Saturday, March 4, 2017
It's Time to Trust Russia, Not Trump, on Macedonia
© AP Photo/ Boris Grdanoski
Despite the high hopes placed on his administration, Trump has so far done nothing to move away from Obama's Hybrid War on Macedonia, thus lending further credence to Russia's warning that foreign powers are plotting to annihilate the country's statehood.
The Republic of Macedonia is once again mired in a political crisis, the country's third in as many years. The author covered the first one in 2015 and its sequel the year after in two of his Sputnik articles, so the reader should check them out if they need a background briefing about the specifics. To be concise, the US has been experimenting with a new political technology in the country, relying on the strategic leaking of manipulated and illegally procured wiretaps on Macedonian politicians, journalists, and private citizens in order stoke Color Revolution unrest against the government with the aim of destabilizing it and thus offsetting Russia and China's Balkan megaprojects of the Balkan/Turkish Stream gas pipeline and Balkan Silk Road high-speed railway, respectively, which are planned to crucially transit through the landlocked country.
Zoran Zaev, the leader of the SDSM opposition, was tasked by the US with being the face of the anti-government movement, and his political supporters are characterized by their liberal-progressive beliefs in radical feminism and pro-homosexual legislation, which starkly put them at odds with Macedonia's conservative majority. This helps to explain SDSM's unpopularity over the past couple of years, a fact which even Zaev himself might have realized and which could have been the reason why he continually wanted to postpone the very same parliamentary elections which he had been agitating for over the past couple of years. Because of the unattractiveness of SDSM's socio-cultural leanings, the opposition knew that they wouldn't be able to beat the ruling VMRO party without getting some additional help, which is why they resorted to the dangerous game of identity politics by playing the "Albanian card".
Macedonia has a very sizeable Albanian minority, though the exact figures are disputable because the most recent census figures are from 2002. At the time that the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) was signed in 2001, it was thought that approximately a quarter of all Macedonians were Albanian, though there are still concerns that even that number was inflated by the hundreds of thousands of Albanians which flooded into the country during the 1999 NATO War on Yugoslavia. OFA helped Macedonia narrowly avoid another repeat of the Kosovo scenario in violently carving out the World War II fascist-driven project of so-called "Greater Albania", and it guaranteed Albanians proportional representation in the country's government and society.
Hungarian-born US magnate and philanthropist George Soros attends an economic forum in Colombo on January 7, 2016
© AFP 2016/ LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI
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In the decade and a half since OFA was signed, however, Macedonians were granted the right to more freely travel all across Europe, and this is believed by some observers to have sparked an Albanian immigration wave to the EU and the consequent diminishment of this demographic in Macedonia. If this is indeed the case, then it would accordingly lead to less proportional representation for Albanians in Macedonia, which is why the census is such a highly charged topic nowadays. Be that as it may, the present political arrangement in the country is predicated on the presumption that at least 25 percent of Albanians are legal Macedonian citizens still residing in the country, and Zaev knew that he would have to tap into this demographic in order to boost his electoral odds against VMRO.
It's here where US Ambassador Jess Baily importantly comes into play.
It's widely suspected that Ambassador Baily was instrumental in getting the Albanian minority to rally around SDSM instead of their traditional ethno-centric political parties, as has usually been the case in the country's post-Ohrid electoral history. This contributed to SDSM nearly winning the December parliamentary vote, much to the surprise of all observers who had discounted that possibility since they presumed that the Albanians would stick with their own political parties instead of switch over to SDSM. VMRO barely won the election, but wasn't able to form a government because its usual Albanian coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), stubbornly refused to work with the incumbent authorities unless they conceded to the radical demands of the so-called "Albanian Platform".
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This agenda was formed in the Albanian capital of Tirana right after the elections when all of the Albanian Macedonian political parties were invited there by Prime Minister Edi Rama and ordered to promote certain policies in the country which would boost the prospects for "Greater Albania". One of these was the demand that all governing structures across Macedonia become bilingual, even in areas where there are no Albanians, which is unacceptable to VMRO and most Macedonians in general. The government is already abiding by the OFA, which has granted Albanians the best minority rights anywhere in the world. Macedonian patriots believe that the "Albanian Platform" is unnecessary and therefore really a thinly disguised plot to expand Tirana's influence over the country, dovetailing with the earlier so-called "Union of Albanian Municipalities" which was announced midway through last year.
All of this is threatening enough as it is, but it's all the more dangerous because Zaev hinted during the campaign that he would liberally interpret the OFA in order to give Albanians "more rights" if he wins, which some observers interpreted as a dog whistle to indicate his support for "Greater Albania" through the introduction of nationwide bilingualism and then later on the country's "federalization" (internal partition). Even worse, it's understood that these two steps would eventually come to involve a revision of the country's constitutional name from the Republic of Macedonia in order to satisfy Greece and guarantee Athens' swift support for Skopje's EU and NATO membership.
The "naming dispute", as it's commonly referred to, is a very complex issue, but it strikes at the heart of what it means to be Macedonian and is its peoples' most sensitive socio-political topic. It's popularly believed that if the country's name is changed, then this would eventually lead to the destruction of the Macedonian state, which is why it's so fiercely opposed by the vast majority of the population but appears to have the backing of Ambassador Baily, Soros and his shadowy network, and Zaev and his Albanian political cohorts.
Towards Another Balkan War?
Assuming that Trump even wanted to change this approach, he might realistically not be able to at this point because Obama opened up Pandora's Box through the electoral revival of Albanian nationalism in Macedonia, which might dangerously result in a resurgence of Albanian terrorism if their political demands aren't met. A terrorist cell was busted in May 2015 at the height of the first American-engineered destabilization against the country, and had it not been dismantled, it could have very well transformed the failed Color Revolution into an Unconventional War, thereby midwifing a violent Hybrid War in the Balkans. Russia is well aware of what's at stake, not just to it and its Chinese ally's infrastructural interests, but to regional stability as a whole, which is why Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had this to say on Thursday:
"The West is using the Albanian minority in an attempt to bring to power in Skopje the defeated opposition, which approved the Albanian ultimatums leading to the erosion of the country's constitutional principles. The ongoing destructive attempts to impose schemes from the outside, contrary to the will of the Macedonian voters, can only aggravate the situation. It is necessary to stop foreign interference in the internal affairs of Macedonia, to respect the right of the Macedonian citizens to shape their own destiny in accordance with the fundamental democratic principles."
Her wise comments were followed by an alarming statement from MID, a portion of which said that:
"We believe that this is extremely dangerous with an intention to annihilate Macedonian statehood and destabilize the entire Balkan region."
This echoed what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had presciently warned in May 2015 after Albania and Bulgaria — both of which have historical (albeit presently unstated) claims to Macedonia — began to menacingly posture against their neighbor:
"It's been suggested now that Macedonia needs to be federalized even deeper, so as to turn into a flexible federation or perhaps a confederation, and ideas have even been aired as to why not dismember it as an artificial state, with part of it going to Bulgaria and another part to Albania."
Lo and behold, the exact same thing that Lavrov warned about became an attention-grabbing policy proposal in December 2016 when former British diplomat and Balkan expert Timothy Less began to lobby hard for a geopolitical redivision of the Balkans. His scandalous article for the influential Council on Foreign Relations neoconservative think tank advocated for the "federalization" (internal partition) of Macedonia as a precursor to the country's western annexation by Albania. California Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Dana Rohrabacher channeled Less' proposal and took it a step further in February by outright declaring to Albanian media that "Macedonia is not a country… Kosovars and Albanians from Macedonia should be part of Kosovo and the rest of Macedonia should be part of Bulgaria".
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Although many high hopes were placed on the Trump Administration, it has thus far disappointingly proven itself unwilling to stop Obama's Hybrid War on Macedonia and might even be preparing to intensify it. Even if Trump attempts to symbolically appease the masses and remove Baily from his Ambassadorship, this will only be a superficial change so long as the strategy of supporting "Greater Albania" via the "Albanian Platform" and Zaev remains in effect, which it probably will because the neoconservative "deep state" is still running most of America's foreign policy.
Even though many Macedonian patriots look up to Trump because of his conservative socio-economic policies and hypnotizing charisma, they would do well to remember that his ideology is "America First", and that right now at least, his "deep state" believes that destabilizing Macedonia as a means of stopping Russia and China's Balkan megaprojects would "Make America Great Again" in spite of all that the tiny country has hitherto done to cultivate excellent relations with the US, EU, and NATO since its independence.
Macedonians should instead start listening more to Russia, not Trump and his surrogates, since Moscow is proven to have been right all along and each of its warnings have fatefully materialized. That being said, no level-headed Macedonian wants MID's last scenario forecast to come true, which would result in the annihilation of Macedonian statehood and the destabilization of the entire Balkan region, so it's imperative that they begin putting their trust in Russia if they want their country to make it out of this American-provoked chaos in one piece.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.