The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 246 Javelin FGM-148F missiles to Kosovo for an estimated cost of $75m, reasoning that the proposed sale would improve a European partner’s capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 11 January 2024.
UK troops from Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) deployed to Kosovo in October 2023 following a deadly attack in Banjska, northern Kosovo, when Milan Radojicic, leader of the Srpska Lista (Serb List) political party, and a band of gunmen were involved in the fatal shooting of a policeman and a subsequent siege at a nearby monastery.
While the militants involved in the terrorist attack were well equipped – discarding grenade launchers, bazookas, assault rifles, hand grenades, an armoured vehicle and a jeep during their retreat – the decision by Kosovo to purchase the Javelin advanced anti-tank weapon system is unusual in the context of a nation defending its sovereignty from internal separatists, who are unlikely to be equipped with heavily armoured platforms.
Tensions had been growing between the majority ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo and the Serb minority since a dispute over the recognition and use of Serbian car licence plates devolved into violence, and the voluntary withdrawal of Serbians from the apparatus of the state.
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The lack of Serbian candidates in the recent elections and their boycott by Serbian voters has left questions about the legitimacy of the election results, with many serving politicians in the North of Kosovo, a region that is overwhelmingly populated by Serbs, elected by only a small share of the electorate.
The 200 troops the UK sent in October joined 400 already in place with Nato’s mission to Kosovo, KFOR, that consists of 4,500 troops from 27 Allied partner nations. This was at least the second increase in 2023, with Nato assigning a 500 troops from Turkey’s 65th mechanised infantry brigade in June to reinforce the mission.
The Javelin portable anti-tank missile is a shoulder-fired missile that an also be launched from multiple platforms on vehicles. It is equipped with an infrared seeker, and has the notable feature of allowing a top attack mode against tanks, climbing above the target and striking downwards to penetrate the roof of the tank, where there is the least armour protection.