Russia Offers Serbia Stronger Military Ties as Counter to NATO

Serbia should step up cooperation with the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to meet its goal of military neutrality after strengthening ties with NATO, Russia’s ambassador to Belgrade told lawmakers.

Cooperation with Russia could “intensify” when a Serbian parliamentary delegation visits St. Petersburg for talks that will touch on the Russian-led alliance, said Milovan Drecun, a lawmaker of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is “being very active in Serbia,” Alexander Chepurin told a security forum in parliament in Belgrade. “It would suit Serbia’s interest to maintain good relations with the ODKB as well,” he said, referring to the Russian-language acronym for the group of six former Soviet republics.

Russia is trying to counter what it sees as an expansionary push by NATO that included the acceptance of ex-communist countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence in the past two decades. The alliance is strengthening its presence among its members on Russia’s border as European Union members and the U.S. say they have evidence that leaders in Moscow are stoking a war in Ukraine. Russia denies involvement.

Serbia is seeking to join the European Union but not NATO, which bombed the country in 1999 during the war over the breakaway province Kosovo. It’s been in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since in 2006 and agreed on a so-called Individual Partnership Action Plan with the alliance in January. Its Constitution forbids formal membership in any military alliance.

Chepurin called for more Serb-Russian military exercises, after the Belgrade-based Defense Ministry said last month it’s planning 22 drills with NATO and two with Russian troops this year. He also welcomed Serbia’s decision to send soldiers to a May 9 Victory Day military parade in Moscow.

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