BELGRADE – Each country decides from whom it will supply its own defence, states NATO in the written answer for the Voice of America (VOA) regarding the donation of Russian tanks to Serbia.
“We appreciate our partnership with Serbia and fully respect its declared military neutrality. We also respect the sovereign decision of our partners when it comes to the security arrangements they make”, reads the written response.
An unnamed NATO official responded that NATO and Serbia are close partners and that NATO is helping Serbia to reform and train its security forces and institutions.
“Serbia and NATO worked together to train Iraqi military doctors and support the Iraqi armed forces. NATO and Serbia are also cooperating in preparation for natural disasters such as forest fires and floods”, the response reads.
NATO officials have emphasized in the past that Serbia, as a sovereign country, has the right to choose with whom to cooperate in the field of defense.
Thus, in September this year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that NATO does not mind that Serbia equips its army mainly from Russia and China.
“No, we don’t mind. Serbia is a sovereign country and we fully respect the security arrangements that it chooses”, said Stoltenberg.
In a recent interview with the European Western Balkans, Ambassador Baiba Braže, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, stressed that Serbia and NATO remain reliable partners.
“Serbia is a valued, respected and important partner. Our cooperation is reliable. It is mutually beneficial and articulated in a number of domains, and there are regular contacts at the highest level”, stated Braže in the interview.
On Saturday, November 28, in Niš barracks “Milja Stanimirović”, tanks donated by Russia to Serbia were shown as part of a military exercise. The event was attended by the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation Aleksandar Bocan-Kharchenko, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and the Minister of Defense Nebojša Stefanović, as well as the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces General Milan Mojsilović.
“Today you could see 11 new T-72MS tanks and our tankers are satisfied, they have stronger ballistic protection, better control, navigation and everything is incomparably easier,” said Vučić, according to the official website of the President of Serbia, and reminded that Serbia also received 10 BRDM2 armoured vehicles.
T-72MS tanks are a modern version of the T-72 tank and have active armour and weapons based on a 122 mm calibre cannon. The tanks also have the ability to launch rockets from a 125 mm cannon barrel, and in addition to that, the tank has a 7.62 mm coupled machine gun located next to the cannon barrel and follows the rotation of the turret, as well as a 127 mm machine gun that rotates independently on the turret.
The media report that Russia donated a total of 30 T-72MS tanks to Serbia on the basis of a military-technical agreement between Russia and Serbia, and the value of the donation is around 30 million euros. This is the first time that Serbia has a tank with active-reactive armour, and in addition, within the agreement, Serbia received 30 BRDM-2 armoured vehicles from Russia.