Chinese Drones Now Deployed In Balkans After Serbia Deal - NATO On Edge

China has delivered six military drones to Serbia after the Balkan country moved to purchase them in a controversial deal a year ago which has put NATO on edge. 

Though Serbia has an official policy of military neutrality vis-a-vis NATO, there's been increased cooperation over the past few years. However, both the Chinese drone acquirement and Present's Aleksandar Vucic recently signaling he'd like to acquire the S-400 anti-air defense system from Russia has caused Washington to threaten sanctions.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stands near new military drones purchased from China last month. Via 
EPA-EFE

The delivery makes Serbia the first European country in history to deploy Chinese combat drones and thus is raising eyebrows in Brussels, as Bloomberg underscores:

China’s actions are prodding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to pivot to Asia, a potential sea change that’s roiling an alliance that was created to protect Europe against the Soviet Union and then Russia. China’s growing influence in the Balkans mirrors its push into other areas previously dominated by Russia. The Belt and Road enterprise already has made it a major player in Central Asian politics.

President Vucic said of the drones during a photo op after Belgrade took delivery: “They have a long range, they can shoot at targets from a distance of nine kilometers and record the terrain, objects of interest to Serbia deep within enemy territory,” according to Bloomberg.

The sale, as one US military magazine previously put it, "marks Beijing's most significant foray into a continent where armed forces have traditionally relied on US and European weapon-makers."

Last year the Serbian president signed several agreements with Beijing to expand the Belt and Road in the country. Under the agreement, China is expected to construct new power plants, lay transmission cables, and fiber optics, build new railways, and ports in the country. 

As Bloomberg concludes in its reporting, "It’s easy to see why China has NATO leaders rattled. As Belt and Road has expanded across the continent, China has snapped up strategic assets including ports, power utilities and robotics firms from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea."