In honour of the 10th anniversary of Croatia's accession to NATO, international military exercises will be held in the country in May and June that include representatives of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The first "act" of the three-stage military manoeuvres of the North Atlantic Alliance's "Immediate Response 19" was launched on 10 May. It will be followed by the Astral Knight 19 and Swift Response 19 exercises, organised by the US European Command (USEUCOM).
The first phase of "Immediate Response 19" will last until the 6th of June. The manoeuvres will be held inside Croatia itself, as well as neighbouring Slovenia and Hungary. Some 1,600 soldiers from the aforementioned countries, as well as from the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Albania, and Montenegro will take part.
The next phase of the military drills, the US Air Forces' Manoeuvres in Europe (USAFE), is to be held from 3 — 6 June. "Immediate Response 19" will be held at different locations in Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria throughout June.
The former head of the Serbian Military Security Agency General Momir Stojanović believes that these exercises and the participants speak volumes about how relations between East and West on the Balkan Peninsula have deteriorated.
He recalls that neither the Kumanovo Agreement nor UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the documents recognised by the international community, determining Pristina's legal status and powers, in fact, do not allow Kosovo to have its own armed forces. According to General Stojanović, however, this has not prevented Western forces from condoning their formation (the Kosovo Parliament decided to convert its Security Forces into a full-fledged army on 14 December 2018 — ed. note Sputnik) or also inviting such an illegitimate army to participate in NATO exercises.
"I believe this is NATO's answer and above all the USA's, to the military parade in Niš (on 10 May, in the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, a military parade was held in Niš in the south of Serbia with the participation of Serbian and Russian military equipment — ed. note Sputnik), to restore the balance and make it clear to Kosovo Albanians that NATO is the guarantor of their security, despite the fact that Kosovo is not a member of the Alliance", the expert noted.
"Obviously, we are moving towards a certain aggravation of the situation around this Western Balkan Gordian knot. I am far from being optimistic and I do not see how the problem could be resolved by diplomatic or some other means. In fact, all this will continue, this whole demonstration of power games towards Serbia, and how would it all turn out — is difficult to predict", Stojanović concluded.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.