In domestic politics during this 2008 election year, Democrats are positioning themselves as the party of the "underdog", the poor and the dis-empowered, and paint the Republicans as the party of the wealthy and the power elite. I find this ironic given that in at least one aspect of the international arena the roles seem to be reversed. Democrats are clearly supporting Greece, a much more powerful EU and NATO member, against the young and vulnerable Republic of Macedonia. While Republicans are supporting Macedonia's entry into NATO, Democrats are supporting Greece's efforts to bully Macedonia by vetoing its NATO membership—at the risk of destabilizing the Balkans.
NATO membership for Macedonia is very important for the stability of the Balkans, especially in the aftermath of the independence of Kosovo. It is also critical for the stability and prosperity of Macedonia in these uncertain times. Macedonians are very eager to join NATO and have spent 8 years preparing their military for this important step.
Since its independence in 1991, Macedonia has been a very loyal and reliable ally of the U.S. During the NATO intervention in Serbia in 1999, Macedonia provided shelter for over 360,000 refugees from Kosovo, a number equal to nearly a fifth of its population. Macedonia also made its entire territory available for logistic support for the NATO troops in this intervention. This support was critical for the success of the war and is credited for saving the lives of many U.S. soldiers.
Today, Macedonian soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq along the U.S. soldiers in steadily increasing numbers. Greece has obstructed and undermined U.S. military efforts in the Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan every step of the way and continues to obstruct the American policy in Kosovo. All agree that Macedonia has fulfilled all criteria for membership.
Nonetheless, at the NATO summit in Bucharest earlier this month, Greece vetoed the offer of a membership invitation to Macedonia. The Greek veto is a "direct breach" of the Interim Accord signed between Macedonia and Greece in September 1995. It is also in direct opposition to U.S. policy in the region, as the U.S. was a strong supporter for Macedonia's admission to NATO. The veto received negative reactions by media outlets around the world, with headlines such as the New York Times "Shame on Greece – Messing with Macedonia." It has also radicalized Macedonians, who have been rather calm and compliant in the last 10 years of negotiations, changing its flag and constitution to appease Greece. History shows that a destabilized Macedonia is a dangerous thing, for the region and Europe as a whole.
In the current heady environment of election-year fervor, U.S. politicians may be tempted to sacrifice their strategic interests in the Balkans to seduce Greek-American votes. As Greeks are more numerous and affluent in the U.S., the Greek lobby is holding policies towards the region hostage. Sen. Obama and his colleagues, Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, have sponsored the bizarre Senate Resolution 300, which is clearly just pandering to the Greek lobby and has nothing to do with American interests or foreign policy.
It is, in fact, detrimental to U.S. foreign policy interests in that it threatens to destabilize the region. This resolution is merely a smokescreen to justify Greece's breaking the Interim Accord and an attempt to make the U.S. reverse its position on Macedonia's name. As stated in the Interim Accord, any disputes about its implementation and interpretation are to be resolved by the International Court of Justice, not the U.S. Congress.
Republican Sen. Lugar, on the other hand, has introduced Senate Resolution 459, expressing the strong support of the Senate for NATO to extend invitations for membership to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia at the recent NATO Summit in Bucharest. In Sen. Lugar's press release of the resolution, they emphasize that "Any further delay on the candidacies of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia will diminish regional stability just as Kosovo begins its extended period of supervised independence, and will confuse and undercut the European Union as it takes over chief security responsibilities from the United States and NATO throughout the region. An inability to close this chapter in the Balkans would also dangerously slow our engagement with Europe's East."
Five Republican senators have co-sponsored this resolution, and no Democrats.
Macedonian Americans are asking themselves: Is this the official stance of the Democratic Party – to intimidate and destroy Macedonia as a nation? Left-leaning Macedonian Americans are "left" with a choice – vote their social issues but lose their identity, or support conservatives, which goes against their values, and preserve their identity.
The Democratic Party fancies itself the party of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised while accusing the Republican Party of supporting the wealthy and well established. Isn't it ironic that in this case the Democrats are supporting the oppressor and the Republicans are supporting the oppressed? Let us remember that the United States of America was once a small nation whose existence was in doubt until support was provided by one of the great world powers of the day.
The official position of the current U.S. government is that it recognizes the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, and it supports its bid for NATO membership. It is in the strategic interests of the U.S. that it remains that way.
Zoya Naskova is an international development and education consultant in Washington, D.C.