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Op-Ed: The U.S. and the FYROM Name Dispute
February 5, 2008—No. 10 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: The U.S. and the FYROM Name Dispute

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the National Herald, 1-26-08 page 11 and the Greek News, 1-28-08, page 36.

The U.S. and the FYROM Name Dispute

By Gene Rossides

January 22, 2008

The United States actions since 1992 regarding the FYROM name dispute has constituted an American foreign policy blunder which has damaged U.S. interests in the Western Balkans and damaged Greece, our key ally in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, for no sound reason.

I emphasize that there is no sound reason for the U.S. to support the Skopje regime on the name issue. Further, for the U.S. to support Skopje against Greece, a loyal ally, a member of NATO and the European Union (EU) and the key nation in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean for the projection of U.S. power and U.S. diplomatic, economic and political initiatives, is gross diplomatic negligence.

In February 1993, I wrote a memorandum titled “Twenty-five reasons why it is not in the interests of the United States to recognize the Skopje regime under the Greek name of Macedonia.” The following paragraphs are from that memo.

  • There is no unqualified universally accepted rule of international law that authorizes a state to name itself anything it wants.
  • It is not proper for a country which is part of a region to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region. Macedonia, like the Americas and Europe, is a region. Just as no country in North and South America would call itself the “American Republic,” and no European country would call itself the “Republic of Europe,” the Skopje regime in naming itself cannot assume the mantle of all of Macedonia.
  • Tito changed the name of the Skopje area in 1944 from Vardar Banovina to Macedonia.
  • Greece is of extreme importance to the national security interests of the United States as demonstrated by her coalition role in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm Persian Gulf War. The Souda Bay NATO naval base in Crete is essential for the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s projection of power in the Eastern Mediterranean; the U.S. Air Force base at Souda Bay, Crete, is of great importance for the projection of U.S. air power in the Eastern Mediterranean; Greece authorized 32,000 overflights during the Desert Shield buildup of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf; Greek shipping tonnage also provided major support for the buildup of arms and supplies to the Persian Gulf. Greece is the strategic key to the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • The Skopje regime is of no importance to the national security interests of the United States.
  • The northern province of Greece, which borders the Skopje regime, is Macedonia.
  • The usage of Macedonian as a nationality was an invention of Tito in 1944. Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, created a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness among his south Slavic citizens for a number of reasons, including his campaign against Greece to gain control of Greece’s province of Macedonia and the major port city of Salonika. (See article by C.M. Woodhouse, a noted historian, in the Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 1992, p. 19.)
  • Skopje’s actions and Greece’s reactions must be seen in the context of Moscow’s and Tito’s support of the communists in Greece’s civil war in 1946-49. Tito supplied arms and food to the Greek communists and gave them bases in the Skopje region of Yugoslavia with the full support of Stalin.
  • The United States opposed the use of the name Macedonia by Tito in 1944 and we should continue to oppose it now. In a Circular Airgram (Dec. 26, 1944) Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., stated:

This government considers talk of Macedonian “nation,” Macedonian “Fatherland,” or Macedonian “national consciousness” to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.

  • Stettinius’ airgram was prophetic because Tito and Stalin did initiate aggressive action against Greece.
  • Greece’s defeat of the communist insurgencies in the Greek Civil War (1946-49) with Greek blood and United States aid was a major turning point in post-World War II Cold War history in the containment of communism. It prevented the communists’ takeover of Greece, and thereby prevented the communist domination of the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean and the strategic encirclement of the oil resources of the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf area.
  • Greece played a key role in the Allied victory in World War II. Greece’s reply of “OXI!” (No!) to Mussolini’s demands for capitulation on October 28, 1940, and her defeat of Mussolini’s armies compelled Hitler to divert valuable troops and equipment to Greece, thereby delaying by several weeks his invasion of the Soviet Union which was a substantial factor in preventing Hitler’s defeat of the U.S.S. R. Greece’s actions can be considered a turning point in that war.
  • Since 1945, Skopje has mounted a propaganda campaign against Greece claiming all of Macedonia for the so-called “Macedonian people.” However, there is no such separate ethnic group. There are people speaking a Slav dialect living in the parts of Macedonia controlled by Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Serbs say these people are Serbs, Bulgarians say they are Bulgarians. The ancient Macedonians were Greeks, as all historical and archaeological evidence demonstrates.
  • Greece has no claim to the territory of the Skopje regime.
  • Greece, a major United States ally in the Persian Gulf War and in this century (in WWI, WWII, in the historic defeat of the communists in 1946-49 and in Korea) has earned the full support of the United States in this matter. It is in the interests of the United States to give that support. (See Exhibit 4, article by Leslie Gelb, foreign affairs columnist for the N.Y. Times, June 12, 1992, p. A25.)

Taking Greece for granted

The Executive Branch under the Clinton administration 1-20-93 to 1-20-01 and the Bush administration 1-20-01 to date, has had a habit of taking Greece for granted. These administrations have looked upon Greece as a Western nation and ally that will not rock-the-boat and will follow what the U.S. and the major NATO nations desire. That has been unfortunate and has created unnecessary problems—such as the FYROM name issue.

Taking Greece for granted attitude has been particularly harmful to American interests in problems dealing with Greek Turkish relations in the Aegean and Turkey’s continuing occupation of Cyprus. Taking Greece for granted is coupled with appeasing Turkey and applying a double standard on the rule of law for Turkey on the argument that Turkey is a Muslim nation and a Middle Eastern nation and difficult to deal with.

The Imia islets crisis in January 1996 is an example of the appeasement of Turkey and failure to apply the rule of law to Turkey.

FYROM name issue and NATO

The FYROM name issue is coming to a head soon. It is expected that the application of FYROM to join NATO will be discussed at the March 6, 2008 NATO foreign minister’s meeting in Brussels. The U.S. wants FYROM admitted with the name Macedonia. Greece obviously objects to admission with that name.

Greece has recently made a major compromise by proposing “a compound name for the country; a name that will distinguish it from both the Greek and Bulgarian part.” (See speech of Dimitrios Katsoudas, Secretary General for European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece on January 15, 2008 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)

Mr. Katsoudas further stated:

“I think it is time the U.S. recognized the need to counsel Skopje now in order to cover its own grounds for reaching a solution….

In any case, my country has reached the very limit of its patience and, unless a solution is found by March, we are fully determined not to allow the entry of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia either into NATO or, to come to my competence, to the EU, later.

The Greeks have shown to their neighbors, by all means possible, their resolute friendliness and they have extended all sorts of help. I believe that the two peoples dream of nothing but a friendly future, hand-in-hand, together. The issue is now entirely in the hands of the Skopje Government. It will either cover the remaining ground and reach a solution, or become responsible vis-à-vis its own people, both Slav-Macedonians and Albanians, for denying them a Euro-Atlantic future.”

Call and write to President Bush and Secretary of State Rice and tell them it is in the interests of the U.S. to support its long-time and proven ally Greece in the FYROM name issue.


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