NATO: Macedonia follows Montenegro

NATO: Macedonia follows Montenegro

The new government announced its strong desire to join the alliance.

The new Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, came up with the government’s concept. One of its main goals is to join the North Atlantic alliance and integrate into the European Union.

Does NATO need it?

The desire of the Prime Minister and his colleagues from his parliamentary coalition (62 deputies out of 120) is clear. Zoran Zaev (his followers, by the way, defeated the presidential team) , the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, which is the main pro-western force in the country, was appointed as the head of Macedonian government after Washington and Brussel put pressure on President Gjorge Ivanov who struggled but, finally, stepped down.

Zaev formed the government where 7 minister seats of 25 are ethnical Albanian. The West got what it wanted and the country stayed at the edge of a civil war which broke out in 2001 and it could have started this year. The confrontation between Macedonians (70-80% of population) and Albanians have not disappeared. An unsolved internal conflict is the main reason why the country cannot join NATO.

However, Washington and Brussel can eternally use “NATO’s teaser” so as to influence the policy of the country. It is very essential, especially, when Montenegro is already ready to join NATO and Serbia is being persuaded to give in joining the block in the near future.

It is evident that after getting the power, the leaders of the Albanian party will lead Macedonia to its federalization and its split according to its ethnical principle. Then, it could allow the Albanian territories in Macedonia to join Kosovo and create a new project “Great Albania” at the silent agreement of the West.

Although Prime Minister Zaev gave his written guarantee to President Ivanov that he will keep the constitutional structure of the country. However, the guarantees of a power seeking populist are worth nothing.

However, the speaker of the Parliament, Talat Dzaferi, who deserted from the Macedonian Army in 2011 and joined the Albanian rebel group, put firstly the Albanian flag on his desk. He put it away only after Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant US Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, visited Skopje and gave the conflicting sides more political “teasers”.

In fact, the provocative election of ethnical Albanian Dzaferi in the Parliament might have caused a rebellion. Activists of the movement “For united Macedonia” calling for stopping the country’s collapse broke into the Parliament in April, caused disturbances and beat up Mr. Dzaferi.

The way to the alliance is the way to nowhere

After the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia joined the program “Partnership for Peace” in 1995 and it started in four years to fulfil the plan of actions for members. It also participated in NATO troops’ intervention into Yugoslavia in 1999. As a result, the country got into the top-list of new Balkan countries applying for joining the alliance. It seemed it was about to happen…

However, the fighting confrontation between the Macedonian security force and the rebellions from the National Albanian Liberation Army started in August, 2001 which ended up with the Ohrid agreement on cease-fire but not reconciliation.

Later, Greece caused a problem. It blocked NATO’s invitation to Macedonia to join the alliance at NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. Athens was not pleased with the name of the country because Greece thought that this name showed the territorial expansion of Macedonia in the Greek region called Macedonia. By the way, Greece can also prevent the Republic of Macedonia joining the European Union using the same reason.

The argument has not been resolved so far and NATO say “solve it on your own”. Now, President Ivanov asked Nikola Dimitrov, a new Minister of Foreign Affairs, “to work out the issue of the name “Macedonia” with Greece”. It will be interesting to see what results their work will bring.

In brief, NATO accepted all the counties that were in the list: Croatia, Albania, Montenegro but the former main candidate from the Balkans is still waiting for its turn. And it is very doubtful that it will join it.

Military Forces of Macedonia

The Army of the Republic of Macedonia is not so valuable for NATO. Its number is not more than 8 thousand soldiers and 2 thousand of reservists. There are four mechanized brigades (two reserved ones), 10 separate battalions, including rangers and armored one. Also, it has 31 Ukrainian tanks T-72, only half of them are in work condition, 30 old armored carrier M113 received from Italy, but it has 80 relatively new SUVs “Hummer”.

On the whole, armored vehicles, as well as artilleries and air defense systems, are old Soviet equipment. The Air Force includes two Russian fighting helicopters Mi-24 and multifunctional Mi-8/17. It has also two American UH-1 Iroquois. There are no attack, fight and bomber aircrafts at all.

Ivan Konovalov

English translation of the article published in Katehon on June 02, 2017