Will Russia put a footnote on Macedonia’s name?

After the nervous reaction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about accepting the constitutional changes in Macedonia, President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov personally came up with new assessments. In a final attempt to influence the vote in Greece and to give a loud voice to their demand for the name agreement to be debated in the UN Security Council, where Russia plays a role as well, both have entered into a field in which no country that respects the credibility of its diplomacy would even enter.

Putin argues that behind the implementation of the name agreement are the United States and several other Western countries because they want to consolidate their domination in the Balkans, and that it becomes a serious destabilizing factor in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his visit to Serbia, answered questions from Serbian media – the newspapers Politika and Večernje novosti. According to Putin, Macedonia, much like Montenegro, is forcibly absorbed into NATO, despite the stance of half of its population.

“The authorities did not risk holding any relevant referendum – as a result, the country is suffering political instability.”

“The referendum on changing the country’s name name failed, but the outside pressure continued,” Putin added in the interview ignoring the fact that besides the referendum, all polls show that a huge percentage of Macedonians want to join NATO, but they do not want to do so change the name of the country, ie that the problem is not a strategic determination, but the price that Macedonia pays for it.

Lavrov, meanwhile, said that Russia does not oppose the new name for Macedonia, but there is the issue of the legitimacy of the ongoing process. By doing so, he practically rejected the dilemmas that Moscow could continue to address the country with the name Republic of Macedonia with a footnote, as Turkey has done so far in all international organizations, ie – to refuse using the new name, as authorities in Greece fear, because they think it has been imposed on Macedonia.

“We do not oppose the name that eventually appeared and was announced. We ask questions about how legitimate this process is and how much it really is conditioned by the desire to find a consensus between Greece and Skopje, or it is conditioned by the US desire to drive all Balkan countries into NATO as soon as possible and stop any Russian influence in that region,” said Lavrov.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that Moscow does not interfere in Athens’s internal affairs, but will continue to express its opinion on the name issue of Macedonia because it is under the authority of the UN Security Council. Grushko said that the comment by the Russian Foreign Ministry, condemning the decision of the Macedonian Parliament to change the Constitution for the purpose of changing the name of the country, is an essential assessment of “how the negotiations (between Athens and Skopje for the renaming of Macedonia) took place, under whose international pressure and unprecedented interference that the West has shown in achieving completely clear geopolitical goals.”

Although Russia has legitimate geostrategic interests, Macedonia is far from its frontier, so our NATO membership neither qualitatively nor quantitatively will imply a greater threat to it, this Russian concern is explained only by the hopes that in addition to Serbia, Moscow can also gather other Balkan countries around and create some kind of new eastern bloc in the middle of the Alliance. Therefore, Moscow’s reactions were read yesterday as sincere and friendly only by Janko Bacev’s political party, United Macedonia.

“Although the announcement by the Russian MFA that the name issue should be considered in the UN Security Council is good in trying to prevent the erosion of everything that is Macedonian, the Macedonian MFA reacted again in the negative context of Russia’s sincere intentions for respecting the holy Macedonian name, identity, history and tradition of the Macedonian people. This is an old practice of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov, creating provocations on an anti-Russian basis and to break the concept of friendly relations with Russia,” the party said.

Moscow’s arguments that disputed the agreement between Macedonia and Greece are reduced to several: that both the agreement and the new name have been forcibly imposed from outside, that the sole goal is for Macedonia to join NATO because it in the West’s interest, not ours, that the whole process is illegitimate from the aspect of the current Macedonian legislation, that the position of President Gjorge Ivanov and the opinion expressed by the majority expressed in a referendum, that the protests against the agreement are ignored and that this does not lead to a long-term solution – instead it creates greater division in the society. According to Moscow, a sustainable solution must be found without outside pressure and without imposing deadlines and conditions, based on broad social support – in Macedonia and Greece – and exclusively within the framework of law.

Moreover, Moscow refuses to see that the agreement is a bilateral issue whose solution was supported by the two current prime ministers who are not anyone’s marionettes, that there negotiations for the dispute for over two decades, and that the pressure from outside was to come up with a solution, but not just any solution. Also, that the solution to a dispute cannot be a destabilizing factor when the failure of it was precisely that for Macedonia, that the agreement is an internal matter between the two countries and not Russia, that it was passed in our parliament and that the Russian interests regarding the non-enlargement of NATO cannot be crucial when making decisions for Macedonia.

Moscow ignores the fact that Macedonia is not a presidential, but primarily a parliamentary democracy, that Ivanov did not stand behind the agreement, but the ruling coalition was the one that stood behind it, that there was room for the opposition in Macedonia to take part in the deal, but chose to boycott it, while Moscow doesn’t even bother to ask the opposition about some kind of stance, and, on the contrary, does everything in its power to make it go away, and no one has seen a referendum on major issues in Russia since the time of Boris Yeltsin, with no one checking the will of the people when they made the president of the country ‘for life’. Whilst here they see the will of the people every time Janko Bacev comes out on the streets with less than a dozen followers.

(NV)