In a presidential statement posted on the White House’s official Web site, Bush said Kosovo was eligible “to receive defence articles and defence services under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.”
In his decree Bush said military assistance to Kosovo "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace."
Although its constitution envisions so, Kosovo does not yet have a standing army. Kosovo's former Prime Minister Agim Ceku said repeatedly that the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civilian defence organization that emerged from the now-defunct Kosovo Liberation Army, should serve as an embryo for the future military. The territory maintains its police force which is under United Nations control.
The United States was among the first countries to recognise Kosovo after its February 17 declaration of independence. A total of 33 countries worldwide, including top Western powers and Serbia’s neighbours, Hungary and Croatia have also recognised the government in Pristina.
The recognition of Kosovo by the U.S. and the West angered Serbs and many embassies were attacked in the February 21 riots in Belgrade. Serbia also pulled out ambassadors from respective capitals.
In 1999 the U.S. administration under President Bill Clinton, led the NATO bombing of the now defunct two-republic Yugoslavia in an attempt to oust Serbian troops from Kosovo, then Serbia’s southern province and end their crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels.
The U.S. currently maintains a 1456-strong military presence in Kosovo and the Bondsteel military base, as part of NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping contingent.
As part of country’s bid to ultimately join NATO, Serbia’s military is maintaining close ties with the U.S. army and Ohio National Guard.
However, it remained unclear Thursday, how the authorisation of military assistance to Kosovo will affect those relations.
"We have very good relations with Ohio National Guard, we had several joint training exercises, our pilots have trained with their American colleagues, our cadets are slated for education at American military academies, but we are soldiers and we will follow the political decisions of the country's leadership," a high-ranking Serbian staff officer told Balkan Insight on customary condition of anonymity.