence minister, Aleksandar Vucic, has headed to Russia for his first official visit, confirming the new government's desire to firm up ties to the Kremlin.
Aleksandar Vucic, Defence Minister and head of Serbia’s National Security Council, will meet on Wednesday with Russia’s Vice President in charge of defence, Dmirty Rogozin.
The stated aim of the Russian visit is to boost cooperation between the two countries, their armies and defence industries.
So far Serbia's defence cooperation with Russia was minimal, Predrag Popovic, a Serbian military expert from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, noted.
Popovic told Balkan Insight that Serbia's military cooperation had previously been closest with the US, while its military reforms had been conducted with an eye to meeting NATO standards.
In his first public address in July, Vucic said he would continue Serbia's policy of military neutrality. There were no plans to join NATO and cooperation with Russia would improve.
Serbia became a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, PfP, program in December 2006, signing a co-operation agreement with NATO concerning a raft of democratic, institutional and defence reforms.
Vladan Zivulovic, president of the Atlantic Council of Serbia, told the daily newspaper Danas that the visit aimed to improve political cooperation and discuss Russia's further use of the military base in the city of Nis.
Vucic's appointment as a Minister of Defence and head of National Security Council, which controls all security services in the country, has been widely criticized, as concentrating too many powers in one hand.
Popovic said his appointment placed all the security services in the hands of one political party, the Progressive Party, of which Vucic is acting head.
Popovic also questioned Vucic’s qualifications to coordinate successfully all the various services in question.
Parliament's Council for Security Policy is also under the control of the Progressives, as its head, Jadranka Joksimovic, is also a member of the Progressive Party.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.