Serbia’s military wants to reintroduce obligatory military service as tensions continue to rise in the Balkans
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia should reintroduce compulsory military service, the defense ministry said Thursday, as tensions continue to escalate in the Balkans.
The ministry said in a statement that the proposal for service of up to four months is made “in order to increase the defense capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces, through the rejuvenation and improvement in the training of the active and reserve forces.”
It said the proposal by the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff comes after “a detailed consideration of the general security situation and current challenges faced by the Republic of Serbia as a militarily neutral country.”
It added that the proposal was forwarded to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, for his consideration. It did not specify the age span of the potential draftees.
Serbia suspended mandatory military service in 2011 amid the push to professionalize the armed forces. But the country now appears close to bringing back the draft after a long campaign in favor of it, despite concerns that the government may struggle to foot the bill for such a massive recruitment.
Tensions have been high in the Balkans that went through bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Although formally neutral, the Serbian army has maintained close ties to Russia from where it has been purchasing most of its arms, including fighter jets and tanks.
Although formally seeking European Union membership, Serbia has refused to introduce sanctions against Russia for its aggression on Ukraine.
Tensions have revolved primarily around Serbia’s former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008, something that Serbia and allies Russia and China do not recognize. Belgrade has raised its forces’ combat readiness on the border with Kosovo several times over the past several months.
Serbia has also maintained cordial relations with NATO whose peacekeeping troops have been stationed in Kosovo’s since 1999 when the Western military alliance intervened to stop Belgrade’s bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists.
Another volatile region is Bosnia where a Bosnian Serb separatist leader has been threatening to declare the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia independent and to unite it with neighboring Serbia.