The Nato anthem does not get too many airings in Serbia. But Serbia is for the first time hosting a large-scale Nato-led exercise, so this little-heard music has been blaring out this week at Mladenovac, about an hour outside Belgrade.
Serbians have not forgotten Nato’s actions in 1999, when alliance aircraft bombed the country for 78 days, in an effort to force Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw troops from Kosovo and allow international peacekeepers in. Other ex-Yugoslav countries may have joined Nato, but public opinion in Serbia remains strongly opposed.
As the anthem plays, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stand straight-backed, almost at attention, along with representatives of three dozen states. Behind them, an emblem merges Serbia’s flag with the Nato banner for an exercise involving Nato’s main civil emergency response system.
The scene in Mladenovac may come as a jolt to those who have Belgrade down as a staunch ally of Moscow.