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Changes in US Foreign Policy Leadership
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The re-election of President Obama and changes in the U.S. Congress bring changes in the leadership of individuals who conduct US foreign policy.  In this week’s article, I want to highlight some of those new individuals and what their elevation to important positions means for Macedonia.

The most obvious change happened last week.  Now former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped down, some say to prepare for a run for the presidency in 2016, which opened up American’s top diplomatic job.  President Obama chose Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a fellow Democrat (the party of the president and left-leaning in terms of politics and policy) and long-time foreign policy politician who ran for president in 2004 against George W. Bush and lost.  Bush, it is worth reiterating, is a member of the Republican Party (the right-leaning party in American politics) and recognized the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name the day after he was re-elected in November of 2004.

Secretary Kerry does not have a large record of statements on Macedonia, save for one reference during the 2004 campaign (and speaking as a candidate, not as a Senator) I found where he sent greetings to the Macedonian American Friendship Association.  The bottom line for Kerry, as Secretary, is that he will rely on direction from the White House, American ambassadors, and, equally importantly, other State Department officials in formulating his policy toward Macedonia (and maybe he will actually visit Macedonia, something Secretary Clinton never did despite four trips to the region).

Senator Kerry’s move over to the Department of State has opened up his former position, that of Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The U.S. Senate, being the upper house of legislative branch of the American government, has jurisdiction over a number of foreign issues, including confirming foreign ambassadors, which the president appoints, and confirming international treaties. Within the Senate, a number of powerful committees exist and the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the top foreign affairs position on the legislative side of the American government.  The chairman-in-waiting, is New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, also a Democrat.  More on him in a moment.

On the other side of the legislative branch of American government, the House of Representatives, there is also a Foreign Affairs Committee.  The former chairwoman, Republican Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, had to step aside because the chairmanship is limited to a number of years and she had reached the maximum.  The new chair is Republican and California Representative Ed Royce.  Unfortunately, in 2007 he co-sponsored a pro-Greek non-binding resolution (House Resolution 356) that was introduced by the chairwoman of the Greek Caucus in the House of Representatives.  We can only hope that the newly established Friends of Macedonia Caucus in the House will help to educate Representative Royce on the truth about Macedonia and Greece.

Finally, within both the Senate and House Foreign Relations/Affairs Committees there are subcommittees which deal with Europe.  While not too active during the year, often committee hearings and legislation begins in these subcommittees.

But back to Robert Menendez.  The Senator, no friend of Macedonia, is currently embroiled in a major prostitution and campaign financing scandal.  It has been alleged that he used the private plane of a wealthy campaign donor to fly to the Dominican Republic to engage the services of prostitutes, often under-age.  There are two parts to this growing scandal, the charges of using the services of prostitutes and the use of a campaign donor’s plane which he did not report until the issue was raised in the press last month.  Menendez admitted to the use of the planes and admitted that he did not report them when he should have, repaid the cost of the trips, and is now under a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

This past weekend, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger, came out with an editorial that was highly critical of the Senator (the Star-Ledger endorsed him during his reelection campaign three months ago so their high profile editorial is highly unusual).  While the paper dismissed the prostitution charges as politically motivated it did come out and state that there are now “serious doubts about his fitness to serve as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee,” demanding that “….Before he takes that post, Menendez needs to break his silence and explain himself.”

Which brings us to Macedonia.  In 2008 Menendez, along with Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (a Greek), wrote an editorial for The Washington Times in which they stated, among many other untruths and half-truths, the old Greek lies about how Macedonia was “created” by Tito.  They also refused to call Macedonia by the name which the US Government recognized Macedonia by and instead referred to the UN acronym.  Finally, they wanted to put some teeth into their editorial stating “She (then Secretary of State Rice) can tell FYROM that unless it accepts an international name that describes only its territory, such as ‘North’ or ‘Upper’ Macedonia, to be also used in the bilateral relations with the United States, by a time certain, the U.S. will withdraw bilateral recognition of FYROM as ‘Republic of Macedonia.’’

Menendez has committed many other sins against Macedonia and if he is confirmed as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Government of Macedonia, the Macedonia Diaspora and all of Macedonia’s many friends will have to work harder to secure Macedonia’s rightful position in US foreign policy.

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Jason Miko
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