(TheLibertyRevolution.com)- During a military drill near Belgrade last weekend, Serbia displayed the new anti-aircraft missile system it recently received from China, leading to concerns in the West that an arms buildup in the Balkins could threaten the peace in that region.
Serbia’s new HQ-22 surface-to-air missile system was delivered in March by a dozen Chinese Air Force transport planes in what is believed to be the largest air delivery of Chinese weaponry to Europe.
Despite seeking membership in the European Union, Serbia has been arming itself primarily with Russian and Chinese weapons, including T-72 battle tanks, Mi-35 attack helicopters, MiG-29 fighter jets, drones, and now, the Chinese HQ-22.
US officials urged Belgrade back in 2020 not to purchase the HQ-22 system. Washington warned that if Serbia wants to join the EU and other western alliances, its military equipment must align with Western standards.
The HQ-22 is similar to the US-made Patriot and Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, but with a shorter range.
At Saturday’s drill, President Aleksander Vucic said Serbia’s new Chinese missile system was not a threat. Instead, it represents a “powerful deterrent” against those who would attack the country.
Making a backhanded reference to NATO’s 78-day bombardment of Serbia in 1999 in retaliation to its crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists, Vucic added that Serbia would no longer be “a punching bag for anyone.”
The president said Serbia was negotiating with France to purchase the multi-purpose Dessault Rafale jets and was also in negotiations to acquire the British Eurofighter Typhoon fighters. Vucic said only “political hurdles” would prevent the purchase of Western aircraft.
While Serbia voted in favor of the United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has refused to sign on to the international sanctions against its ally Russia or publicly criticize Moscow for its alleged war crimes.
There has been some concern in the West that Russia could pressure its ally Serbia into launching an armed conflict with its Balkan neighbors to try to shift public attention away from its war in Ukraine.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and its relations with its NATO neighbors Croatia and Montenegro remain frosty. So too are its relations with Bosnia. The leader of the Bosnian separatists, Milorad Dodik was in attendance at last weekend’s military drill.