Published in Nacional number 759, 2010-06-01

Autor: Nacionalova redakcija


USA expects Croatia to bring Serbia into NATO by 2014

NACIONAL REVEALS the background to the military agreement the US has been preparing in secret for the past year — soon to be signed by Serbia and Croatia

SECURITY POLICY US Vice President Biden and President Obama want stability in the Balkans, the key to which are relations between Croatia and Serbia, and see Croatia as the regional leaderSECURITY POLICY US Vice President Biden and President Obama want stability in the Balkans, the key to which are relations between Croatia and Serbia, and see Croatia as the regional leader"A military agreement between Croatia and Serbia rounds off the diplomatic initiative of US Vice President Joe Biden to stabilise the Balkans, as the US administration holds the relations between Croatia and Serbia to be key to stability in the region. The agreement is also very important to both the US and NATO, as it is expected that, by their forecasts, Croatia could help Serbia, through a series of joint activities and programs, join the NATO Membership Action Plan as early as in 2012, and make full NATO membership in 2014.

THIS IS IN THE INTEREST OF BOTH NATO and the US as it would complete a NATO-led security project for the Balkans," Nacional was told by a foreign diplomatic source in Zagreb, who points out that the US has been working on this agreement for a year now. In August of 2009 the US initiated a secret meeting between Lieutenant General Miloje Miletic, the Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, and the Croatian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, at the elite, illegally constructed, apartment complex used by top Croatian military officials at the Kovcanje site on the island of Mali Losinj. Besides the US, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is another champion of the idea that Serbia enter NATO with the help of Croatia. "I call upon not only Serbian political leaders, but also the people of Serbia to look to the future, and to carefully assess the situation to arrive at the conclusion that Serbia's future is in integration into the Euro-Atlantic community - NATO and the EU," Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently said in Sofia. He said he would do his outmost in achieving the goal of joining Serbia to NATO, taking a step-by-step approach as requested by Serbia. It should not be forgotten that Rasmussen was in Zagreb less than a month ago, and one of the topics of discussion with the Croatian leadership was defence cooperation in the region, i.e. positioning Croatia as the leader in the field. And it is this agreement between Croatia and Serbia in fact that is one of the steps on the Serbian route to NATO. It is quite clear that the integration of Serbia into the European political sphere will not happen before Serbia becomes a member of NATO, and so for Serbia the Croatian experience is more important that any other experience. And while the military agreement was ready for signing last year, policymakers waited until the moment when the mutual dialogue between leading Croatian and Serbian politicians strengthened. That happened after several meetings between Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and his Serbian colleague Boris Tadic, and their clear messages when it came to the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina," the diplomatic source has confirmed for Nacional.

DRAGAN SUTANOVAC (left), the Serbian Defence Minister, signed an agreement on information exchange with NATO in October of 2008DRAGAN SUTANOVAC (left), the Serbian Defence Minister, signed an agreement on information exchange with NATO in October of 2008ACCORDING TO THE DRAFT TEXT the agreement will cover cooperation in the areas of security policy and defence planning, military research cooperation, military education, military medicine, cooperation between military police, peace support missions, nuclear, biological and chemical protection, cooperation in military technology and other aspects. The Serbian side expects to improve its military personnel for peacekeeping operations, in which it lags behind other countries in the region, through the possibility of joint exercises, training, education, an exchange of experiences and information, and Croatia is the regional leader in this regard. Members of the Serbian Army will join two more peace missions this year - to Lebanon and Cyprus. Croatian Armed Forces personnel are already stationed at these peace missions, so that all possible assistance will be provided to the Serbians. On the other hand, Croatia will in its contacts with the Serbians open the possibility of cooperation in the area of military industry and joint appearances on the markets very well covered by Serbia, such as Iraq, the Middle East, Algeria and Africa. This would cover a transfer of technology, skills and joint investments and appearances on third markets, creating new jobs. Through the agreement Serbia will offer Croatia the education of Croatian officers at the Centre for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence in Krusevac, the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade and the Institute of Military Technology. And while it is only now that models of cooperation have opened in the area of defence, it is a little known fact that meetings between Croatian and Serbian military personnel have already been frequent. Zagreb is home to RACVIAC, the regional arms control centre, where Serbian officers have been for some time cooperating with their Croatian colleagues. Special teams from the verification centres of the Croatian and Serbian armed forces have for almost ten years now visited the units and military bases of the opposite side to verify if existing weaponry, equipment, personnel numbers and deployment, jibe with what has been registered at locations each side can make unannounced visits to. When it comes to cooperation in the military industry, it is a little known fact that the Duro Dakovic facility in Slavonski Brod used the services of a Serbian company in the manufacture of hydraulic parts for the M84 tanks produced for Croatian Guards Brigades.

"THE MILITARY INDUSTRY IS the area of cooperation that has the potential to have the greatest commercial value to both countries and I would like both sides to see it above all in this light. If the Croatian side adopts the same position, we could very quickly bring the representatives of our military industries together and allow them to find their own interests in developing this kind of cooperation," former Serbian Defence Minister Prvoslav Davinic told Nacional in an interview given six years ago during a visit to Zagreb and then Croatian Defence Minister Berislav Roncevic. It was the first serious attempt to sign a bilateral military agreement between Serbia and Croatia.

Under discussion was cooperation in the military industry and the war on terrorism, the cooperation of military intelligence services and joint efforts to accede to NATO. Croatia was already then assisting in the reform of the Serbian armed forces, as in had in the spring of 2004 sent an offer to assist in the restructuring of the Serbian armed forces. Joint military exercises and the signing of a bilateral agreement on military cooperation were the priorities of the two ministries at the time.

SECRET MEETINGS Serbian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Miloje MileticSECRET MEETINGS Serbian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Miloje MileticSpeaking on the subject Davinic told Nacional that, "Like Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro also place terrorism, international, regional and local, in the focus of their national security challenges evaluation, and it seems to me that joint exercises by our troops would be significant for coordinated action in the event of a real threat of that kind. I leave it to the Croatian side to assess when that kind of activity would be desirable from the position of Croatian public opinion. We are already ready for it. I would like for all forms of cooperation to be placed in the context of a bilateral agreement on military cooperation we are ready to conclude immediately." It was only five years later that, for the first time since the Homeland War, Croatian police commando units took part in an international anti-terrorism exercise in Serbia, and it took six years to sign a military agreement. Serbia became a full member of the Partnership For Peace programme in Riga in 2006. By a resolution adopted by the Serbian parliament in December of 2007 Serbia declared its military neutrality. Declaring military neutrality does not prevent Serbia from cooperating fully with NATO members through the Partnership For Peace programme. The Serbian army gains much in terms of training and education. Serbia has bilateral military cooperation with over 50 countries. Over the past two years Serbia has signed 23 international treaties, last year with Great Britain, Spain and Portugal. Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac signed an agreement on information security with NATO at the organisation's headquarters in early October of 2008. It regulates the exchange of confidential information between Serbia and NATO. The agreement was signed on behalf of NATO by its then Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The agreement does not oblige the signatory parties to exchange information, but rather establishes the protection of data in cases when it is exchanged. The agreement also states that Serbia is a cooperative partner to NATO.

DMITRY ROGOZIN, the Russian permanent envoy to NATO, pointed out that in the event Serbia were to join NATO, his country would reassess its position towards Kosovo's independenceDMITRY ROGOZIN, the Russian permanent envoy to NATO, pointed out that in the event Serbia were to join NATO, his country would reassess its position towards Kosovo's independenceAND WHILE THE SERBIAN AUTHORITIES reject the possibility that the issue of joining NATO be launched by the end of the current administration's term in office, i.e. by 2012, public opinion is being analysed in Serbia and there is a great deal of discussion on the topic - neutrality or NATO? At the European Policy Centre in Brussels they feel that Serbian accession to NATO is an "achievable and desirable scenario." Serbia would thereby clearly demonstrate its orientation to truly integrate with Europe and with trans-Atlantic structures. But the "scenario" of Serbian accession to NATO would also have its negative consequences. As NATO accepts countries with resolved territorial status into its ranks, the issue of Kosovo would have to be resolved. Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian permanent envoy to NATO, recently noted that if Serbia were to join NATO, Russia would reassess its position regarding Kosovar independence.

(By: Mario Vučic)

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