Defense minister: Kosovo is biggest security challenge

BELGRADE -- Serbia's Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić has said Serbia is committed to peace, but also exposed to numerous security threats and challenges.

Aleksandar Vučić (Beta, file)
Aleksandar Vučić (Beta, file)

He stressed that the greatest security threats came from Kosovo, where there was always fear of the Albanians attacking the Serb population.

"Kosovo and everything happening there is our greatest security challenge. There is always fear and danger the Albanians could attack the Serbs. We hope international factors will prevent that, but also sense among Albanians," he told Odbrana magazine.

He said that during his recent visit to the U.S., he had asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to keep U.S. troops in Kosovo because they could then always protect the Serb population.

"We have confirmation from the U.S. that they will grant our request, before the decision by the NATO Council in February, which is very important to our country," Vučić noted.

He pointed out to the excellent cooperation with all the countries that have troops in Kosovo, stressing mutual understanding and awareness of the complicated nature of the situation, which was why it was important that KFOR guaranteed peace and safety for the Serb population.

The cooperation between the Serbian Army (VS) and Defense Ministry with other armies and ministries should create friendships, and Serbia's participation in numerous multinational operations indicated it belonged to the responsible part of the world.

“Serbia uses Partnership for Peace to establish the best possible cooperation with many western countries, and it has formed a serious cooperation with the Russian military for the first time in 12 years,” Vučić noted.

“There are no great limits within the joint security and defense policy of the EU,” he said, adding that it was separate from joining NATO and stressing that Serbia would work with everyone who put peace in Europe and a policy of peace and security as their chief goal.

As for cooperation in the Balkans and Southeast Europe, the defense minister underscored that Serbia had to and wanted to cooperate but that it should be on a completely real and rational basis.

Commenting on potential for new contracts for the defense industry and strengths of Serbia's military, Vučić said Serbia's products were in line with Russian and NATO standards.

"Thanks to the friendships we have made in Asia and Africa as well, we have good access to important markets and can take advantage of that," he explained.