Did Zaev say “nyet” to Putin?

Erol Rizaov

Several days ago, when the great world power of Russia threatened Macedonia, demanding that it renounce its strategic interest in NATO membership, it was a clear message to the United States and to the Alliance to leave Macedonia aside because Bachushka wanted that. It was a real shock and a great humiliation for the citizens of Macedonia, confronted with the arrogance of “mother Russia”, which is still celebrated by old and new pan-Slavic utopias, cheap Russian installations of low quality, vibrantly multiplied by various quasi-patriots and wasted nationalists. The news was tragicomic – the Russian bear chases a Macedonian rabbit in the greenhouse.

The message is received and read instantly with the necessary attention. Macedonia first responded in a diplomatic tongue, cautiously, not to anger the bear, expressing concern about the Russian threats to destabilize Macedonia and the entire region, directly and roughly portrayed in the Russian MFA by the Macedonian ambassador. In the moderate answer, with the argument that since the first day of independence, or for 27 years, in Macedonia there is wide consensus and great support for membership in NATO and the EU, the necessary precaution of a small and peaceful country towards friendly Russia, which is aware of Macedonia’s determination and with which a number of bilateral Russian-Macedonian agreements have been signed corresponding to friendly countries. The Kremlin has not problematized them so far, at least not publicly, the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Macedonia – on the contrary, it recognized the country under its constitutional name and gave the blessing that the state chooses its own path.
Moscow publicly declared that it has an understanding of the specificities of Macedonia in terms of the stability of the state and the entire region, and that it basically has no other choice than Euro-Atlantic integrations, which is the greatest guarantee for development and peace in the country, and preservation of its territorial integrity and unitary state. But after Macedonia’s accession to NATO became a reality, especially after the change of power in Macedonia, which held a status quo for more than a decade in relations with the Alliance and with the EU, and when the Greek blockade of Macedonia remained without other arguments other than the ultimatum, the Kremlin the first warning that Macedonia is on the fire line. Macedonia did not pay much attention on this, except the new Russian lobbyists who complemented and interpreted the message to the wider public that the “line of fire” means a great danger for Macedonia if it continues to strive for an alliance with NATO. Nowadays, the situation escalates and comes to Moscow to directly and openly warn Macedonia that it can destabilize the whole region if it joins NATO, regardless that the entire Balkan Peninsula is already in NATO and the EU, and the remaining few countries are headed that way.

Macedonia’s moderate response did not cause any reaction, and in the Kremlin it received the treatment of a stiff rabbit before python. Moscow waited for the answer from the real address that was threatened through Macedonia. And, now, the answer came in a more understandable language, which is the expulsion of a Russian diplomat from Macedonia. It caused a new upsurge of the divisions in Macedonia, which is for Russia, and who for America, who is for Stalin, and who for Tito. Did Zaev say “Nyet” to Putin, or just forward the message of NATO and the United States to Moscow? Are we afraid of a Russian bear with a tambourine, or did Macedonia start to learn what state interests are? Do we know what the punishment will be, and what will be the reward? Are we aware of what we do when we mess with Russia? Will we again be a coin for change when the great powers finally sit down to agree on their interests of influence? These are the first reactions of the latest Russian-American influences in the Balkans, which I have already named as “every evil has its good”, of course, if Macedonian political leaders are truly pragmatic and use the historical moment when global world powers have clearly expressed interests. Any wrong step, or sitting on two chairs, indecision to recognize true allies and state interests can be a very dangerous thing with lasting consequences. Macedonian political leaders this time have the support of the vast majority of citizens, but this does not diminish their responsibility if they make a wrong move. Once we had an experiment with the recognition of Taiwan when we infuriated China and afterwards we constantly apologized, but we still pay for the damage. It turned out that it was an autochthonous, our authentic stupidity that no one sought from us. Before that, we had a completely opposite situation when NATO begged Macedonia to allow flight to the territory of military aircraft and the movement of tanks and terrestrial units, without which intervention in Yugoslavia and Kosovo was not possible. The Kosovo land-line invasion was not feasible without the use of the territory of Macedonia, a situation that was possible once a hundred years, or never, which widely opened the doors of NATO and then the EU. Macedonia has not used this historic opportunity neither politically nor economically. The army and state political leadership had a wholly wrong assessment of the situation that put them in the lap of the world’s largest event at the time. The most complex and major military operations after the Second World War on the European soil for Macedonia ended with the repair of several bridges destroyed up by the tracks of the tanks and battle cars of future allies and nothing more. Macedonia received neither NATO membership, nor negotiations with the EU.

Will Macedonia now miss the chance to become a NATO member, or make an authentic independent domestic stupidity messing with a Russian bear? The expulsion of a Russian diplomat is a risky act even for members of NATO and the EU who have great interests, as is the case with Slovenia and Greece. If this is a confirmation of alliance and membership in NATO, even with the name of FYR Macedonia, then the risk can be calculated and acceptable, because membership in the Alliance binds everyone, especially America. If this is only solidarity with England without any compensation just to get patted on the shoulder, then every more radical step of ruining relations with Russia, or with any world power, is a great foolishness of the type – has no horns and still wants to poke.