Balkan is in arms race; Neighbours, beware!
Since joining NATO, Montenegro has signed two major contracts for the purchase of helicopters and armored vehicles totaling € 66 million, Deutsche Welle reportsSource: Deusche Welle
Like its neighbors, it increases its military budget and increasingly sends troops on missions around the world.
According to Donald Trump's famous "America First" saying, during a recent visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Montenegro, they struck a deal on buying 67 armored vehicles from the US, costing $ 36 million.
It is the first acquisition of such vehicles for the Montenegrin army in 40 years. These are the successors of the popular hammers made by the US company "Oshkosh". The first contingent arrives next year and Montenegro will be the first in Europe to have them in its military forces, and will buy them from a loan.
"These light armored patrol vehicles represent a significant step forward in the modernization of the Montenegrin Army. With them, our ground forces will achieve the necessary deployment, maneuverability, mobility and protection capabilities, and thus the required level of compatibility with Allied countries in NATO and partner countries", the Ministry of Defense of Montenegro said to DW.
This is the second major military acquisition since Montenegro's accession to NATO. Last year, three helicopters arrived that were purchased from Canada for $ 30 million. Needless to say, these acquisitions were previously unimaginable to the Montenegrin army, whose perception in the good part of the public was that it was numerically small and poorly equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The Ministry of Defense says that thanks to these helicopters, they have enhanced capabilities for transporting troops, air support for units, medical evacuation and search and rescue, as well as for assisting the population in the event of natural disasters.
The arms race in the Balkans
Since joining NATO, Montenegro has already paid about 20 million euros to equip its military, and at least another 46 will be paid in the coming years. But that's not all. The ministry says it has received numerous donations from the United States over the past two years in the form of various communications, medical and other equipment, while Germany has donated six Mercedes-Benz armored patrol vehicles. The most valuable donation is still pending, and it is a long-range radar that will allow Montenegro to control its airspace on its own. Currently, the skies of Montenegro are protected and patrolled by fighter jets from NATO member states of Italy and Greece.
"The radar in question has been adapted to NATO's control and connectivity systems. We expect it to be installed by 2021", the ministry said.
The Americans, in addition to selling the weapons, also donate equipment to their allies in the Balkans. So recently, the Balkan Security Network portal reported that the United States has approved $ 110 million in aid for four Western Balkan countries to acquire arms, as part of a program aimed at replacing Soviet-era combat systems with weapons of Western origin. Thus, the Pentagon will pay for the purchase of combat vehicles for the Croatian Army and the Army of North Macedonia, and helicopters for the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.
However, investment in the modernization of the Montenegrin Army is minor compared to what the neighboring countries have been doing in recent years. Media and analysts talk about the arms race between Serbia and Croatia, investing hundreds of millions in new planes, helicopters and other weapons.
Serbia buys and gets a lot of weapons from Russia for free, while Croatia plans to buy fighter jets from the US.
It is interesting, however, that for the first time in the context of armaments in the region, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, mentioned Montenegro: "Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and other smaller countries also buy arms in accordance with their capabilities. We are monitoring all that", Vucic said.
The Montenegrin Ministry of Defense did not want to comment directly on Vucic's remark, but said that they "certainly closely follow current world trends in equipment and weapons".
"The modernization of the Montenegrin Army is not only a result of the need to meet NATO goals, but is, first and foremost, in accordance with national interests. Decisions on armaments are made by careful analysis of both real needs and contemporary security challenges", the Ministry said.