A new arms race between Croatia and Serbia? Some comments from senior Serbian officials.
Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić spoke today about relations between Croatia and Serbia, which have recently been marked by the issue of ballistic missiles and weapons (as previously reported on TCN), reports Vecernji List on January 4, 2016.
Asked why this is now one of the issues in the relations between the two countries and why Serbia does not correspond in the same way to some other countries in its neighbourhood, such as Hungary, which have much more sophisticated weaponry, Dačić said: “Because it is assumed that Croatian weapons can be used only against Serbia. I do not think Croatia would ever attack Austria, Italy, or Bosnia, perhaps possibly Republika Srpska. So it is quite logical. I do not know why Croatia would ever need these weapons, and I do not even know why we would need them. I think that we have all entered an era of disarmament and reductions in armed forces. After all, it is an obligation under the Dayton Agreement and various other agreements which have been signed. I do not like the fact that we have started talking about whether both sides must be armed because that would mean that there are certain threats. We all need to work on creating a region without weapons.”
According to the Serbian Foreign Minister, the membership of Croatia in NATO is not a threat to Serbian national interests. “We are not a country which will be paranoid. On the other hand, we are not going to interfere with decisions made by Croatian authorities. Croatia can go where it wants, belong to whatever alliance it wants. Serbia has always been neutral. We are talking here about the policy of neutrality, we are not Switzerland which has declared its neutrality, but we maintain a policy of military neutrality. We do not want to be a part of NATO or any Eastern military partnership. We have had bad experiences with military blocs”, Dačić said.
Croatian Defence Ministry has recently asked the Pentagon to donate 16 mobile multiple rocket launchers M270 MLRS from US military surplus, through the program of assistance for allied countries. Launchers are armed with 240 mm calibre rockets, and the Croatian Defence Ministry reportedly plans to purchase several ballistic missiles with a range of 300 kilometres. Responding to the news, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said that “some countries in the region have begun ordering ballistic missiles. I do not know why anyone in our region would have such missiles. Either they will have to change their mind, or we will have to find an answer to that.”