If you are neutral doesn't mean you should not defend yourself, but that you will do that on your own, and that is costly, NATO James Appathurai, the Alliance's Secretary-General Deputy, has said commenting on Serbia's military neutrality, the FoNet news agency has reported on Friday.
He added that Switzerland, for example, had to spend lots of money to defend itself from enemies. "The same goes for Finland and Sweden, which substantially raised investments into defence."
NATO member states agreed to increase defence costs to two percent of the GDP through 2024.
Without the US, those expenses would be four to six percent of the GDP, but even then it wouldn't be the same level of defence, Appathurai said after the NATO's 70th-anniversary summit in London.
According to him, the Alliance respects Serbia's neutrality and is not asking anyone to choose between the West and the East. "We have intensive cooperation with Serbia which is a reliable partner," Appathurai said.
Regarding increased Russia's and China's presence in the Western Balkans, he said NATO respected the sovereign political and economic decisions by all countries, but that the Alliance also wanted to be present in the region to support reforms and Euro-Atlantic integrations.
Commenting on the fact that Belgrade insists on its cooperation with Russia, although NATO states are the most significant benefactor to Serbia, and the US is the greatest supporter of the Army of Serbia, Appathurai reiterated that Belgrade is a reliable partner.
"We cooperate a lot, including joint exercises. But we would appreciate if Serbia's leaders and media would inform the public more about how much the country cooperates with the West, and how much the West helps Serbia. That is not always known. We would like to have better communication," Appathurai said.
He added NATO was hoping for the resumption of the Belgarde - Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations to start soon, what, he said, the European Union was also looking for.
"We support the dialogue because it can lead to substantial changes in the whole region regarding the Euro-Atlantic integrations and economic progress. It's in the interest of both Belgarde and Pristina to solve their common problems. Their current relations burden both the politics and the economy," Appathurai said.