: Reuters: With Russia as an ally, Serbia edges towards NATO

12:45 Jul. 3, 2016

Reuters: With Russia as an ally, Serbia edges towards NATO

In this Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left shakes hands with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, in Belgrade, Serbia (AP Photo)

The Serbian military is loosely based on Russian technology, a legacy of former Yugoslavia's ties with the Soviet Union

Serbia is performing a delicate balancing act between its European aspirations, partnership with NATO and its centuries-old religious, ethnic and political alliance with Russia.

Belgrade is being wooed by the West which has sought to bring it into the fold since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Serbia is now a European Union membership candidate and the bloc is its top trade partner and benefactor.

Belgrade is also quietly moving towards NATO despite the reservations of most Serbians but it is wary of damaging its loudly proclaimed friendship with Russia that wants to boost its influence in the region and which is hostile to the military alliance.

Read also Serbia honours Putin but maintains EU path

"Serbia cannot entirely turn to NATO, it will maintain the maximum level of cooperation with it, without changing its (membership) status," said Genady Sysoev, Balkan correspondent for Russia's Kommersant newspaper and an expert on Moscow's policy in the region. "Serbia cannot turn to Russia because ... no Serbian leadership would risk losing Western investment and aid."

Serbia is one of the few Balkan countries not in the 28-member NATO which is hugely unpopular among Serbs after its 1999 bombing campaign to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo. Full story

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