Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will meet on Monday in Belgrade with US Deputy Secretary of State and the special representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer, the Serbian Presidency confirmed on Sunday.
The meeting with Palmer, who has in the past several days been visiting North Macedonia and Kosovo, has had an awkward prologue, since, during his visit to Skopje, Palmer said in an interview that Serbia could face US sanctions in connection with the acquisition of Russian military equipment – which caused discontent in Belgrade.
Belgrade media reported that Palmer told Macedonian television station Alsat M that the United States is concerned about the presence of Russian military equipment in Serbia and that Belgrade could face American sanctions if it procures the Russian rocket systems.
“There is a dose of concern because of the deployment of Russian military equipment in the territory of Serbia, but also the possibility of Serbia requesting specific Russian systems. That would lead to the risk of specific sanctions being introduced because of the acquisition of Russian military equipment. We hope that our Serbian partners are aware of that,” Palmer told Alsat M, according to the sources.
The S-400 rocket system, which Serbia would like to have but cannot afford – “the only way would be if Russia left them with us. Otherwise, we do not have the means to procure them”, Vucic has said – was displayed along with a Pantsir anti-aircraft gun and missile system for the first time outside of Russia at the recently held Serbian-Russian military exercise, titled Slavic Shield 2019.
It was the first time the two weapons systems had taken part in military drills outside Russia, according to the Russian defense ministry; they have been used in Syria. Turkey has purchased the S-400 system despite strong opposition from NATO partners.
Reacting to Palmer’s statement, Vucic said that it indicates how the US treats Serbia.
“We didn’t procure the S-400, and they have known about everything else for a long time and I don’t think that it represents a problem. But that also tells you how they treat us,” Vucic told Vecernje Novosti.
“Because we could have said what the Croats procured from the Americans, and that wasn’t problematic [from the US point of view]… It all sounds like that Latin proverb ‘what is permissible for Jove is not permissible for a bull’. This shows that there are different standards for different countries. We will certainly be careful because I would not want anyone in Serbia in any way to be exposed to sanctions that will be introduced against us by the world’s greatest power. Regardless of the fact that they would be completely unjustified and unfair,” Vucic said.