NATO, EU path, Russian arms - and why Putin matters to Serbs

Serbia has embarked on the European path, but has no intention of joining NATO, Aleksandar Vucic has said.

Source: Tanjug, TASS
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(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

Speaking for TASS ahead of his trip to Moscow, the Serbian president revealed that his country plans to buy at least six Russian helicopters and air defense missile systems.

"Serbia is on the European path, but the difference between Serbia and other countries in the region is that Serbia does not want to join NATO. Ten days ago, I was in Brussels, at NATO's headquarters, and told the 29 leaders of the NATO member-countries that Serbia has no intention of joining NATO. Serbia will maintain its military neutrality. That has been Serbia’s policy, and it will continue to be so," Vucic said.

"We have received six Russian MiG-29 warplanes, which are now undergoing modernization," he continued, and added:

"We expect they will be in full operational readiness within months. We have other applications: we want to buy weapons, we want to buy at least six military transport helicopters and air defense systems."

"Serbia is an independent country, a military neutral country, so we must be strong militarily to be able to defend our land. I hope to discuss this and many other topics with Vladimir Putin," Vucic said.

TASS noted in its report that the Serbian president will be in Moscow on December 18-20, where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin, with their talks expected to focus on a wide range of bilateral and global issues.

Sanctions, and Putin

"I would like to address the Russian people and say one thing that politicians already know but it is important that ordinary people know it too: it is not always easy for Serbia but remember that Serbia is the only country among those seeking EU membership that has never voted against Russia at any international meetings and has never imposed any sanctions," Vucic told TASS ahead of his trip to Russia.

"I have many times told this not only to the Russian media outlets but all the others as well: Serbia will not impose sanctions on Russia, no pressure can make us change our position," he said, and remarked:

"Sometimes when you take part in some meetings in the West, ties between Russia and Serbia are discussed for one hour and forty-five minutes out of two hours."

Relations with Russia are Serbia's priority for the future, the Serbian president said.

"Serbia has made a decision which is not an easy one, but it is not just a question of our traditional relations, as some claim it to be. It is a matter of our future relationship, as we see Russia as one of our key partners in the future and not only in the past with its great figures such as Dostoevsky, Yesenin and Pushkin, whom any American would mention to you, but we see Russia as our partner in the political, economic and any other field," Vucic said.

He thinks that relations of Serbia and Russia are developing exceptionally thanks to Vladimir Putin, the agency said.

"Development of Serbian-Russian relations is always credited more to President Putin than to us. People here (in Serbia) respect and love Russia, but we are a small country and only thanks to President Putin’s leadership, attention is paid to Serbia," Vucic said.

"If we recall Vladimir Putin’s predecessors, Serbia hardly existed for them. Not only for the Russian people is Putin important, during his mandate he has been taking care of and showing attention to the Serbian people as well, and we are grateful to him for everything," he told TASS, and added:

"For us in Serbia, a meeting with president of the Russian Federation is always a particular event, a milestone. I hope to discuss global issues at our meeting and to thank once again the Russian Federation for its support to the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia. Those are not idle words but true gratitude."

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