The war in Ukraine has brought fragility to the entire region. So all eyes were on a semi-secret delivery of a sophisticated Chinese anti-aircraft system to Serbia this weekend. Serbia is a known ally of Russia, so there is concern from the West that any arms buildup in the Balkans region could certainly threaten peace.
According to reports from the media as well as military experts, six Chinese Air Force Y-20 transport planes landed at Belgrade’s civilian airport on Saturday. In the cargo that they carried were HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems to be used by the military in Serbia.
Pictures were taken at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport of the Chinese cargo planes that had military markings on them. When the Associated Press asked Serbia’s military for a response, they initially declined.
Experts who became aware of this delivery that was over two NATO member states, Turkey and Bulgaria, believe that this action is a sign of China’s increasing global reach.
One media agency, the Warzone online magazine, wrote, “The Y-20s’ appearance raised eyebrows because they flew en masse as opposed to a series of single-aircraft flights. The Y-20′s presence in Europe in any numbers is also still a fairly new development.”
Aleksander Radic, a Serbian military analyst, said that this was the Chinese maintaining a demonstration of force.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed without really confirming this delivery from China of medium-range missile systems. He stated that he will now present “the newest pride” of the Serbian military.
This announcement came after he had complained that NATO countries were refusing to allow delivery flights over his territories because of the tensions with Russia in their war in Ukraine.
Serbia has been sending mixed messages to the United Nations. They have voted in favor of U.N. resolutions condemning the brutal attacks from Russia in Ukraine. But they also have refused to partner with international sanctions against their allies in Moscow. They also have not criticized even the war crimes that Russian troops committed in Ukraine.
In 2020, the United States warned Belgrade about purchasing HQ-22 anti-aircraft systems. Officials from America made it clear that if Serbia wanted to join the European Union and other Western Alliances, they would have to make sure that their military equipment was compared with standards in the West.
The Chinese missile system that was delivered compared with the United State’s American Patriot and the Russian S-300 surface to air systems. With these deliveries from China, Serbia will now become the first operator of the HQ-22 system in Europe.
Serbia has a history of war with its neighbors, but recently they have sought membership in the European Union. This will partnership will be threatened by the buildup of their armed forces using both Russian and Chinese arms that include warplanes, battle tanks, and now anti-aircraft missile systems.
Back in 2020, Serbia received the delivery of Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 drones. These are also known in China as Wing Loong. These military drones can hit targets with bombs and missiles.
So many experts in the West, as well as Europe, are afraid that an armed Serbia from Russia and China may bring the Balkan country to war again. This could be especially threatening for Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008. Right now, Serbia, Russia, and China do not recognize that independence, while countries from the West, including the United States, do.
This latest move by China to bring aid to a known Russian ally is certainly a cause for attention and even action.