Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 616, p. 39, on Feb. 03
Ten years after the Greek veto over FYROM’s accession to NATO, the file for the name of the neighboring country reopened. There are many theories about the reasons but also about the countries behind the resurgence of the issue. Some Greek analysts accuse the United States of urging Greece to speed up the resolution of the name issue with a view to reaching a compromise solution with the neighboring country to join in NATO. Others claim that Turkey has an influence on FYROM and supports it, while some rely on the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline as the cause for immediate tension in the Alliance. In my opinion, reality is completely different.
Macedonia as a state is not a strong military, economic or political force and its geographical position is not particularly strategic. A quick reading of finances of the neighbor proves that Greece is very important for it. In addition, it is FYROM that needs to join NATO, rather than the opposite, as a first step towards joining the European Union for obvious economic reasons.
The American role in the crisis for the name
In a previous article, I referred to the danger and growing influence of Russia in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East. But it is important to understand that FYROM is not as important to NATO or the US. Its location between Greece and Serbia does not offer anything special in trying to halt the Russian threat and its military strength of some 8,000 soldiers does not add anything to the Alliance’s equation. The United States, with its international influence, can push the financially troubled Greece to accept giving up the name Macedonia, but in practice it does not seem like the US officials are showing much interest in it. The discussion of a timetable for reaching an agreement leading to FYROM’s accession to NATO is just an exaggeration of some Greek politicians in order to benefit politically from its results.
The Russian-Turkish pipeline
The link between the crisis of the nomenclature and the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline, which may cross FYROM, is far from reality. The pipeline, whose construction is still not 100% sure, does not have to stop for FYROM to join NATO. Washington can use its influence in the region to stop it, as was shown by recent statements by Tillerson that “the US will not allow the pipeline to pass through Ukraine.” Greece, as a member of NATO, can prevent it as well as Bulgaria. Therefore, there is no question of a pipeline in the talks on the name of Macedonia.
The Turkish role
The conspiratorial atmosphere is staggered every time there is a crisis in Greece and always connected with Turkey, it should be analyzed in a simple way. First, the conditions prevailing in Turkey keep it busy with other crises. The entire Turkish administration has focused on the recent operation launched against the Kurdish militias of Afrin in northwest Syria. It is also known that Turkey has little influence on the FYROM government and that relations between the two countries are limited to the commercial sector rather than to the political or military. Therefore, Turkey has no involvement in this particular crisis.
The visit by the Israeli President to Athens earlier this week seems to me to be linked to one aspect of FYROM’s accession talks with NATO. Israel has good relations with the government of FYROM and Israeli lobby has a high degree of influence on political decisions there. However, it is important to stress that the issue of FYROM’s abandonment of Macedonian historical name is not in the hands of the Greek government, whose representatives should be well aware that the issue will be resolved and that Alexander’s name will remain always inscribed in the history of Macedonia, as well as its Greekness.
Greeks have a high level of awareness and understanding of the importance of ancient history, as well as the tricks of Greek politicians on all sides to cover their failures at all levels. Greece will not surrender to those who need to fill some gaps in their history.