Muscle flexing in the Balkans

NEWS 12.11.2018 20:57
Source: N1

Muscle-flexing and the piling up of weapons is not decreasing in the Balkans, with Serbia and Croatia increasingly strengthening their military capacities while Bosnia is watching and occasionally sending mixed messages.

The arms race and the tensions close to Bosnia’s borders will continue, but according to experts, their goal is sending a message to Kosovo, not to Bosnia.

Last weekend Serbia conducted a military exercise at the Zvornik Lake, near the border to Bosnia, showing a part of its military assets bought from Russia. According to Serbia’s President, the exercise should be seen as a message of peace.

“We are doing this to preserve our freedom, the independence of our country and to have peace,” Aleksandar Vucic said.

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“Those weapons are not there for us to use but they (soldiers) have to be ready to use them,” he said, adding that Serbia is upgrading its arsenal to act preventively.

But some experts interpret the military exercises differently.

“That exercise is in some way not conducted because of Bosnia and Herzegovina or any Bosnia-related reasons but rather because of Kosovo and its decision to establish its own army,” said Neven Kazazovic, a military and political analyst. “Serbia is flexing its muscles, but they are not very impressive,” he added.

Former Serbian Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told N1 that the reality is very different from the rhetoric. Serbia and Kosovo may not agree over many issues for years, but they should try to talk about issues they can agree over, he said.

“I think that talking about a possible conflict is irresponsible and that such a conflict cannot occur,” he added.

NATO does not seem to be bothered by the muscle-flexing in the Balkans.

“Montenegro joined us, FYR Macedonia is heading toward membership, and we are pleased about that,” James Appathurai, the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs told N1, “Bosnia and Herzegovina has the Membership Action Plan and is interested in joining the Alliance.”

He said NATO was not pushing any country to join, but that it keeps a door open for every state that wants to become a member of the Alliance.