Croatia says it is ready to respond.
Members of the Russian army will participate in two military exercises in Serbia this autumn. The first exercise, “Slavic Brotherhood 2016” will be held at the Nikinci military training field, just 30 kilometres from the Croatian border and the border with NATO, reports Jutarnji List on August 4, 2016.
“We are concerned about the exercise ‘Slavic brotherhood’ which will be held in September in Serbia”, said Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović at the recent NATO summit in Warsaw.
The closer military cooperation between Serbia and Russia is drawing criticism in NATO and the European Union, whose member Serbia wants to become. “Serbia is sitting on two chairs. On the one hand, it does not want to join NATO, but it wants to become an EU member. However, the level of Russian influence in Serbia is increasing and Serbia must understand that in that way it cannot become an EU member”, said a source from Croatia’s diplomatic circles. “They should be aware that with such level of Russian military influence they will never conclude EU negotiations in defence, foreign and security policy”, said the source.
Croatian Defence Minister Josip Buljević did not want to comment on the issue, but stressed that Croatia was interested in a speedy path of Serbia into the European Union. “However, Serbia will have to adapt its strategy and act in agreement with other members of the European Union”, said Buljević.
However, a source from the Croatian military leadership says that Croatia has an adequate response to the ever closer military cooperation between Serbia and Russia and the arrival of Russian troops near the Croatian border. “The adequate response are Kiowa helicopters, howitzers, Patria armoured vehicles and two guard brigades”, says the source.
The exercise “Slavic Brotherhood 2016” will also include members of the Belarusian army. Russian General Nikolai Ignyatov confirmed that elite Russian paratroopers stationed in the Caucasus will arrive in Serbia. So far, there is no official data on how many troops will participate in the exercise.
This will be the third Serbian-Russian military exercise of its kind. The first was held in Serbia two years ago, while last year it took place in Russia. At the end of September, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will visit Belgrade and it is expected that he will sign an agreement on the special status of Russian forces which are stationed at a base in Niš. A few weeks later, Serbian-Russian forces will hold the second military exercise this year.