NATO is a Bona-Fide Military Alliance, not a Socio-Political Private Club

By Marcus A. Templar

In my essay “Skopje Contributes to its Own Instability”[1] I had argued that the problem in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM) is the Slavic majority of the country that monopolizes the government and all institutions, disregarding its 35% minority of Albanians, let alone all others.  Instead of acting on facts, they have chosen fiction.  The latest chosen drama is FYROM’s alleged victimization by Greece according to which Greece invoked its veto power to preclude Skopje NATO membership.

NATO’s principle for enlargement has created misunderstandings and illusions for some countries that consider NATO the place that either offers security or prestige or even both.  It has created misunderstandings because the FYROM Slavs feel that their membership was guaranteed “as is” without changing their modus operandi; it has generated illusions because the FYROM believes that NATO membership is going to boost their national pride.  The statement of the Greek Prime Minister that “all Balkan countries would join the EU in 2014,” the so-called Balkans 2014 project, also created great misunderstandings and illusions.  Immediately after the announcement, the FYROM Prime Minister declared the Project Skopje 2014, assuming that Skopje’s EU membership was also guaranteed.

While the strategic goal of all Balkan countries is NATO membership, it does require a series of achievements of certain political and military preconditions, as well as military, economic, and security criteria. On the other hand, one could pose the question, “what could FYROM have to offer to the Alliance, considering their Defense budget is insignificant?”

Before any country is considered a NATO member, it has to fulfill certain political criteria over and above those that NATO requires; the political preparation of the candidate country has to abide by NATO Enlargement Study and Accession Process, Ch. 5, para. 72, which expects the prospective members to have met OSCE requirements before NATO even considers preconditions and criteria for membership.

NATO enlargement Study of 28 September 1995, which is the basis for subsequent enlargements, can be found in NATO Handbook in the NATO website.[2]  Since the enlargement process is highly regulated one could divide the process into five stages.  The first two stages are only preparatory.  Stage 3 is the key to membership.  If a country passes stage 3, it means that the country has met the preconditions, but not necessarily the criteria.

Stage 1 is the expression of desire of a country to cooperate militarily with NATO having as a goal to eventually join NATO.  “The expression of a military cooperation is realized by the participation of the applicant to join the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.  The Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Partner countries and NATO.  It allows Partner countries to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.”[3]

Stage 2 is just one step up the ladder for the country as a preparatory step to membership.

Stage 3 is the hardest step of all.  It is the Judgment step and NATO’s explicit call.  It is a verdict based on negotiations, deliberations, and consultations in consensual decision.  A country either has what it takes to be member of NATO or it doesn’t. The country has to meet the preconditions for membership.  Skopje is in Stage 3 at this point.

Stage 4 is the stage of scrutiny on the criteria listed in NATO’s 1995 enlargement study.  Pros and cons of the country’s potential accession are discussed along with shortcomings in meeting membership pre-conditions.

Stage 5 is the final step starting with consensus of country members that recognizes that the aspiring country has met NATO’s preconditions and is minimally prepared to function within NATO. This determination is strictly political and depends on the member point of political view.  This is the stage of intra-alliance bargaining regarding the invitation date to join.[4]

The Freedom House report of 2010, an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world, considering NATO countries’ score somewhere between 1 and 1.3 (except Turkey 4.5) for political and civil rights, the FYROM scores Political Rights: 3 and Civil Liberties: 3. Overall the political status of the FYROM is classified

Partly Free, which means that there is NO democracy in the FYROM.

The FYROM economy is small with GDP in 2010 of US $9,400,000,000. [5] During the same year it spent US$155,000,000 in military expenditures or 1.65% of its GDP.[6]  According Channel A1 of Skopje, in August 2010, the FYROM budget for the FY 2011 had increased the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ one by €11m (US$16 m) at the expense of the military budget which had decreased by more than €8m (US$11.5m).  It means that in FY 2011 the military budget went down from €107 m (or US$155 m) to €99 m (or US$142 m). The report continues that “the funds for the program of promoting defense and security activities for NATO entry have been reduced twofold, from €4.2 m (US$6 m) to €2.2 m (US$3.2m).” These allocations of military expenditures bring the military expenses down to 1.4% of the gross national product. [7]

Former FYROM Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski stated, “Obviously, by using this element, the government puts into jeopardy the army’s funding by drastically reducing the defense budget.  On the other hand, we know that there have been no effects on the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ budget, but it has instead been increased.”[8]

The FYROM definitely cannot bear the burden of NATO membership without the financial support of the United States. So, the question can be raised: Is the U.S. taxpayer asked to pay for the political megalomania of the FYROM elite when Secretary Robert Gates tells NATO allies “carry your weight or else”?

The antiquation of the FYROM for a past that never was aka “Project Skopje 2014” costs an estimate of about US$115 million with the opposition considering the final cost near US$230 million; all this when the country has more than 30% unemployment, and growth is only 1%.[9]

But most part of this growth depends of Greek investments. Two hundred eighty Greek-owned companies are operating in the FYROM, of course not paying a cent to the Greek Revenue Service, but they do pay taxes to the FYROM.  Of the 17 largest foreign investments in Skopje, the seven are Greek and ten largest Greek companies have invested in the country over €780 million (US$ 1.1 million) for a total of €1 billion (US$1.42).  In addition, more than 7 out of 20 largest companies in the FYROM represent Greek interests.[10]

Let’s however see if the FYROM qualifies to gain NATO membership.  According to the ratings included in NATO Enlargement Study of the Rand Corporation (10 as High and 0 as Low) the FYROM stands as follows:

On the Assessment of Strategic Attractiveness to NATO, the FYROM’s Strategic Position is medium or 4.2; the FYROM’s Armed Forces Readiness has scored Medium 5.0 for an overall Medium or 4.6.

On the matter of Preparation for and Attractiveness to NATO, the FYROM scored on Criteria Low (1.7); the Strategic Attractiveness of the FYROM as we saw above is an Average Medium (4.6).   Thus 4.6 plus the 1.7 gives an overall rating ebbing to a Medium-Low (3.2).

The Political criteria are considered Low (1.5) while the Economic criteria are deemed also Low (1); the Military criteria are Medium to Low marked as 2.0 for a total assessment of a Medium, 4.5.  The Overall rating for the FYROM meeting NATO criteria was assessed to the Low 1.7.

Regarding the issue of good neighborly relations, Skopje has not done anything to help itself.  It has infuriated Greece and the EU by erecting the statue of the “Equestrian Warrior” which just happens to identically resemble Alexander the Great (under a different name expecting that they would fool their own people as well) forcing EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle to state,

Seriously, if you have a neighbour, and I’m not talking about two states now, and there is an

issue between two of you, whatever the nature of that issue is, and you are trying sincerely to

solve it, I guess you would avoid doing anything that your neighbour might call a

provocation. This is simple logic. I would expect the government in Skopje to avoid doing

things which would be called by the other side provocations.[11]


Am I satisfied with the tempo of reform? Not really. As soon as the government is being

formed, if we see clear steps toward renewing the reform tempo in your country, then I don’t

see any reason why we should change our recommendation. If we have a feeling that instead

of progress there is a regress, if we have a feeling that instead of going forward you are

going backwards, we would probably have to reassess that recommendation to start

accession negotiations,[12]

Regarding the claim that the FYROM was the only republic that seceded peacefully from Yugoslavia, it was more of a coincidence than political planning.  Trajan Gočevski  professor of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Skopje explains,

Unlike Slovenia in 1990, the demilitarization idea was not backed by any critical evaluation of the deficiencies of the previous military establishment. It was more a product of

Macedonia’s passivity and self-pity than an expression of a proactive and democratic attitude towards national security issues. Macedonia’s peacefulness was more a coincidence

than a result of some political decision. Very soon it was apparent that the state possessed a

deep conflict potential and lacked the democratic culture of conflict resolution. Therefore, it

is incorrect to conclude that demilitarization and making an ‘oasis of peace’ were the

leading ideas in government policy-making in 1991–92. Also the idea of a neutral Macedonia

did not create any public attention and was treated only as a nice but unrealistic idea.[13]

In addition, Biljana Vanskova professor of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Skopje, articulates,

During one decade Macedonian case attracted the attention of many observers, trying to discover the ‘peace formula’. Macedonia’s peaceful divorce from Yugoslavia was due to a set of factors. First of all, it was not a part of the core inter-ethnic and inter-republican conflicts. Serbian elite did not perceive it as a threat: Macedonia was helpless, and the Serbian minority hardly numerous, so it seemed that ‘Southern Serbia’ could be re-instated at any later point. The second happy circumstance was the tactics of the leadership that had not pursued any military preparations and favoured the negotiation table. In the worst-case scenario Gligorov opted for non-violent resistance and appeals to the international community. Yet military reasons prevailed in the decision to withdraw peacefully. In 1991–92 the focus of the Serbian policy was on the other Yugoslav fronts.[14]

In the last a few years the “United Macedonian Diaspora” (UMD), Skopje’s worldwide mouthpiece and a Skopjan lobby with HQ in Washington, DC has tried to convince politicians on the Hill that the FYROM meets NATO criteria.  They have succeeded convincing some politicians whose staffers refrain from investigating what UMD is attempting to sell.

Skopje’s political elite in order to appease their constituencies have raised the hopes of their voters by applying for NATO and EU memberships. At the same time, acting under orders from Skopje, UMD aggressively lobbies the members of the U.S. Congress to form a “Macedonian” caucus, while they pressure them to overlook the unqualified status of Skopje and consequently write letters to the President of the United States asking him in essence to do the same.

As well intended as these members of Congress might be, they must have in mind the above-mentioned facts before they try their best to please UMD.  Above and beyond the fact that the Greek-American electorate power is far superior to the Skopjan, while satisfying the Skopje diaspora, U.S. politicians are pushing the United States to accept third rate countries with priorities other than their own national or regional security as they claim, but in populist sensationalism.  Skopje and UMD expect the United States to be an accomplice to the destabilization of the Balkans.

As U.S. taxpayers we demand that our tax money goes to the U.S. Treasury instead to countries where their government spends US$13 million for a statue honoring a hero of a xenogenic civilization, and US$230 million to antiquization.[15]  Skopje’ attitude is that they want to pass their domestic problems to NATO and EU upon membership.

Whether Skopje meets NATO Preconditions and Criteria is controversial only to the level of political hypocrisy from both sides of the Atlantic.  Although the website of the U.S. State Department states that Macedonia [sic] had met the criteria in 2008, one and a half years later, FOCUS News Agency of Sofia, Bulgaria on December 4, 2009 cited the Bulgarian Prime Minster Boyko Borisov stating that Bulgaria would support the FYROM if they had met the criteria adding that the only thing his country has seen is, “hate speech against Bulgaria and Bulgarians coming from politicians, state institutions.”  Prime Minster Borisov wanted the FYROM to remove hate speech “from textbooks and school curriculum and the media; give up all minority claims towards Bulgaria.”[16]  The above statement echoes the Greek complaints officially voiced during the ICJ presentation against the FYROM.  Since both countries had the same problems with the FYROM’s behavior, why haven’t they voiced them in the past?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said that some NATO partners are “apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”[17] He further blasted NATO allies for not carrying their weight in expenditures.[18] The only countries that have exceeded the 2% of their GDP in allocation for military expenditures are the United States, Great Britain, France, Greece and Albania.

The FYROM does not meet the fundamental requirements of the OSCE and is not even close to meeting the pre-conditions.  Furthermore, since its military budget of 1.4% from its GDP, it is far below the 2% that NATO has set and thusly not meeting NATO criteria either.

The FYROM is not near fulfilling its NATO obligations (Pre-Conditions and Criteria) on its own merit.  Without the constant threat of disassociation from the candidate status of the EU and the continuous monetary assistance from the United States, Skopje cannot fulfill the required obligations of NATO and therefore, it cannot use NATO potential membership as the catalyst to domestic political consumption.  NATO is a bona-fide military alliance, not a Socio-Political Private Club.

[1] Marcus A. Templar, “Skopje Contributes to its Own Instability,” Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), (accessed June 22, 2011).

[2]; (accessed June 30, 2011).

[3] NATO, “The Partnership for Peace programme,” (accessed June 18, 2011).

[4] Thomas S. Szayna, “NATO Enlargement, 2000-2015: Determinants and Implications for Defense Planning and Shaping.” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001). (accessed June 13, 2011).

[5] The actual sums given in € and FYROM denars.

[6] International Institute for Strategic Studies – Military Balance 2011.

[7] Irina Gelevska, “Government Deprives Defense Ministry of More Than 8 Million Euros; Interior Ministry Obtains 11 Million Euros More,” Channel A1, Skopje, 25 Aug 10.

[8] Irina Gelevska, “Government Deprives Defense Ministry of More Than 8 Million Euros; Interior Ministry Obtains 11 Million Euros More,” Channel A1, Skopje, 25 Aug 10.

[9] Reuters published in Gulf Times, “Macedonia erects Alexander statue, infuriating Greece,”

22 June, 2011, (accessed June 22, 2011).

[10] Μαρία Μαθιοπούλου, ΣΚΟΠΙΑ: Ενα δισ. ευρώ και 20.000 θέσεις εργασίας ο ελληνικός μποναμάς July 20, 2008 20/07/2008, (accessed June 13, 2011).

[11] “EU shows ‘yellow card’ to FYROM,” ekathimerini, (accessed June 22, 2011).

[12]  “EU Scolds Macedonia over ‘Alexander the Great’ Statue, Slow Reforms,” Novinite (Bulgaria), June 20, 2011.  (accessed June 22, 2011).

[13] Trajan Gočevski, Неутрална Македонија: од визија до стварност (Neutral Macedonia: From Vision towards Reality) (Kumanovo: Makedonska riznica, 1995).

[14] Biljana Vankovska, “Looking West: Civil-Military Relations in Macedonia” (paper presented at the XVII World Congress of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) Congress, Seoul, August 17-21, 1997), 12. (accessed June 15, 2011).

[15] Reuters published in Gulf Times, “Macedonia erects Alexander statue, infuriating Greece,”

22 June, 2011, (accessed June 22, 2011).

[16] The Center for Southeast European Studies, “Bulgaria will support Macedonia’s[sic] NATO and EU aspirations if criteria fulfilled,” Focus News Agency, December 4, 2009. (accessed June 24, 2011)

[17] Thom Shanker, “Defense Secretary Warns NATO of ‘Dim’ Future,” New York Times, June 10, 2011. (accessed June 21, 2011).

[18] “Gates warns NATO: Carry your weight or else,” NewsOK, June 16, 2011 (accessed June 22, 2011).

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