Serbia may become one of the largest buyers of Russian arms. This can become possible after Vladimir Putin's recent visit to the country. Belgrade may receive a ten-billion-dollar loan soon. Three billion dollars of the amount will be spent to modernize outdated Soviet arms and purchase state-of-the-art Russian arms.
What exactly do the Serbs want to buy from Russia? No official statement on the matter has been made during Putin's visit. However, both Russian and Serbian experts discuss the subject very actively.
The Blic, a Serbian newspaper, wrote that the security of the country was in danger because of the deplorable situation in the Air Force of the country. Prior to the war of 1999, up to 80 percent of the Serbian Air Force consisted of outdated aircraft, such as MiG-21 fighters. Most of MiG-29 planes were either downed or could not be used because of the shortage of spare parts.
In the beginning of 2010, the Serbian Defense Ministry supposedly sent inquiries to world's leading manufacturers of fourth-generation fighter jets. Pursuant to that information, the Serbs were going to conduct a tender to replace outdated aircraft.
They were presumably interested in American F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, Swedish Gripens, French Rafales and Eurofighters, as well as Russian MiG-29M and Su-30. Apparently, the Russian fighters are the priority from the point of view of price-quality ratio.
The Serbian missile defense system was practically destroyed during the war in 1999. Moreover, the results of the war showed that it was impossible to repulse the aggression of such an enemy as NATO with the use of missile complexes developed during the 1960s and the 1970s. Serbia may purchase two divisions of Russia's renowned S-300 systems or an export variant of S-400.
Practically all radar stations in the country were also destroyed during the war. The country was deprived of the opportunity to control its own air space. This gives every reason to believe that Belgrade may purchase Russian radar stations as well.
However, thee billion dollars is not enough to modernize the air force, to rebuild the missile defense system and reequip radar troops. Two divisions of S-300 systems will not improve the situation. What can these two divisions do if the alliance can use hundreds of its fighter jets?
Will NATO let Serbia rearm the army at all? The administration of the alliance previously announced the intention to cut the Serbian armed forces to 21,000 men.
Viktor Litovkin, an observer with Independent Military Survey newspaper said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that NATO would not impede Serbia's initiative to rearm its armed forces with the use of Russian arms. Belgrade wants to join the alliance, but the possession of Russian hardware did not become an obstacle for other countries of Europe in obtaining NATO membership. Take a look at Greece, for example. This country is a member of NATO, but it still buys S-300 systems from Russia," the experts said.
Elena Guskova, an expert for Balkans, does not share the same point of view.
"It is quite doubtful that the EU and the USA would welcome such a deal. They do not conceal their plans to separate Serbia from Russia as much as possible. Many Serbs believe that their problems have not been solved. Many conflict areas remained in Serbia after the collapse of Yugoslavia. There's every reason to believe that NATO will not be able to defend Serbia in case a serious conflict occurs in the north or in the south of the country. It happened so in Macedonia in 2001. The alliance simply took the side of the Albanians as it happened two years earlier with Kosovo," the expert said.