Following the display of a Chinese anti-aircraft missile system in Serbia on Saturday, Western nations and some of Serbia’s neighbors voiced alarm about a military buildup in the region.
Twelve Chinese Air Force Y-20 cargo planes carried the HQ-22 surface-to-air missile system to Europe last month, in the largest airlift of Chinese arms to Europe.
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Serbia has acquired a military arsenal of Russian and Chinese weapons, including T-72 battle tanks, MiG-29 fighter planes, Mi-35 attack helicopters, and even drones, while professing a desire to join the EU.
FK-3 is the export designation for HQ-22 missile systems. In 2020, the United States issued a warning regarding these weapons. Others argue that for Serbia to join the EU or other Western alliances, its military must meet Western standards.
Because of its short range, the Chinese missile system has been compared to the American Patriot anti-aircraft system. With the deployment of Chinese missiles in Serbia, Serbia has become the first user of Chinese missiles in Europe.
According to Belgrade President Aleksandar Vucic, the freshly bought Chinese missiles and other military equipment pose no threat to anybody and instead serve as a “strong deterrent” against future invasions.
NATO launched a 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia in response to Vucic’s declaration that “we would no longer accept to be a punching bag.”
In 2008, Serbia disregarded Kosovo’s proclamation of independence as a sovereign state. On Saturday, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik trained in Croatia and Montenegro despite escalating tensions with NATO partners.
According to Vucic, the procurement of adaptable French Rafale aircraft and British Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft is also on the table. According to one observer, the paucity of Western aircraft can only be explained by “political constraints.”
Russia may use its Serbian ally as a pretext for conflict with its neighbors in order to divert attention away from the Ukraine crisis.
According to UN sanctions, Serbia has neither supported international sanctions on Russia’s allies nor openly condemned the atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.