Image by Krasimir Grozev
President Putin’s Russia has been very concerned about developments in the Balkan states which have seen one former communist regime after the other join the European Union and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. The Kremlin has had particular success keeping its long-term ally Serbia from moving towards the West. This week further arms sales to Belgrade from Moscow were announced.
“Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told Serbia’s state TV on Thursday that the “high level of military cooperation” between the two countries was agreed between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during his visit to Moscow this week. Vulin said Serbia wants to buy six MI-17 helicopters as well as form an overhaul base for the Russian choppers, which in effect would give Russian military personnel a presence in the region. He said that close military and other ties with Russia have “significantly changed and strengthened” Serbia’s position internationally,” reported The Washington Post.
“In accordance with our needs and financial possibilities, talks have been started with the Russian side on purchasing up to six Mi-17 multipurpose helicopters. This would allow us to renew our aircraft fleet,” Vulin said.
“Importantly, we will continue working on establishing a helicopter center to repair rotorcraft locally. The Moma Stanojlovic military aircraft enterprise in Batajnica is already repairing two helicopters for Macedonia,” he added, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
MiG-29s have already been delivered and there is discussion regarding anti-aircraft missile systems, tanks, and armored vehicles.