When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers

The Russian diplomat has been expelled from the country not only because of solidarity with the United States and Britain in the case of Skripal, but also because he was a spy, Macedonian authorities said yesterday. According to Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, the Russian came out of the allowed framework of action, ie he overstepped his competencies trying to obtain sensitive and classified information that would affect the security of Macedonia. Dimitrov says this procedure is backed up by facts and arguments, that this is happening among friendly countries, and hopes that after clearing the case, the relations between Macedonia and Russia will be on a higher level.

President Gjorge Ivanov believes that the decision of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry is hasty and called for restraint to prevent possible damage to the realization of the strategic goals of Macedonia.

“The Republic of Macedonia, as a candidate country for EU membership, follows the EU’s policy and its decisions made by consensus and at the EU level. Given that the decisions to expel Russian diplomats are not an expression of a harmonized attitude of all EU member states, but it is about individual decisions of individual member states, I consider that the decision of the Macedonian MFA is hasty,” Ivanov said.

Some analysts emphasize that Macedonia as a candidate for NATO membership must follow its strategic priorities and show solidarity with the countries in which company it wants to be. Relations with the Russian Federation have been on the downside for a long time, especially after the change of government in the country and “abdication” of Nikola Gruevski from the prime minister’s chair. Only a few days ago, the Macedonian Ambassador to Moscow was pointed out by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Greshko that plans to join Macedonia in NATO could have negative consequences for regional security and bilateral relations. Earlier, in an interview with the Serbian agency “Beta”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a similar message. He said NATO enlargement with Macedonia was a mistake. In addition, Lavrov said in the interview that NATO enlargement is perhaps the most serious challenge for general European stability and security. For a long time, they floated in the allegations of interfering Russian structures in the incident in the Parliament from last April 27, as well as dubious financing of certain political circles in the country.

“I read an interesting saying, an African proverb, which says, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” However, I personally consider that there were many conditions when a reaction from the Macedonian side was due to Russian interference in the internal processes and plans. Yes, and for the interference of other states, but in Russian in particular. If nothing else, at least for the last threat of our entry into NATO, we had to send a diplomatic note. Macedonia wants to be part of Western democracies, and I have no dilemmas what and how to do it. It is most puzzling to me that people trust those who say the threats more than those who warn about the threats,” says Andreja Stojkovski from Center for European Strategies “Eurothink”.

Diplomatic circles have commented that the expulsion of diplomats is a strong intensification of relations between the two countries. According to the procedure, the host country notifies the consular department, mission or embassy note that a person is declared a persona non grata and gets a few days to leave the country. Half a year ago, Macedonia and Serbia entered a diplomatic war over the participation of Serbian intelligence officer Goran Zivaljievic in the unrest in the Parliament. Official Belgrade even withdrew the staff of the Serbian Embassy in Skopje. Then, the two governments agreed to withdraw one of their embassy employees and calm things down.

Former diplomat Risto Nikovski warns that the decision to expel the Russian diplomat will have repercussions in the UN Security Council, where, according to him, the name dispute with Greece will end, “no matter how stupid solution the Macedonian government is ready to accept.”

“This unconsidered move reminds me of the recognition of Taiwan as an independent state, after which China vetoed the renewal of UNPREDEP’s mandate in the UN Security Council and left the northern border unprotected. Then there was a military conflict,” analyzes Nikovski.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who lived in the UK, were poisoned by nerve agent at the beginning of the month, and the authorities in Moscow were cited as guilty. Around twenty countries of the world (14 from the EU) as a sign of protest expelled sixty Russian diplomats from their countries. From the neighborhood, for solidarity with London and Washington, Albania, Romania and Croatia have decided to do this, but not Greece, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Slovenia, Serbia…

Frovik was sent home in 1999

Macedonia has not expelled a foreign diplomat so far, although in 2001, the Special Representative of the OSCE, American Robert Frovik, was discreetly suggested to leave the country. Due to the proposals for negotiations with the NLA, the ceasefire, the amnesty and the change of the Constitution, Frovik was brutally criticized by the public and the Macedonian political bloc. After several months, his ideas became an official part of President Boris Trajkovski’s plan, supported by the four leaders: Ljubco Georgievski, Branko Crvenkovski, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri.

Goran Adamovski