Reports of an ‘arms race’ heating up between Croatia and Serbia are more ill-informed speculation than reality, defence experts say.
Recent media reports claim that Serbia is entering an arms race with Croatia, a member of NATO, by buying weapons from Russia, thus fuelling tensions between two countries.
The Russian online newspaper Vzglyad reported on Thursday that the main purpose for the visit of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to Russia was to purchase arms worth 4.5 billion euro, turning Serbia into “a Russian military bastion in the middle of the Balkans”.
After talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, the Serbian Prime Minister confirmed the announced purchase of Russian arms but said they would not be used offensively.
“Serbia will never attack anyone. I do not know what Croatia’s plans are; I don’t know what it needs ballistic missiles and launching ramps for,” Vucic said.
“What interests us is whether we can protect our territory, citizens and people, and Serbia will be in a position to do that,” Vucic added.
Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic on Wednesday reacted to news about Serbia buying Russian arms by declaring that, as a member of NATO, Croatia need not fear anyone.
“We are a safe country... we work with our allies and no one can attack us. I would note that when Croatia didn’t even have decent rifles, it still managed to defend [itself] and will defend itself in future,” Ostojic said.
He was referring to Croatia’s war of independence from Yugoslavia in the early to mid-1990s, when the poorly armed Croats took on the might of the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, and Serb paramilitaries.
Vucic’s mention of tactical missiles is based upon reports that Croatia is buying a multiple-launch rocket system, MLRS, from the US, which can carry out attacks up to a radius of 300 kilometres.