Russia and Serbia together ran an hour-long military drill today in the village of Nikinci, west of Belgrade.
Billed as an anti-terrorist exercise and held just 30 miles from Serbia’s border with NATO-member Croatia, the activity presents yet another show of force on Russia’s behalf.
The country’s campaign of provocation has been ongoing throughout the year, but other recent instances of saber-rattling include Putin’s escort of warships off the coast of Australia ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane, as well as a convoy of Russian tanks, cannons, and trucks in eastern Ukraine — ground zero for the Russian actions that have isolated it on the international stage since it annexed Crimea in March.
In captions for these photos, Reuters reported that the drill “illustrated the balancing-act Belgrade faces; safeguarding relations with its big-power ally while pursuing closer integration with Europe at a time of deep West-Russia tension.”
Serbia could find itself occupying middle ground in what former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned might be a new cold war. As the first Cold War coalesced just after World War II, the Yugoslavic state to which Serbia then belonged was even then a maverick — communist, but wary of developing close ties with either the West or the Soviet Union.
But just last month, Putin attended a military parade in Serbia, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi Germany.
At the same time, Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union, which its neighbour Croatia joined last year.
Serbian troops fire on targets. About 200 troops were involved in the drill, which included a live-ammunition exercise on a hypothetical terrorist base.
Serbian paratroopers crowd the sky, though Russian soldiers also parachuted into open fields. Serbia has spoken out against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, but hasn’t joined any international efforts to impose sanctions on Russia.
A Russian IL-76 transport aircraft drops an armoured troop carrier. “There are no secrets about this exercise,” Serbian defence minister Bratislav Gasic said.
Russian soldiers ride on an all-terrain vehicle.
A Serbian Mi-8 helicopter gunship fires unguided rockets on targets.
Perhaps unexpectedly, a Russian paratrooper lands on a structure rather than the ground.
Russian troops regroup after the exercise. US troops with the Ohio National Guard are scheduled to run their own military exercise in southern Serbia this year.
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