Vernuccio’s View: North Macedonia Joins NATO

NATO Summit 2018

At NATO Headquarters in Brussels on February Sixth, the Permanent Representatives to NATO of the 29 members of the Alliance signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of North Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.

North Macedonia’s entry into NATO had been delayed due to a dispute with Greece on the nation’s name.  Greece, which has a northern territory named Macedonia, objected, stating that the name could imply a claim to some of its land.  Following the addition of the word “North, Athens dropped its objections.

Russia, as expected, continues to object to the move. Moscow considers that part of Europe to be within its sphere of influence, as part of what used to be the Soviet Empire. North Macedonia is the fourth Balkan country to join NATO following Croatia, Albania and Montenegro.

Following the signing of the Accession Protocol, Skopje (Macedonia’s Capital) can now take part in NATO activities as an invitee.  The accession process now moves to the capitals of the other NATO Allies where the Protocol will be ratified according to national procedures.  The country will become a member of NATO as soon as all Allies have ratified the Accession Protocol.

Speaking following the signing ceremony NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said, “NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other. Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Mr. Stoltenberg congratulated both Skopje and Athens for showing commitment and courage in reaching an agreement on the name issue.

North Macedonia already participates in NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan and the Alliance’s KFOR peace keeping mission in Kosovo.

Other nations are seeking or considering NATO membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to join the Membership Action Plan in April 2010 but its participation is pending the resolution of a key issue concerning immovable defense property. At the 2008 Bucharest Summit, the Allies agreed that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO in the future (since 2010, Ukraine has not been formally pursuing membership.)

The potential of Sweden, Finland, Ukraine and Georgia as potential future NATO members face fierce objections from Moscow’s Air Force and Navy over the past several years.  Those nations and NATO itself could gain a strategic advantage from joining together, but some fear Putin’s reaction to the potential move.

Many in Sweden are advocating joining the alliance, particularly due to threatening actions by Moscow. However, as noted by Business Insider  “Russia’s ambassador to Sweden has warned the country of the potential military ‘consequences’ associated with joining NATO. In an interview with the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter Russian Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev told the publication  “…that Russia does not have any military plans against Sweden, in line with Stockholm’s alliance neutrality. But Tatarintsev warned that this could change if Sweden were to join the NATO alliance…Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, ‘that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and re-orientate our troops and missiles,’ the ambassador said. ‘The country that joins NATO needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to’…An October 2014 poll showed 37% of Swedes were in favor of joining NATO with 36% of Swedes against — the first time that more Swedes have favored joining the alliance than not. This swing in public opinion could be in response to a series of aggressive and provocativeRussian actions throughout the region.”

North Macedonia will join Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States in the alliance.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.

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