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Indecent proposal to Macedonia:
Give up your name to get into NATO



Biljana Vankovska

May 15, 2008

Up to the “historic” NATO Summit in Bucharest the political atmosphere in Macedonia got dense, almost explosive because of great expectations. The public debate is emotionalized to a ridiculous degree by an imposed Hamlet-like dilemma: that the NATO membership issue is “to be or not to be” for Macedonia.
Actually, one could hardly speak about a substantial dilemma with over 90% of popular support for the membership and virtually no political or even intellectual opposition whatsoever. The focus has practically shifted to an issue that has nothing to do with the basic decision related to the NATO membership: Macedonia is not only expected but even enforced to exchange its national and constitutional name for an expected invitation to join the “happy NATO family”.
The most vociferous ‘messenger boy’ on behalf of USA, NATO and EU is Slovenia, whose Prime minister and Foreign minister have implicitly delivered the indecent proposal. Prime Minister Janez Jansa literally said: “It would be shameful for a country to miss a historic opportunity to join NATO only because it is stubborn and inflexible in the negotiations over the name issue with Greece.”
In their self-righteousness, he as well as his NATO colleagues are deeply convinced that NATO itself has nothing to be ashamed of even when involved in morally and legally dubious war interventions, with hundreds of thousands of human beings as “collateral damages”.
But let’s get back to the Balkan context. Slovenia is a former Yugoslav republic, and by now each of the nations could have learned a lot about nationalism, defence of one’s own national culture and identity, let alone protection of national self-interests at a huge expense of others.
Fortunately, Macedonia was a bad disciple in that game. It failed miserably to build a nation-state glued with patriotism and selfishness. Today Slovenian elites play a different flute: for them it’s shameful not to be a NATO member! This is a clear sign of their short memory about how they hardly managed to convince their own public to vote for NATO membership.
Faced with strong anti-NATO sentiment, Slovenian elites first used fear-mongering (referring to all kind of regional perils) and even threats that the military service would be extended in case the citizens decide not to join NATO. Finally, they had to “pack” together two referenda for EU and NATO, the former having had much stronger support in the public.
Happily, Slovenia has also another face, not represented by such politicians. I have always admired the capacity to keep up the democratic public space and open-mindedness of the intellectual elite, something that is lacking badly in Macedonia. On the eve of their “historic decision” a number of publications were debated all pros and cons regarding NATO membership.
Today’s Slovenian newspaper commentaries are no less impressive and (self)critical. For instance, there has been a ‘proposal’ for Slovenia to change its name into BR Slovenia, that is Banana Republic of Slovenia, while another columnist argues that Slovenia does not deserve to be named Trojan horse in the EU but rather a Trojan donkey. This was said in regard to the leaked information that the Slovenian diplomats took direct orders from Washington to be the first country to officially recognize Kosovo. Commentators also reminded the Slovenian public that their leaders were obedient members of the so-called Vilnius Group (Macedonia was in the group too) that issued a statement for support of the exceptionalist U.S. right to invade Iraq militarily and destroy it. That “statement” had been drafted in Washington D.C. but today few recall that Colin Powel lied before the UN Security Council - the Vilnius Group stood proudly by the U.S. when it fabricated its pretext for this horrible war.
It is no secret that the Macedonian public lacks democratic capacity to challenge any “strategic goal” defined by the national and international elites. It’s far more surprising that it is incapacitated to even clearly see obvious developments related to its essential national interests.
Macedonia’s name is a coin used in various ‘political transactions’ but few are aware of the fact that some times the country is disciplined and some times ‘rewarded’ its natural right by the great ‘mercy’ of the great powers.
First, the international so-called community violated the UN Charter by imposing an extra criterion for the country’s membership in the UN. The ‘temporary, provisional” name became a permanent burden and the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is the only living political remnant of the now longtime-ago dead federation.
For 17 years not a single soul has ever come to think about a legal procedure before the International Court of Justice, because quite early Macedonia “learned” the lesson that might is right and gave up international law. Consequently, Macedonia joined actions that were in clear breach with the international law elsewhere - starting with the support for the 1999 NATO intervention, through diminishing ICC, ending with the endorsement of Washington’s war on Iraq.
Even worse, once it accepted to negotiate over its identity (name), Macedonia has become an eternal hostage of the situation - it manifested clearly its weakness and insecurity. Once in a while it was ‘rewarded’ by bilateral recognition, but in general the country has become used to its bizarre provisional name. The “name issue” has been used also in dealing with internal affairs: in order to spoil the 2004 referendum on municipalities’ borders the U.S. administration generously decided to recognize Macedonia’s constitutional name (for bilateral use only). The effects were immediate: the referendum failed due to the insufficient turn out.
The ethnic Macedonians practically exchanged gerrymandered territorial borders, drawn according to merely ethnic criteria and in return got boost of their own national (ethnic) identity. The euphoria was with American flavor: American flags were waved and slogans read “Thank you, USA! Goodbye FYROM, welcome Macedonia”. Only later when Macedonians got back to their senses, they understood that in the U.S. vocabulary “Macedonia” existed only when asked for military participation in Iraq or for recognition of Kosovo.
Leading up to the NATO Bucharest Summit, the Americans and their Allies wanted the “carrot” back: Macedonia was expected to give up its name if she wanted to be a member of a demanding alliance. Macedonia is obviously unable to make a rational judgment and cost-benefit analysis, and even worse it does not understand that there is no free lunch in the international relations. While Macedonia tends to see its own ‘salvation’ in the “certificate” as a NATO country, it fails to see what is going on in and with NATO.
First of all, NATO is deeply troubled with the military defeat in the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan. This war put on test the political will and unity of the Alliance: Americans cry for more troops and equipment, while Germans and other Europeans are not happy with it; Canada threatens that it will withdraw its own exhausted troops if others don’t share the burden in a war that is impossible to win.
Second, NATO and, especially USA need Croatia, Albania and Macedonia in the club, not only for the sake of better control over the Balkan knot but also as “cannon fodder” for the endless wars. At some point soon, Macedonia is likely to get a ‘half-invitation’ packed in a nice diplomatic wording. Its essence will consist of a wide range of conditions to be met, mostly in regard to the name issue, but also some related to merely internal “reforms” such as those drafted in the so-called May Agreement (alike the Ohrid Agreement, drafted by the Americans in English). However, the story does not end with a full NATO membership, because the military reforms are going to become even more intensive from that point on: there will be constant demands on modernization of the army, purchase of expensive military equipment and sophisticated systems from the developed countries’ military industries, more troops for deployment abroad in missions that have nothing to do with peace operations, etc.
Recently, the Macedonian public was overwhelmed by grief for the eleven soldiers that had been killed in a helicopter crash on their return from the peace mission in Bosnia. The politicians lamented over this accident, spoke about “our heroes of peace” and generously compensated their families. Now it’s high time that somebody summons courage to tell the public that in the future there will be many more “peace heroes”. In meantime, the impoverished and primitive school and hospital facilities will be still waiting for better times and economic progress...

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Mr. Jansa should be told that it is not shameful to be non-member of an alliance such as NATO. It should have been dissolved when the Warsaw Pact was, it will hardly last through the next 2-3 decades and it rests it raison d’etre today on nuclear weapons, militarism and interventionism.
Beyond doubt, it will leave a shameful historic record behind. The Balkan nations, sadly, still serve as coins in the transactions between Great powers – or rather Big power, because morally great they are not.
Many other indecent proposals, offers we can’t refuse and double standards are used all over the region. Few, if any, in the Western triumphalist world has exercised the slightest self-criticism over their handling of former Yugoslavia in general or of Macedonia in particular. I fear we are looking into a troubled future...       




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