Despite US sanctions warning, Serbia to buy Russian missiles

Serbia will proceed with its purchase of a Russian anti-aircraft missile system despite the U.S. warning that the deal could result in sanctions, according to The Associated Press.

The Russian TASS state news agency said Wednesday that Moscow will deliver the Pantsir-S system to Serbia “in the next few months in accordance with the signed contract.”

{mosads}The announcement comes the week after Matthew Palmer, the U.S. special envoy for the Western Balkans, said the nation would be at risk of U.S. sanctions if the deal goes forward.

The sale comes as Serbia both seeks to join the European Union and refuses to participate in Western sanctions against Russia relating to the latter’s invasion of eastern Ukraine.

President Aleksandar Vucic said Tuesday that the country is merely building up its defensive capabilities and wants to avoid sanctions or any standoff with the U.S.

“Serbia is arming itself because it is a free country surrounded by NATO-member states with which we want to be friends,” Vucic said, saying he is determined to not allow Serbia to “be as weak as it was in the 1990s” when the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia led to conflicts with Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

NATO bombed the nation in 1999 amid government repression of Kosovo Albanians, which has led to lingering distrust of the military alliance in Serbia, which has pledged not to join it, according to the AP.

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