With an eye on NATO membership, Macedonia raises defence spending
The new government of Macedonia will accelerate the nation’s integration into NATO and the EU and raise defence spending to fund the modernisation of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) so it can increase its involvement in NATO-led missions, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in his address to the Adriatic Charter summit held in Podgorica, Montenegro, on 2 August.
„We expect Macedonia to be the 30th member of NATO. We are investing energy into regional co-operation, opening the country towards its neighbors. We signed yesterday the friendship treaty with Bulgaria and we are intensifying co-operation with other regional states.“
In the summit co-hosted by Zaev and his Montenegrin counterpart, Dusko Markovic, and attended by US Vice President Michael Pence, the Macedonian Prime Minister said his country sees the US as its loyal strategic partner.
A tight 2017 defense budget of EUR101 million (USD119.6 million), representing 1.1% of the nation’s GDP, gives little room for serious modernisation of the armed forces.
However, after years of delays and priority given to modernising the internal security forces to the detriment of the ARM, the modernisation of Macedonia’s armed forces was finally initiated by the previous conservative government in Skopje in November 2014, which allocated more than EUR200 million for multi-year financing of a dozen modernisation projects. This included the general overhaul and upgrade of Mi-8/17 and Mi-24 helicopters, procurement of new 4×4 and 8×8 armoured personnel carriers, 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, the modernisation of the nation’s fleet of T-72A main battle tanks, the procurement of various personal equipment, as well as more sophisticated systems for special forces and improvements to the country’s air surveillance and air defense capabilities to engage targets up to a range of 3,000 m.
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