North Macedonia: the price of NATO membership
Rick Rozoff

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s website ran a feature on February 11, a fairly routine one, entitled Secretary General praises North Macedonia for contributions to NATO. Although not containing any major revelations. what is remarkable is how many assumptions about North Macedonia, about NATO and the course of events in the world over the past thirty years the brief information piece takes for granted.

To begin at the beginning, the name of NATO’s thirtieth member, one inducted less than a year ago. Since the breakup of Yugoslavia that started in 1991, what is now North Macedonia was known as the Republic of Macedonia. Not to offend NATO member Greece, however, NATO referred to the nation as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Only Turkey among NATO members used the name Republic of Macedonia, and that solely to antagonize its NATO rival Greece.

As Greece was blocking Macedonia’s NATO membership for years because of the name, Macedonia was compelled to change its name to North Macedonia to enter NATO. And to enter NATO to join the European Union.

Since NATO expansion into Eastern Europe and the former socialist republics of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, Yugoslavia and Albania began in 1999 – on the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the bloc and while it was conducting its first full-fledged war, that against Yugoslavia – nations desiring to enter the EU have first been obligated to join NATO. To date those are Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, with Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia slated to follow.

No nation has joined the EU since 1995 without first passing through NATO except for the small Mediterranean island countries of Cyprus and Malta. (Cyprus in part because it has been divided into the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1974).

Even the change of the name of the nation was dictated by NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on February 11 and the first said to the second: “I welcome North Macedonia’s steady contributions to our collective security, including through your troop-deployments in our Resolute Support and KFOR missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo and the NATO Mission in Iraq.”

Preconditions for joining NATO also include providing NATO with troops for wars and post-war occupations around the world.

Resolute Support is the current NATO mission in Afghanistan, the successor to the International Security Assistance Force which until 2014 was under NATO command and included troops from 55 countries. Those 55 included current North Macedonia, at the time the Republic of Macedonia.

KFOR are the initials for Kosovo Force, the NATO-led military force that entered the then-Serbian territory of Kosovo in June of 1999 with its allies from the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA); after 78 days of NATO’s air war and the coordinated ground war of the KLA.

North Macedonian troops are currently serving with NATO Mission Iraq, which succeeded the NATO Training Mission – Iraq, established in 2004, shortly after the U.S. and British invasion of the country. The two programs have been employed to train military and security personnel, including what the Pentagon acknowledges as the training of the Iraqi Oil Police.

A country can’t join NATO, can’t aspire to joining NATO and its several preliminary military programs (Partnership for Peace, Individual Partnership Action Plan, Membership Action Plan, Adriatic Charter, etc.) without first proving its bona fides by deploying troops to war zones and recent war zones under NATO command.

The Macedonian deployment to Kosovo, which persists to this day, is particularly ironic. Two years after NATO and the KLA in tandem marched into and seized control of Kosovo, Macedonia itself was a target of the KLA and NATO. An ethnic Albanian military force calling itself the National Liberation Army (NLA), created in Kosovo in 1999, that is, about the time NATO and the KLA assumed control there, invaded Macedonia from NATO-occupied territory inside Kosovo. The war, which at one point had displaced a full quarter of the population of the nation, raged from January until August of 2001.

The NLA’s leader was Ali Ahmeti, a founder and the nephew of a founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Operating freely in NATO/KFOR-occupied Kosovo, the NLA began much like its KLA prototype did by initially launching deadly attacks on Macedonian police and other non-military targets, then graduating to open military operations. NLA and KLA personnel, as well as those of the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac in Serbia, were interchangeable.

By March of 2001 the NLA had seized a large amount of territory in western and southern Macedonia and had advanced to within only twelve miles of the capital of Skopje. This while fighters and equipment were passing from and to NATO-controlled Kosovo.

At the time there was a photograph of Ali Ahmeti in a camp in an undisclosed location, no doubt in Kosovo, flanked by a thug brandishing a Kalashnikov and with U.S., NATO and EU flags as backdrop.

Ali Ahmeti, third from left, and fellow NLA members in August 2001

Also in March of 2001 the NLA/KLA attacked the city of Tetovo, failing to take it from government forces but controlling the hills and mountains between Tetovo and Kosovo, the latter remaining effectively its base camp and supply and armaments depot.

The NLA did, though, take the city of Kumanovo and the village of Aračinovo, where a highly revealing incident occurred.

Although at the beginning of the war then-NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson referred to the NLA as “murderous thugs,” by the summer he had tipped his hand by denouncing Macedonia’s attempt to reclaim Aračinovo – which is close enough to the capital to hit it with mortar shells from there – as “madness” and “complete folly.” NATO openly intervened on behalf of the NLA/KLA invaders once the Macedonian army appeared to have gained the upper hand.

According to several credible accounts, including the head of Macedonian armed forces at the time, Chief of Staff of the Army Pande Petrovski, who was in charge of the government offensive in Aračinovo, the Macedonian government was ordered to halt military operations there in the form of a “NATO ultimatum.” Petrovski was called on June 25 by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and told that the “NATO General Secretary had called him personally telling him to halt the operation because there were Americans trapped in Aračinovo.” That is, with the invaders from Kosovo.

In his memoirs, General Petrovski writes:

“Brigadier general Zvonko Stojanovski the commander of the Army Anti-air Defence, informed me that our radars caught 6 fighter planes with course from Italy, through Albania towards Macedonia. I told him to follow their course and to dislocate the helicopters to the reserve airfield in Lozovo. I then thought to myself – this is it! NATO is ready to use force on us if we continue with the operation.”

The nearly unanimous accusation by the West that the breakup of the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia and the civil conflicts in former parts of it were attributable to Serbs – all Serbs, always and everywhere – and that the late former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic “started and lost four wars” can be refuted in one word: Macedonia

….

Last December the government of North Macedonia arrested eight men accused of terrorism, particularly of planning attacks in the country, and seized a large cache of weapons. The government accused the suspects of “creating a terrorist organization, based on the ideological matrix of the terrorist organization ISIS, for committing murders and destroying public buildings.” As mentioned by the Associated Press:

“In 2016, authorities estimated that some 150 nationals of North Macedonia had traveled to fight alongside Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria. Most were from the country’s mainly Muslim ethnic Albanian minority, which represents about one-fourth of North Macedonia’s population of 2.1 million people.”

In 2012, at the beginning of the now decade-long war in Syria, Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj met with Molham Aldroby, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina. One of those accompanying Aldroby was quoted as saying: “We have come here to learn. Kosovo has already been down the insurrection path and has experience that could be very useful to us. We would particularly like to understand how scattered armed groups managed to organise themselves as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).”

Kosovo has also repatriated dozens if not hundreds of its citizens who fought with the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

In July of 2020 Ali Ahmeti, former head of the NLA and since rebranded by NATO, the U.S. and EU as the leader of the Democratic Union for Integration political party in North Macedonia, stated that the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office at the war crimes court in the Hague had requested he be interviewed by them concerning his role in the wars in Kosovo and Macedonia:

“The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office announced in June 24 that it has an unconfirmed indictment charging Thaci, as well as senior Kosovo politician Kadri Veseli and other former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA fighters, with war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

There is little chance of him, as with his fellow KLA cutthroats Hashim Thaçi, Agim Çeku and Ramush Haradinaj – all since promoted by the West as statesmen and political leaders – ever being prosecuted for and convicted of even the least of their crimes. Ones that have included accusations of targeted assassination of civilians, gunrunning, narcotics trafficking, organ harvesting, sex slavery, terrorism and the training of foreign terrorists.

Incorporating the likes of Ahmeti and Thaci into the upper levels of state structures is another precondition for NATO membership.