Serbia on Saturday displayed its new Chinese-made surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment acquired from Russia and the West, as the country seeks to strike a delicate balancing act over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The public and the press were invited to the exhibition at the Batajnica military airfield near Belgrade, where Chinese and French missiles were lined up alongside European Airbus helicopters, Chinese armed drones and Russian MIG-29 jets.
Serbia strives to balance its partnership with NATO and aspirations to join the European Union with its secular-religious, ethnic, and political alliance with Russia.
The Chinese FK-3 surface-to-air defense system, similar to Russia’s S-300 or the US Patriot system, was purchased by Belgrade in 2019 and delivered earlier this month.
Serbia is the only European country to operate the Chinese missile system and CH-92A combat drones.
President Aleksandar Vucic visited Saturday’s exhibition flanked by military commanders and watched an aerobatics show with MIG-29 jets donated by Russia in 2017.
“I am proud of the Serbian army, I am proud of great progress,” Vucic told reporters. “We are going to significantly strengthen our combat air force… Serbia is a neutral country and Serbia must find solutions that allow it to preserve its space and its state.”
The delivery of the FK-3 missile system prompted several Western countries, including Germany, to warn Belgrade that they hoped it would align its foreign policy with the EU if it wanted to become a member.
Belgrade voted against Russia three times at the United Nations, but failed to impose sanctions.
Serbia’s military is loosely based on ex-Soviet technology and Russia is one of its main suppliers.
The country is also dependent on natural gas and oil supplies from Russia.
Vucic said Serbia expected to buy 12 Rafale multipurpose fighter jets from France by the end of the year or early next year, a move seen by political analysts as a sign that Belgrade is moving away from Russia.
He said Serbia was also in talks to buy 12 Typhoon fighter jets from Britain.
Source: With Agencies