Serbia has suspended all military exercises with foreign partners for six months citing ‘tremendous’ pressure from the European Union (EU).
The move comes just a day before the beginning of Slavic Brotherhood 2020 military exercise in Belarus, in which Serbia was scheduled to participate.
According to news reports, Serbia was pressurised by the EU to withdraw from the exercise.
In a statement, Serbian Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin said: “The pressures that make no sense and are not grounded in our decisions or our actions, or even in reality, are the result of hysteria, which determines political decisions and directions of great and powerful countries.
“We are required to suspend the planned military exercises with Belarus at the cost of abandoning our European future and at the cost of even greater pressure on our policy, but also on our people in Kosovo and Metohija and Republika Srpska.”
According to the government decision, Serbia will not participate in any international military activity with any country in the following six months to preserve its neutrality.
Furthermore, Serbia’s participation in peacekeeping operations will be considered and if required will also remain suspended.
Minister Vulin added: “The process of equipping and strengthening our armed forces will not be stopped, and we will work to increase our combat readiness harder and more persistently than ever.
“This is the only way to preserve neutrality and this painful decision obliges us to rely solely on ourselves and our own strength.”
Belarus is marred by public protests following a disputed presidential election last month. The incident widened the rift between Russia-backed Belarus and Nato.
Earlier this month, Lithuania, another Belarus neighbour, announced that the US will send a larger unit for a military exercise. The deployment will continue until November this year.