American strategy on the Skopje issue, and the power of Athens

by Christodoulos Yallouridis*

(‘Ethnos Newspaper’, 24 October, 2008)
[link to original article]

With the lid being taken off American tactical moves on the Skopje issue and with the search for consensus on the problem of the name, yet one more proof emerges of how very one-sided American interest in FYROM is. Routinely, for a number of years, the USA has been officially supporting FYROM's position at various levels, with occasional attempts to throw Athens off the scent, though American strategy does not change. Thus by making official use of the monitoring function that she is assigning anyway to Mr Nimic as mediator, she has now attempted to make up a package giving the Skopians just what they want, with an official agreement defined in geographical terms as a sop to Athens and Greek public opinion.

American strategy is consistent, as it has been from the beginning. The USA is supporting, reinforcing, and maintaining in existence a hybrid protectorate state - as she has done with Kosovo - so as to strengthen and secure her superpower geopolitical presence in the region, promoting her geostrategic interests in the middle and long term. At the same time, American strategy involves undermining the potentially strengthened role of Greece in the Balkans. This role is firming up thanks to the present Greek government and the initiatives taken by Prime Minister Karamanlis vis-a-vis Moscow, to say nothing of his resolute no at Bucharest. This latest American move to sow confusion in the negotiations therefore comes as no surprise.

Athens, and in particular the Karamanlis administration, is following a policy on Skopje's ethnic issue that is, one would say, clear and transparent. Having inherited an extremely difficult, indeed an embarrassing, international position as a result of mistakes made by adminstrations from 1991 through 2004, the Karamanlis government has managed from the outset to ensure a solid domestic front, and it has methodically and effectively worked to get its position accepted in, above all, Europe, where both the NATO allies and the EU accept the Greek view and in many respects support it, leaving FYROM out on a limb.

The Greek government has made it abundantly clear that it will accept a solution for the name of strictly geographical scope, and that it cannot allow this geographical definition of the name to domestically mutate into a Macedonian national identity, and into references to the past which fraudulently distort the history of the region in general, and Macedonia in particular, while at the same time undermining Greece's own national identity.

* Christodoulos Yallouridis in Professor in International Politics at the Panteion University, Athens

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