Foreign Policy Diary ‘Macedonia Crisis’

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Republic of Macedonia is a landlocked Balkan country of about 2 million, one of the regions of the former Yugoslavia. To the United States, it’s also the newest open front in a fomenting regime change to establish its political, economy and military control. Macedonia’s ethnic divide between Albanians and Macedonians came to a head on May 9, when an attack by Albanian gunmen in the town of Kumanovo left at least 18 people dead. A Macedonian opposition member alleged that the attack was faked, and that the government had attacked itself. Earlier, violent opposition protests in the country’s capital on May 6 injured 38 police officers and at least two protesters. However, the conflict has been predominantly shown as one between an authoritarian government and a democratic opposition in Western media and political discourse.

According to the official western version of these events, tens of thousands of demonstrators have took to the streets of the capital, Skopje, to demand Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s resignation because the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia and its leader Zoran Zaev have accused the government of corruption and wiretapping 20,000 people, including politicians, journalists and religious leaders. Meanwhile, common Western media have stated that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is an authoritarian leader. It has become the public start of full-scale international pressure on legal Macedonian government.

In turn, the US has voiced its concerns over so-called ‘political crisis’ in Macedonia and has called on the government to probe opposition claims of corruption. “We remain in close consultation with the Macedonian government and with political leaders to convey our concerns about the current political crisis,” the State Department’s press office director Jeff Rathke told reporters. Unfortunately, he forgot to add that US decisively performed a same kind of consultation in Ukraine during the coup in 2014. Washington also called on all sides “to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and peaceful protest,” the commonplace to justify any illegal actions of anti-government forces.

Although the Macedonian opposition talks of democracy and anti-corruption campaigns, its actual political discourse, such as in the prominent Societas Civilis group which has received US government funding, focuses primarily on issues of ethnicity and nationalism. Particular emphasis is given to the study of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethnic groups live in a separated country which is on track to EU and NATO membership. The only difference with the situation in Ukraine is that US-sponsored interests favor the recognition of the Albanian minority in Macedonia. Albania is a US ally and NATO member. The concept of “Greater Albania,” an expansion of the Albanian state into areas of other countries where ethnic Albanians live has also become more prominent. The organized faction of the Macedonian opposition, the SDSM, is the successor to Macedonia’s communist-era League of Communists of Macedonia. The SDSM now supports the idea of “Macedonia as full-fledged member of NATO and EU” according to the party’s official website.

Speaking on a visit to Serbia on Friday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said events in Macedonia were “unfolding against the background of the government’s refusal to join the policy of sanctions against Russia and the vigorous support Skopje gave to the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project”. Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday followed Mr Lavrov’s comments with a statement citing Serbian media reports of the arrest of a Montenegrin citizen whom “assisted Kosovo-Albanian extremists” in Macedonia. Turkish Stream is a scheme that Moscow is promoting to replace the South Stream project to bring Russian gas into southeast Europe which was abandoned in December after EU opposition. Serbia, Greece and Macedonia are obvious members of the project. The U.S. has been lobbying Greece to go with a competing pipeline project that would transport gas from Azerbaijan rather than Russia. As for Macedonia, two months after the Turkish Stream plans were broached, the opposition leader Zoran Zaev started frankly actions to enforce protests in the country. Thus, it is hard to believe that crisis in Macedonia is an accident.

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