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Serbia To Buy Airbus Helicopters Amid Minor Regional Arms Buildup

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic dismissed Western criticism of recent arms purchases.

Serbia has signed a deal to buy nine light choppers from Airbus, adding to a minor regional arms race fueled by Russia's recent donation of jet fighters to the Balkan state.

Serbia's Defense Ministry said on December 29 that the deal is for H145M multiutility helicopters. The agreement includes spare parts, pilot training, and maintenance crews for the aircraft, which will be used both by the military and police.

Earlier this month, Russia announced it was donating six aging MiG-29 jet fighters to Serbia, a traditional ally, which will overhaul them at a cost of over 180 million euros.

Serbia's weapons modernization has sparked a mini arms race with NATO-member Croatia, with whom Serbia was at war in the 1990s. Croatia said it is considering Western replacements for its old fighter fleet of MiG-21s.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at a year-end press conference dismissed Western criticism of the arms purchases.

"I am proud that we finally have an air force that will keep our sky free," he said. "Serbia is now a much safer country than yesterday."

Unlike some of its Balkan neighbors, Serbia professes no interest in joining NATO, though it is seeking to join the European Union.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters