Serbia to Receive Russian Anti-Aircraft Missiles Despite U.S. Sanctions Risk
(Source: Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty; issued Nov 07, 2019)
Hoping to deflect US sanctions, Serbia will deploy Russian Pantsir S1 low-level air-defense systems but not the much larger S-400 Triumf, even though both systems were locally demonstrated last month during joint exercises with Russia. (Russian MoD photo)
Russia will deliver a sophisticated short-range air-defense missile system to Serbia despite U.S. warnings of possible sanctions against the Balkan country if the transaction goes through.
Russian state TASS news agency reported on November 6 that the Pantsir-S system will be delivered to Serbia “in the next few months in accordance with the signed contract.”
Last week, Matthew Palmer, the U.S. special envoy for the Western Balkan, said Belgrade could be subject to sanctions if Russian weapons are purchased.
"We hope that our Serbian partners will be careful about any transactions of this kind," Palmer said in an interview with Macedonian television Alsat M, as cited by AP.
Last month, Serbia held joint air military exercises with Russia in which the Russian-made long-range S-400 and Pantsir-S systems were deployed.
It was the first time that an S-400 battalion and a Pantsir-S battery had appeared in military drills outside Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry stated.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on November 5 said that Serbia is purchasing defensive weapons from the Russians and that he wants to avoid any U.S. sanctions "or confrontation with America,” AP reported.
Serbia maintains strong political and economic relations with Russia despite a proclaimed goal of joining the European Union. Belgrade has pledged to stay out of NATO and refused to impose sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia has sold Serbia fighter jets, attack helicopters, and battle tanks over the years, raising concerns in the Balkan region that has experienced bloody wars over the past three decades.
"Serbia is arming itself because it is a free country surrounded by NATO-member states with which we want to be friends," Vucic said.
Another purpose for beefing up Serbia’s military was to not allow the country to "be as weak as it was in the 1990s,” Vucic added.
NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to stop a clampdown on Kosovo Albanians. Neither Serbia nor Russia recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
Serbia Gives Up Purchase of S-400 Systems Over Threat of US Sanctions
(Source: TASS; published Nov. 07, 2019)
BELGRADE --- Serbia does not intend to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defense missile systems, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an interview with the RTS national television on Wednesday.
Vucic earlier attended the Slavic Shield-2019 Russian-Serbian drills where he personally examined S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and a battery of Pantsyr-S anti-aircraft missile/gun launchers. After examining the S-400s, the Serbian leader said that one day Serbia would be able to buy these systems but currently the country lacked 500 million euros for their purchase. At the same time, Vucic said Serbia was ready to accept S-400s from Russia as a gift.
The US was quick to respond to Vucic’s statement. US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer warned in an interview with the Macedonian television during his visit to Skopje that the purchase of S-400 systems from Russia would entail US sanctions against Belgrade.
The Serbian leader’s reaction shows that Serbia perceives the US warning seriously.
"What I have seen is an impressive weapon. We have no intention to purchase [the S-400 system] because we have no money to pay for it, considering the construction of motorways and numerous projects. You know, when you have such a weapon, no one would attack you. Neither US nor any other pilots fly where S-400s are operational: Israeli pilots do not fly either over Turkey or Syria, except for the Golan Heights. We have aviation, which the strongest than ever before. We will be strengthening the air defense with Pantsyr systems and other things, which are not on the sanctions list," he said.
The Vecernje novosti newspaper earlier reported that the Serbian authorities were considering buying S-400 surface-to-air missile systems on long-term credit. The paper also said that 14 Serbian planes simulated a notional enemy during the drills. All of them were notionally shot down within less than three minutes by an S-400 system that fired 26 missiles. The paper also said that a group of Serbian officers had alreadyundergone training in Russia to learn to operate S-400 systems.
Slavic Shield drills
The Slavic Shield-2019 Russian-Serbian drills ran for the first time and consisted of two stages. The first stage took place in September at the Russian Aerospace Force’s combat training center in the southern Astrakhan Region. It involved the teams of anti-aircraft missile and radio-technical troops of Russia’s Aerospace Force and air defense forces of Serbia’s Air Force and Missile Defense. Russia’s S-400, Pantsyr-S anti-aircraft missile systems, radars and other military hardware were involved in the drills.
During the second stage on the territory of Serbia, Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems were deployed for the first time outside Russia’s borders. The joint maneuvers also involved the teams of Pantsyr-S anti-aircraft missile/gun launchers of Russia’s Aerospace Force, and Neva-M1T and Kub-M surface-to-air missile systems of Serbia’s Air Force and Air Defense Forces.
The Slavic Shield-2019 exercise practiced the issues of inter-operability of air defense troops from both countries.
The Serbian Defense Ministry earlier announced that such air defense drills would be held on a regular basis.
S-400 and Pantsyr-S air defense systems
Russia’s S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) is the latest long-and medium-range surface-to-air missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of up to 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km under intensive enemy fire and jamming.
The Pantsyr-S1 (NATO reporting name: SA-22 Greyhound) is a ground-based self-propelled surface-to-air missile/gun system designed to shield military and civilian facilities, including long-range air defense systems, from all modern and future air attack weapons.
The Pantsyr mounted on the truck chassis for greater mobility is armed with two 30mm guns, each of which is capable of firing up to 40 rounds per second, as well as 12 anti-aircraft missiles.