The Balkan country of North Macedonia is set to officially become the 30th member of NATO on the back of a decades-long spat with Greece, a failed popular vote, and allegations that the US manipulated local politicians.
NATO and North Macedonia signed an accession protocol on Wednesday, meaning that the former Yugoslav republic will officially join the military bloc. Each member will now need to ratify the bid, but it is safe to say that the country’s 10-year accession saga is now over.
North Macedonia is the fourth Balkan country to join NATO following Croatia, Albania and Montenegro. The three states met no resistance while applying for membership, but Skopje did, largely because of the country’s name. Greeks have objected to Macedonia’s name since it ceded from Yugoslavia in 1991, because the country has a region of the same name.
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Of course, there was no shortage of cheerful comments from NATO officials. “Your accession will bring more stability to the western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
However, experts told RT that they weren’t entirely convinced. “NATO has already absorbed the Baltics and much of eastern Europe,” said Sreeram Chaulia of India’s Jindal School of International Affairs. “They are placing missile-defense shields in Poland and Romania. They have a Cold War mindset and believe that more NATO expansion throughout Europe is necessary to contain Russia,” he suggested.
Pavel Kandel, a research fellow with Russia’s Institute of Europe, suggested Macedonia “is not a win but a loss for NATO militarily” because a country like this would become “a customer, not a contributor of security.” The bloc accepted Macedonia because it wants to control foreign policy in a country where a sizeable part of the population is sympathetic to Russia, he said.
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Last summer, Skopje and Athens signed the Prespa agreement,