Croatia is a European nation located in the southern region of the continent. With a population of over 4 million people, it is one of the smallest countries in Europe. The Republic of Croatia is a presidential republic and its military consists of three branches: the Croatian Army, Croatian Navy, and Croatian Air Force. The Croatian Army is responsible for defending the country’s borders and sovereignty, as well as providing security to its citizens. In terms of defense spending, Croatia spends approximately $1 billion annually on its military, making it one of the highest defense spending nations in Europe. The country also participates in several NATO-led peacekeeping missions such as those in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia is also a member of the European Union (EU) and has close ties with other EU members such as Germany and Italy. See naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Croatia.
The structure of the defense, beginning in 1991 in connection with the disintegration of Yugoslavia, was based on the former situation in Yugoslavia, where, after an initial service in the National People’s Army, the conscript was placed in war in its own sub-republic’s territorial defense with its guerrilla warfare principles. In 1991, the creation of its own national guard of about 20,000 men began. The war between Croatia and Serbia and the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina came to an end in the 1995 peace agreement in Dayton. In 1996, Croatia pledged to stay under a ceiling of 31,000 men and six months of military service.
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The defense comprises (2006) 20,800 men organized in an army of 14,000 men, 109,000 men fully staffed, with four army corps. The Navy has 2,500 men, 10,800 men fully staffed, with two submarines, two larger battleships and five patrol boats. The Air Force has 3,300 men, 8,200 men fully manned, with 27 fighter aircraft and 28 armed helicopters. Croatia has 10,000 armed police officers. The country has reported interest in being integrated into NATO; such a decision can be taken at the earliest in 2008. Defense costs increased during the fighting in the 1990s and amounted to 6.8% of GDP in 1996, to 2006, at 0.9% of GDP. Croatia participates in peacekeeping operations with observers in eight countries and with a platoon in Afghanistan (ISAF). To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that HRV stands for Croatia.
Croatia’s defense overview
Croatia has voluntary first-time service for eight weeks. The country has been a member of NATO since 2009. According to IISS figures, in 2018 the total personnel force was 15,200 active personnel, and a reserve of 18,350, in addition to 3,000 semi-military.
The army had 10,750 active personnel in 2018. Heavy equipment included 75 M-84 tanks (variant of T-72 licensed in former Yugoslavia), 101 storm tanks and 198 armored personnel vehicles.
The Air Force had 1300 active personnel. Materials included eleven fighter of a MiG-21, two light transport, 22 trainers and 48 helicopters, as well as moderately heavy drones.
The Navy had 1300 active personnel, five patrol boats (270-385 tonnes), one minesweeper, five landings and one auxiliary vessel.
The Coast Guard was established in 2007 as part of the Navy, and has four patrol boats and three auxiliary vessels.
In 2018, Croatia participated in NATO operations in Afghanistan (Operation Resolute Support) with 123 personnel, and in Serbia (KFOR) with 35 personnel. Croatia had also deployed 230 personnel in Lithuania (Enhanced Forward Presence).
In addition, Croatia participated in UN operations, including in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with one personnel, and in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with six observers.
A Balkan and Central European country
Divided between the Slavic world, Italian culture and Germanic models, Croatia is a Balkan country that wants to go back to being Central European, as it was a century ago. Resurfaced from the recent civil war with the intention of entering Europe, and supported by strong Western investments, Croatia is rapidly recovering a social and economic balance
The Adriatic on the horizon
Croatia is the main ‘neighbor’ of Italy: the ports of Croatia such as Split (Split) and Dubrovnik (Ragusa) are easily reachable from the Italian ones, and the Croatian regions of Istria and Dalmatia have hosted Italian populations – numerous in past, today scarce.
Croatia has 5,790 km of coastline, if we also take into account its 1,185 islands, but it is not only a maritime state: already close to the coast the interior is mountainous and the climate, from Mediterranean, becomes continental in the east. Precipitation is consistent and feeds important rivers – Sava, Drava – which flow towards the Danube. It is on the coast, however, that a large part of the population is concentrated. The main cities are Zagreb (the capital, with 780,000 residents), an important industrial center, and then Split and Rijeka (Rijeka).
The economy is also linked to the sea, both for the naval industry and for tourism, which also finds ancient and medieval monuments in Croatia, some of the most beautiful museums in Europe and beautiful protected areas such as that of the Plitvice Lakes.
An identity to defend
Population of Iranian origin, the Croats settled in Dalmatia in the 7th century. AD and converted to Christianity. After being under the control of the Habsburg Empire for four centuries, in 1918 Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where it was dominated by the Serbs. After the German invasion of Yugoslavia (1941), the fascist regime of the Ustasha was established in Croatia, which unleashed ferocious ethnic and political persecutions. In 1946 Croatia joined the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, led by the Croatian Tito.
Following the crisis of the Yugoslav regime, Croatia proclaimed its independence in 1991 under the leadership of the nationalist F. Tudjman. But the Serbian minority opposed the secession and received the support of the Yugoslav army, which occupied a third of the Croatian territory, where the Serbian Republic of Krajina was proclaimed. The Croatian population of the area, subjected to violent persecution, was forced to flee. In 1992 – while Croatia was being recognized by the European Union and admitted to the UN – hostilities were stopped and the UN sent a military contingent. But Croatia continued to claim sovereignty over Slavonia and Krajina and in 1995 launched an offensive that led to their reconquest: this time it was the Serbs who had to flee and suffer violent persecution.
With the death of Tudjman (1999) a period of greater moderation began, during which the opposition strengthened until their candidate – S. Mesic – prevailed in the presidential elections of 2000. The new president established more collaborative relations with the International Tribunal in The Hague in charge of investigating war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.