Τετάρτη, 26 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

False Expectations, Wishful Thinking, and Facts

By Marcus A. Templar*

One rule that must never be broken is a publicly launched personal attack against a politician’s family member, regardless of reason. It indicates low morals. Yet a fanatic ethnocentric and unwise Jovan Andonovski, senior official of the Department of European Affairs in the Government of the FYROM shared a photograph of Mr. Venizelos’ family on facebook, with the subtitle, “Message to Venizelos: "Macedonia[sic] will change her name when your daughter becomes Miss World".

All this happened one week before the Greek MFA Evan. Venizelos was scheduled to visit Skopje as President of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU. Mr. Venizelos’ daughter has done nothing to Mr. Andonovski, nor she or anyone else asked Mr. Andonovski’s approval. Mr. Venizelos’ daughter seems to be a sharp young woman who wants to offer what she can to benefit the society. Not the society of Mr. Andonovski’s circle. Mr. Andonovski’s society has inherited the cutthroat past of their Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, IMRO (aka by its Bulgarian acronym as VMRO). Mr. Andonovski’s aficionado and UMD’s Mr. Koloski’s friend, Kiril Stefan Alexandrov has stated on Metodija Koloski’s Facebook wall “If my IMRO founding ancestors were still alive, they would been plotting his assassination.”

This is how Mr. Gruevski’s Skopje and their diaspora deal with those whom they consider “societal ills”, but also indirectly they reveal the real identity of his nation, i.e. Bulgarian. The assassination attempt against the President of the FYROM, Kiro Gligorov a few days after the signing of the Interim Agreement is still in the memory of the citizens and the politicians of the FYROM.

But what is interesting one to notice is this. When Greeks mention their nation’s glorious past, they revisit Alexander the Great, Leonidas, Miltiadis, Epaminondas, Pericles, etc. Commenting on Mr. Venizelos’ visit to Skopje, Kiril, a “Macedonian” wannabe has mentioned the Bulgarian revolutionary socialists, i.e. communist komitadjis of the past century as the Revolt of St. Elijah proved, members of the IMRO. That says it all.

But the matter is deeper.

On one hand, chronic indignation and simultaneous indications of apathy by Greek consecutive governments have passed on to the Greek Media, which in turn, kept the public in check and in the dark away from any patriotic fervor. On the other hand, the Greek diaspora directly or indirectly has been discouraged from demonstrating in fear of being called, God forbid, “nationalist”. Such collectively passive behavior has given the impression to Skopje, to foreign officials and to the world public opinion that Greeks have been complacent to Skopje, because Skopje is right. I must say that someone does not know the difference between patriotism and nationalism and their political origin.

The recital of failures in the foreign policy of Greece started from a false understanding of how other countries contact their foreign policy and how countries negotiate. But also it indicates lack of understanding on how a modern government should contact its own foreign policy. It would never be an issue had Greece relied on an intelligence service of prominence. EYP, riddled by micro-political bickering, personal agendas, and parochial hindsight, has been transformed to a phantom of what an intelligence agency is all about.

President Bush’s ambition to expand NATO resulted to the Adriatic Charter signed in Tirana under the aegis of the United States on May 2, 2003. The Greek Parliament ratified the indirect membership of Skopje to NATO as Republic of “Macedonia”, not the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Thus Skopje knocked the door of NATO as Republic of “Macedonia”.

The recognition of the FYROM as Republic of “Macedonia” on November 7, 2004 was the result of the above mentioned detrimental for Greece events that could be avoided had the subsequent governments of Greece since 1991 done their job methodically, responsibly using a well thought strategic plan. All Greek governments without exception handled the issue of the FYROM with the perfect dexterity of an amateur.

The excuse offered by the current Greek government was that the Adriatic Charter had arrived to Athens as a package. Nothing can further from the truth. NATO decisions are taken by consensus, which means that Greece had agreed to the Adriatic Charter and its contents before it was disseminated by Brussels to the governments of the member states for ratification. The MFA of Greece chose docility over the importance of their country’s national security. Hence the door opened to the recognition of the FYROM as Macedonia[sic] by the United States 18 months later with perilous for Greece ramifications. Another foreign policy failure came about when the FYROM contingent deployed to Afghanistan branding the name “Macedonia” on the uniforms of its soldiers, instead of the FYROM, because Greece did not object.

Currently, the officials of the FYROM are getting two conflicting messages coming from the two sides of the Atlantic. One message is discouraging coming from NATO, but the other is optimistic for the FYROM. The discouraging message is that they have to change the name of the country if they want to see a NATO membership. The EU Parliament has already sided with Skopje mainly because of a pro-Turkish faction of the UK.

The encouraging message for Skopje and its Washington lobby, the United “Macedonian” Diaspora (UMD), a group monetarily and morally supported by the government in Skopje, is making progress pushing the concept of victimization of the FYROM by Greece. The emotional and intellectual appeal of the UMD has swayed supporters even of the Greek caucus of the U.S. Congress.

According to reports, U.S. Senator McCain (R-AZ) and friends (42 U.S. Senators in all) found the Greek arguments on the issue of Greece’s objection to Skopje’s membership to NATO as presented by their “Greek friends”, “incomprehensible”. The UMD petitioned the U.S. officials by speaking in a language that members of the U.S. government understand, i.e. regional cohesiveness, crisis management, domestic stability, and contribution of Skopje to NATO cooperative security. In addition, the same Skopje pressure group has presented the FYROM as an important contributor to the collective defense of the Alliance in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The Real Reason

If the argument for keeping Skopje out of NATO to U.S. officials is the usurpation of Greek history, such an argument is outlandish and incomprehensible. It does not even constitute a violation of Article 7.3 of the Interim Agreement. Some prestigious educational institutions in the Slavic world honor the Macedonian Greek brothers Sts. Cyril and Methodius as the illuminators of Europe. Buildings have been built in the image of ancient Greek edifices of Ionian, Dorian and Corinthian architectural styles in various countries. Not one of the above facts have hindered the friendship of those countries with Greece.

Then what is the argument? The importance of the geographic position of Thessaloniki, Macedonia’s Capital, has been demonstrated by actions of various powers. During the period of the Congress of Berlin, Vienna indicated that it was serious about the status of Thessaloniki not intending to lose the railroad line to the port of Thessaloniki as a direct way to push products from Central Europe to Asia and Eastern Africa through the Suez Canal and back. In 1940, Nazi Germany offered the city as a present to Yugoslavia in exchange of the latter to ally itself with Axis. Upon capture of the city by German forces, Hitler originally planned to annex Thessaloniki directly to the Third Reich, making it part of German territory, instead of allowing the puppet government in Athens to administer Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki, Macedonia’s Capital, holds the scepter of the most strategic city of Greece. Its natural port not only connects Europe with Asia and Africa, but by means of marine thoroughfare it links up the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. Kavala’s seaport and airport along with the modern infrastructure of auto corridors in Macedonia, and railroad lines connect this second large hub of Eastern Macedonia with the rest of Balkans.

The Greek region of Macedonia has a unique morphology, which facilitates business and commerce, it allows the importation, exportation, and transit passage of goods not only throughout the Balkans, but also throughout the Central and Eastern European hinterland. The geostrategic significance of the Greek region of Macedonia increases when one considers the already developed industry in conjunction with its agricultural and mineral wealth, to include, but not limited to rare earth elements. This should not sidetrack the seaport and the gold mines of Stratoniki, near Stagirus, Aristotle’s hometown. Notably, the only oil production in Greece today is at the Macedonian island of Thassos and the longest route of the Trans Adriatic pipeline, in European soil will be in Macedonia Greece. The convenient passageways, including the combination of water, air, and land transportation, promote not just the above cities, but the whole Greek Macedonian region converting it into a point of vital commercial and strategic military value.

The name dispute is directly connected to geostrategic importance of Thessaloniki and indeed the region of Macedonia in Northern Greece. Skopje’s plan is simple. At first comes the appropriation of the name Macedonia and its derivatives. Then it is the connection of its Slavic population to the population of the ancient Macedonians, who were a Greek stock. Once both the name of the country and the connection of the Slavs to the ancient Macedonians is legitimized by Greece through a treaty, the next step arises the claim and acquisition of the “inherent” lands of ancient Macedonia, i.e. the region of Greek Macedonia. That is why the name dispute with Greece is a matter of national security and territorial integrity for Greece. The point is that no matter who recognizes the FYROM as ‘Macedonia’ and its Slav inhabitants, their language, and their heritage as ‘Macedonian’, for as long as Greece does not do, Skopje cannot succeed in its plans.

Skopje is already feeling the beginning of instability due to the Slavic ultra-nationalist narrative which bypasses the reality of the 40% ethnic Albanians along with the minimum 10% of all other ethnic groups, all FYROM nationals. Skopje’s offered demographic statistics has been challenged by all minorities to the point that its proclaimed numeric superiority has become questionable. It is safer to say that its Slavic population might be a majority against individual ethnic groups, but a minority before the total; it is a minority-majority. Unless the Slavic led government of Skopje succeeds in taking the first steps in claiming the Greek region of Macedonia, i.e. history, ethnicity, language, heritage, etc., the country could implode. From Skopje’s rhetoric and their actions, it is obvious that Skopje has positioned itself at the verge of an eventual, but certain claim on the land that Pavlos Melas had depicted, “Macedonia is the lung of Greece; without it the rest of Greece would be condemned to death.”

What to do?

Although no one would deny the effort exerted and the money spent by the present Greek organizations in service to Greek matters, we have to face some important facts. It is imperative to distinguish between the intention of these organizations and their achievements. Their intention has been the successful outcome of Greece’s national security issues. Their achievements have been to win diasporic power through the perpetuation of Greece’s national security issues.

Our community’s established organizations are mostly cultural. They are staffed, structured, and organized to reflect the cultural needs and expectations of our community. They are not equipped to confront the strategic challenges that Greece encounters in the present complex global environment. If the established Greek organizations want to transform to political, they must put themselves to the task.
Even if we consider that the right people lead these organizations, the fact is that they are irrelevant to issues of national security and foreign policy. Had they have knowledge on issues of national security and understood the political and military history of Balkans, our community would have avoided the debacle of Turkey 10 / Greece 7 armament and equipment ratio that took place after the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey regardless of who was real instigator of the coups in Cyprus and Greece.

In addition, the unfortunate haste to compromise with Skopje that the Greek government instilled with the help of a Greek American public relations firm fused the unprofessional handling of the issue on behalf of the Greek government with the functional disregard for the leadership of our community’s existing organizations, an act that points to our disunity. If our organizations were in fact united, as politicians of Greece claim they are, the government of Greece would not be seeking the formation of an ad hoc leadership committee in order to push its unreasonable and unnecessary “honorable” compromise. At that point there was no reason for a compromise. Another perilous situation has been raised by the 10 year old UMD’s successes considering that their diaspora is negligible compared to ours. Even some members of Greek caucus in the U.S. Congress have signed the pro-Skopje petition.

To me, the simple, but proud Macedonian, the question is not whether our messages may or may not be getting through to members of Congress; the question is, what kind of messages we send to Congress and whether the messages are voiced in unison? For as long as our messages about Skopje are irrelevant to the discernment of American officials, we are going to lose what little we have already achieved. It is incomprehensible to me, that Greeks contribute money to the campaigns of members of Congress, i.e. Rep. Bill Pascrell (R-NJ), while the same politicians support overtures of countries as Skopje and Turkey, both of which seek either political capitulation or the actual dismemberment of Greece.

Need for Unity

One step toward that direction would be to send a message to the political parties of Greece telling them to take out of our country their political offices, especially when Greeks living abroad may not vote in their host countries. For as long as these offices of Greek political parties exist in our midst and the manner they function they are not just the symbol of our disunity, but indeed they are the actual barriers to our unity and cohesiveness.

Our birthplace is in danger not only because of Greece’s economic situation resonating from political errors, an indication of bad governance, but also because of an incoherent foreign policy. To counter that, we need a global, united, and cohesive voice that is independent of any Greek governmental influence and funded by donors of our diaspora, with complete transparency and accountability, not just monetary, but also functional. Many bright and relevant professionals of Greek American lineage are among us willing to help can put this together, operate it, and maintain it. We must never discount our non-Greek friends. We can start by preparing a no nonsense strategic plan based on a vision to bring Greece up to the level it belongs. To meet the challenges we face, we must revitalize our commitment and taking aggressive steps we could reshape the image of our community and promote it to the political power that it deserves to be while simultaneously answer Greece’s call, both today and for the future.

* Marcus Alexander Templar was born in Thessaloniki, Capital of the region of Macedonia, Greece. He is a former codebreaker and Principal Subject Matter Expert in Intelligence Analysis of the U.S. Army. During his military career, he has supported intelligence operations on a national level, and served as instructor in a number of U.S. Intelligence Schools.

His academic research includes the political ideology of Bulgarian intellectuals after the Commune of Paris and the effect of their ideology to the establishment, development, and activities of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) aka by its Bulgarian name Vŭtreshna makedonska revolyutsionna organizatsiya or VMRO). The research also examines the organization’s activities aiming at the creation of a communist country (The Balkan Federation) of Bulgarians in Macedonia at least 20 years before the establishment of the USSR.

More specifically, his work analyzes the relationship and interaction among members and factions of the organization with contemporary political, pan-Slavic movements and governments, as well as the organization’s political and terrorist activities. Academically he is intrinsically interested in matters of national security, public governmental policy, and strategy.

He studied Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Turkish in the Defense Language Institute and Russian at Berlitz. He further speaks Bulgarian (Eastern and Western) and Greek.

He holds a BA from Western Illinois University in the social sciences and humanities (Macomb, Illinois ), Master's degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Human Resource Development ( Chicago , Illinois ) and a second Masters in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University (Washington, DC) specializing in the southern Balkans and Turkey. He is member of the National Intelligence Education Foundation of the USA, the National Military Intelligence Association of the USA, and the Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG) of the UK’s Political Studies Association (PSA), He is also the advisor to the Pan-Macedonian Association on matters of History and National Security.

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