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Approaching NATO
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The NATO Chicago Summit is now one month away.  There has been a major push by the Government of Macedonia as well as Diaspora groups and others to encourage NATO leaders to offer Macedonia membership at the summit.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, President Gjorge Ivanov, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, and Ambassador to the United States Zoran Jolevski and other members of the Macedonian government have all been engaged with NATO governments encouraging them to do the right thing and allow Macedonia to take its rightful seat – the one it has earned – at the NATO table. And Macedonian Minister of Defense Fatmir Besimi has been making the rounds in the US, including visiting Washington, DC and Vermont, speaking with his counterparts and others in the US Department of Defense.

On the Diaspora front, the United Macedonia Diaspora was instrumental in helping to create the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans (the Macedonian Caucus) which held a briefing in Washington, DC on the issue of Macedonia in NATO.  They were also instrumental in getting 54 members of the United States Congress to sign a letter to President Obama encouraging him to work with NATO and its members so that NATO can “extend a formal invitation to Macedonia to join NATO at the Chicago Summit this May.”  And two bills have been introduced in the US Senate and House, urging that Macedonia be admitted as a NATO member.

Friends of Macedonia have been speaking out as well.  Sally Painter, Chief Operating Officer of Blue Star Strategies, a Washington, DC-based government relations firm, wrote in The Hill, an influential newspaper which focusing on politics, government affairs and foreign affairs, in early April under the headline “NATO can’t let Macedonia fall by the wayside in Chicago.” She writes “Yet a central pillar of NATO – the enlargement and strengthening of the alliance – has fallen off the agenda. This must be remedied. When countries such as Macedonia, which have met all necessary requirements and continually contribute to the alliance’s collective defense, are denied access, it weakens the core regional goals of security, stability, and prosperity.”

The policy press has also reported on this issue, raising awareness. Analyst Evan Moore writing for The Foreign Policy Initiative states “Ahead of next month’s NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama—and other NATO leaders—should make clear to diplomats in Greece that Macedonia’s membership is not negotiable.”

Josh Rogin, writing in Foreign Policy also in early April, headlines “What’s in a name?  For Macedonia, everything,” essentially reporting the straight facts but also highlighting the Obama Administration’s position.  Rogin quotes National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor who pointed Foreign Policy to the following (and unfortunate) statement issued at the 2008 Bucharest summit:

“We recognize the hard work and the commitment demonstrated by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to NATO values and Alliance operations. We commend them for their efforts to build a multi-ethnic society. Within the framework of the UN, many actors have worked hard to resolve the name issue, but the Alliance has noted with regret that these talks have not produced a successful outcome. Therefore we agreed that an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached.”

Unfortunately, I do not believe Macedonia will receive its well-earned invitation for a number of reasons.  First and foremost is Greece’s continued intransigence.  The Greek elections are May 6 and are not likely to produce a clear winner.  There will most likely be a run-off later in May conflicting with the summit.  And since the Greek veto at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, Greece has shown no flexibility whatsoever on this matter.  Greece will continue with its childish and churlish behavior until world leaders tell Greece: No.

But there is a second reason: US domestic politics.  Chicago is President Obama’s hometown.  That is why the NATO summit is being held there.  It is an opportunity for the president to showcase his so-called leadership and expertise in foreign affairs.  Politically, for the president, it must be an absolute success.  Therefore, there can be no embarrassments.  Another Greek veto of Macedonia would be such an embarrassment.

Of course, this continues to be wrong, not only morally, but also for NATO policy.  And it is wrong because the Alliance is made weaker, less effective and more susceptible to fracture because it allows bilateral disputes to get it the way of the greater good.  And that’s unfortunate for NATO and damaging to our collective way of life in the political and economic West.

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It has been reported that the frescoes in the church of Sv. Dimitrija have become brighter over the past few days, almost cleaning themselves of years of candle smoke.  The colors – especially the red and gold – have reappeared and it is reported as a miracle.

Whether it is a miracle or not remains to be seen.  Even if attributed to something else, I still very much believe in miracles.  And while I do not believe there will be a “Chicago Miracle”  (though I would love to be proven wrong), I do believe in Macedonia – in her people, her history, her culture.  Macedonia has already achieved great things in its short history as a modern-day nation-state.  And I look forward to more great achievements from the Macedonian people. Bravo, Macedonia.

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Jason Miko
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