Western agencies look at Serbia-Russia arms deal
Russia will supply Serbia with fighter jets, tanks and combat vehicles, AP has reported, cited by Tanjug.Source: Tanjug
According to the agency, which noted that "most of Serbia's neighbors are NATO members," this is a move that "potentially strengthens Moscow's influence in the Balkans."
Both AP and Reuters said that Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said his country would remain militarily neutral, despite the deal he secured in Moscow on Wednesday.
Vucic also stated that "the Russian 'donation' will 'dramatically' boost his country's defense capability," AP said in an article published under the headline, "Russia arms Serbia amid tensions with NATO".
The American agency observed that "although formally seeking European Union membership" Serbia has been "sliding toward traditional Slavic ally Russia."
Reuters cited Vucic as saying that Serbia wants closer military cooperation with Russia, but also stressing Belgrade's neutrality - "in an attempt to balance a historic relationship with a push to join the European Union."
The British agency said, under the headline, "Serbia seeks stronger ties with Russia in balancing act with EU", that the country's armed forces have an almost 80 percent reliance on "Soviet technology."
Serbia now "plans to buy equipment from both Russia and the EU to bolster its air force, depleted by the Balkan wars of the 1990s."
Citing a statement issued by the Serbian government, Reuters reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during his meeting with Vucic, proposed trilateral tactical exercises with Belarus, "to be dubbed" Slavic Brotherhood - while Russia was "also ready to intensify its cooperation with Serbia in military training."