Into the Balkan maelstrom

Washington’s recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by its constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia – the day after George W. Bush’s electoral triumph – has caused stunned perplexity and rage in Athens, as the US administration has ignored Greek interests and sensitivities. The Greek side’s displeasure is certainly justified. But what the political world needs to realize is that over the last four years, after the transatlantic chasm, Washington has consistently acted off its own bat, promoting its own interests as it sees fit and shrugging off the protests of its allies. For reasons that do not lie solely at the US’s door, Greece has not come within the purview of American interests for some time now, except in cases when the Greek side deviated from US policy. That is the only political reality. Those resentful of President George W. Bush’s re-election should be aware that had John Kerry donned the presidential mantle, that would have destabilized the Balkans due to the Democrats’ particular sympathy for the Albanians. The Greek government is now banking on the EU (which FYROM wants to join). As part of the EU and NATO, Greece can exert pressure so that the temporary name of FYROM will continue in use, aiming to reach a mutual agreement by next March. It remains to be seen whether the US, which recognized FYROM by the name of Republic of Macedonia to strengthen the country’s internal stability, will also intervene decisively to obtain a mutually agreed solution in the next few months. Greek foreign policy since 1991 on the issue has undoubtedly failed. It is also plain that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will take the rap. That is obviously unjust, but these things happen, in politics especially, harming the broader national interest.