Serbia will not allow to be humiliated or that its citizens feel threatened because someone in the region is procuring arms, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Sunday, following statements by Croatian outgoing Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic about the procurement of arms.
Stefanovic told commercial television Pink that Serbia wanted the best relations with its neighbours, saying that some were trying to humiliate it by sending messages to its leadership telling them not to be nervous. "When someone thinks that procuring missiles is a sign of friendship and when they are telling us not to be nervous about it, they are trying to humiliate Serbia. Neither Prime Minister (Aleksandar) Vucic nor the Serbian government will allow the humiliation of our country and we will not allow that our citizens feel threatened because someone in the region is procuring arms," Stefanovic said commenting on Croatian Minister Kotromanovic's statement about procuring US launchers and ballistic missiles.
Stefanovic said "Serbia is not scared." "But don't be upset later when Serbia responds with reciprocal measures and don't cry for help when we intensify our military industry," Stefanovic said. According to him, "it is more than clear" that Croatia is bothered by the fact that Serbia had taken over the role of the leader in the region.
"Croatia has the need to be the leader in the region, to have some influence, but this is not going to happen. Serbia means no harm to its neighbours, but it has the right to fight for itself and for its citizens. We believe we have a better policy and we are showing that," Stefanovic told TV Pink.
He stressed Serbia had not commented on the fact that Croatia had procured the Panzerhaubitze 2000 ("armoured howitzer 2000"), a German 155 mm self-propelled howitzer and the most powerful conventional artillery systems deployed in the 2010s, the the reasons behind Croatia's decision.
"Let them do it, but when you decide to procure ballistic missiles with a 300 kilometre range, this is not something you do for peace in the region. Who is building peace with Ballistic missiles?" Stefanovic wondered.
Croatian outgoing Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic said on Friday that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was nervous when he opposed Croatia's plan to procure ballistic missiles, telling him he had no reason to be nervous as Croatia had no hostile intentions towards Serbia. The Serbian Foreign Ministry responded by saying that it was shocked to hear the Croatian defence minister talk about uncontrolled armament, thus directly sending a threat to Serbia, at a time when Serbia and its Prime Minister Vucic, as well as the entire region, were advocating peace, stability and reconciliation. The Serbian ministry said Kotromanovic's statement was "scandalous and warmongering." Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said "Serbia is neither nervous nor frightened and we hope Croatia won't be either once Serbia takes appropriate protection and defence measures."