US gives military helicopters to Croatia, Russia arms Serbs

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — The United States on Thursday delivered two Black Hawk military helicopters to Croatia, which is engaged in a mini arms race with neighboring Russian ally Serbia amid simmering tensions in the region of the post-war Balkans.

The U.S. Embassy in Croatia’s capital Zagreb said the donated UH-60M general-purpose helicopters will contribute to Croatia’s growing defense capabilities and military readiness in support of NATO.

“The Black Hawk offers capabilities in a range of possible missions, from special operations to tactical troop transport to aeromedical evacuation,” US Charge d’Affaires Mark Fleming said as the helicopters arrived on board. a US Air Force transport plane in Zagreb.

“Croatia has earned a reputation as a committed and capable NATO ally, and the introduction of Black Hawks will further enhance the capabilities of the Croatian Armed Forces,” Fleming said in the statement.

Defense Minister Mario Banozic thanked the United States for the donation.

“This represents proof of strong, friendly and allied relations, which progress every year,” he said.

Last month, Croatia reached an agreement with the United States to buy 89 Bradley combat vehicles as part of cooperation with Washington and plans as a NATO member to form an infantry brigade.

Croatia, which is also a member of the European Union, agreed last year to buy 12 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Serbia, which was at war with Croatia in the 1990s over its secession from Serb-ruled Yugoslavia, has recently armed itself mainly with Russian and Chinese warplanes, drones and anti-aircraft systems. .

In recent months, Russia has handed over 30 combat tanks and 30 armored personnel carriers to Serbia.

Serbia has also recently purchased sophisticated Russian Pantsir air defense systems, as well as Chinese attack and transport helicopters and drones.

Although officially seeking EU membership, Serbia has refused to fully align its foreign policy with the 27-nation bloc and has worked in parallel to strengthen its relations with Russia and China.

With Croatia standing firmly with its NATO allies in the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Serbia has said it will remain neutral.

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