While hosting military exercises with Russia, Serbia says ''we are a neutral state'' despite rising tension in Europe over Russia's involvement in Ukraine. Nathan Frandino reports.
Under a hail of gunfire, Serbian special forces are on the move. And watching the ground assault from a safe distance are Russian and Serbian military officials. The unprecedented joint military drill underscores a delicate balancing act for Serbia -- safeguard relations with its big-power ally in Russia, while pursuing closer integration with Europe. It's a balancing act made all the more difficult amid rising European anger over Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine. But Serbian Defense Ministry Bratislav Gasic says the country is committed to maintaining relations with all parties. (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN DEFENSE MINISTER BRATISLAV GASIC SAYING: "Militarily we are a neutral state, and we are devoted to four strategic pillars, which are the European Union, of course Russia, the United States and China." As explosions reverberated from Russian armored personnel carriers firing 30 mm cannon and guided missiles, hundreds of soldiers advanced across the horizon. For Russian General Vladimir Shamanov, it was an impressive performance . (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN GENERAL VLADIMIR SHAMANOV SAYING: "I want to commend the well trained anti-terrorist units and land forces of the Republic of Serbia and also the highly trained pilots of the Air Force." The exercise comes just a month after the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from the Nazis by Soviet forces...and further cements a relationship both sides are eager to preserve.