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Minnesota National Guard
US State Partnership Programme improves regional security

Croatia SPP The US has been aiding countries in the region to improve their defence and military capacities as well as their relations with the NATO The main tool for this goal is the US State Partnership Programme, in which the US National Guard partners with states from the former Soviet Bloc

"In the process of upgrading the capabilities of the armed forces of small, transitional countries, co-operation with developed, democratic countries and their military structures [is necessary]," Zvonimir Mahecic, an external expert at the Institute for International Relations in Zagreb and a retired colonel from the Croatian military, told SETimes "Through joint activities, militaries as well as civilians of small countries are getting a chance to learn from the experiences of military structures that had passed through significant development and adjustment to the needs of combat and non-combat operations of the 21st century This kind of co-operation represents a great chance to transfer knowledge and achieve implementation One example of this type of co-operation is between the Minnesota National Guard and Croatian"

Mahecic emphasised that the partnership with the Minnesota National Guard reflects the position and activities of Croatia within NATO

"There is no doubt that this contributes to better security, not only for Croatia, but to the security of this whole part of Europe," Mahecic said

According to the Croatian Ministry of Defence's Department of Public Relations, the current military-to-military co-operation with the US has succeeded in supporting the Croatian Armed Forces in its process of NATO accession

"The US is the main strategic ally to Croatia when it comes to security, defence and international defence co-operation [The partnership] has helped to develop almost all functional segments -- education, equipment and transportation, joint training and military exercises, funding for equipment and training and humanitarian activities," the department told SETimes in a written statement

The partnership is visible through joint exercises as well

Croatia and Minnesota service members had six joint rotations in the NATO ISAF mission to Afghanistan, with 15 Croatian soldiers and 12 from the Minnesota National Guard, until 2009

The soldiers also participate in joint humanitarian activities, including the reconstruction of a kindergarten in Nasice, in East Croatia

"Through the co-operation with the Minnesota National Guard, the Croatian Armed Forces are taking part in activities that support NATO standards and also improve operational capabilities for participation in peacekeeping operations," the ministry said

The Minnesota-Croatia relationship is just one of 22 partnerships that have been established by US European Command Another is the co-operation between Albania and the New Jersey National Guard, which was started in 1993

The military-to-military co-operation of this partnership is based on joint exercises and training, as well as education and military medicine

Albania's Deputy Defence Minister Petro Koci said the ministry is grateful for the assistance that the New Jersey National Guard has provided

"A selected number of recruits who successfully pass the relevant tests in the training process in Albania continue a substantial part of their military training with the New Jersey National Guard," Koci told SETimes "This assistance falls under the framework of the Albania-US military relations It is consistent with our objective of military education qualification in NATO's standards We are committed to this process, and will continue it"

March 30, 2015
Ivana Jovanovic, Southeast European Times
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