US clears Javelin sale to Kosovo for defense of sovereign lands

The US State Department has approved the potential sale of 246 Javelin FGM-148F missiles to Kosovo for an estimated cost of $75 million, on the grounds that the proposed sale will improve a European partner’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to announcement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 11 January 2024.

UK troops from NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) were deployed to Kosovo in October 2023 following a deadly attack in Banjska, northern Kosovo, when Milan Radojicic, leader of the Srpska Lista political party ), and a group of gunmen were involved in the fatal shooting of a police officer and subsequent siege of a nearby monastery.

While the militants involved in the terror attack were well equipped – discarding grenade launchers, bazookas, rifles, hand grenades, an armored vehicle and a jeep as they retreated – Kosovo’s decision to purchase the advanced Javelin anti-tank system is unusual within a nation which defends its sovereignty by internal separatists, who are unlikely to be equipped with heavily armored platforms.

Tensions had been rising between Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population and the Serb minority since a dispute over the recognition and use of Serbian car number plates turned violent and the Serbs voluntarily withdrew from the state apparatus.

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The lack of Serb candidates in recent elections and their boycott by Serb voters has left questions about the legitimacy of the election results, with many serving politicians in northern Kosovo, an area overwhelmingly populated by Serbs, elected by only a small share of the electorate.

The 200 troops the UK sent in October joined 400 already in place with NATO’s mission in Kosovo, KFOR, which is made up of 4,500 troops from 27 allied partner nations. This was at least the second increase in 2023, with NATO deploying 500 soldiers from Turkey’s 65th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in June to bolster the mission.

The Javelin man-portable anti-tank missile is a shoulder-fired missile that is also launched from multiple platforms on vehicles. It is equipped with an infrared detector and has the notable feature of enabling a top attack operation against tanks, climbing above the target and swooping down to penetrate the roof of the tank where there is minimal armor protection.

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