A little more than a decade ago US and Serbian forces were at loggerheads in the Balkans. Now they are training together with a view to an eventual Serbian-NATO partnership.
American and Serbian paratroopers have taken a jump into the unknown together, with the Double Eagle exercise. Sixty Americans paras joined a similar number of Serbian troops by invitation from Belgrade from the 63rd Serbian Paratroopers battalion as a confidence-building measure in view of a future partnership.
“It takes a lot for the Serbians to trust us, to put them in our parachutes, for me to go up and inspect them, for them to trust our jumpmaster that they are doing the right thing and also we have their Serbian jumpmasters up there as well. We’ll give our commands and then they willecho them right after us,” said Captain Alexander Gephart.
Serbia also has excellent relations with Russia. Belgrade recently received six MIG 29 fighter planes from Moscow, as a present for a constructive friendship in the Balkans. Officially Serbia’s strategic focus remains joining the EU within the next 10 years. For the American military it represents a positive approach by Belgrade.
“Certainly we support Serbian aspirations to be part of the EU and if this is the start of that, fantastic, but at a military level we really want the connection that comes from this, and these exercises are important bilateral engagements between our military and the Serbian military,” said Brigadier Richard G. Moore Jr.
After the Kosovo war in 1999, Serbia and NATO strengthened their ties through the implementation of the partnership for peace agreement and 2015’s Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO.