Macedonia’s membership in NATO
American Express, the American financial services corporation, at one point had a slogan it used in its advertising: “Membership has its privileges,” implying that with an American Express credit card, users would reap all kinds of good things.
Macedonia, now a proud member of NATO, gets a number of privileges that come with that membership — as well as responsibilities. One of those is taking in refugees from Afghanistan for the simple reason that the Macedonian Army, for years, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO troops in Afghanistan, working with local Afghans, in the nation-building project that was — past tense — an attempt to make Afghanistan a Jeffersonian democracy with a Madisonian government, without regard to Afghanistan’s own culture. So, it is only right that Macedonia should accept Afghans — and their families — that worked with Macedonian and NATO troops. This is part of Macedonia’s responsibility to NATO, which, as Zoran Zaev continually reminds everyone, will keep Macedonia safe.
Going forward, however, what happens with NATO? The US/NATO project in Afghanistan has now collapsed and collapsed in spectacular fashion.
And now, because of that collapse, the project that is NATO is at risk.
Here are just a few of the headlines and select quotes coming out this past week:
“Afghanistan’s collapse leaves allies questioning U.S. resolve on other fronts” — The Washington Post, August 15, 2021:
“As much as its military capabilities, the United States’ decades-old role as a defender of democracies and freedoms is again in jeopardy, said Rory Stewart, who was Britain’s minister for international development in the Conservative government of Theresa May. ‘The Western democracy that seemed to be the inspiration for the world, the beacon for the world, is turning its back,’ Stewart said.”
“Nato allies urge rethink on alliance after Biden’s ‘unilateral’ Afghanistan exit” — Financial Times, August 17, 2021:
“It weakens Nato because the principle of ‘in together, out together’ seems to have been abandoned both by Donald Trump and by Joe Biden.”
“‘Greatest debacle that NATO has seen’: Biden stuns allies with Afghanistan mistakes expected of Trump” — Washington Examiner, August 18, 2021:
“German politician Armin Laschet, the heir-apparent to outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the situation even more harshly. ‘This is the greatest debacle that NATO has seen since its foundation, and it is an epochal change that we are facing,’ he said this week.”
“Afghan withdrawal is a blow for Nato and Europe” — Financial Times’ editorial board, August 18, 2021:
“After the 9/11 attacks on America, Nato’s article 5 — which says an attack on one member is considered an attack on all — was invoked for the only time in its seven-decade history. When US forces began military action against Afghanistan, British and other Nato troops joined them. America’s withdrawal 20 years later, giving Nato allies little option but to pull out, delivers a double blow to the alliance. It has simultaneously laid bare the extent of Nato reliance on the US — and raised doubts about future American willingness to provide support to its allies. The Baltic states may now question how the US would respond to a triggering of article 5 in the event of a Russian attack. Beyond Nato, Ukraine sees parallels between Afghanistan and its own reliance on explicit and implicit US backing to prevent a return to Russian dominance.”
“Afghanistan situation ‘shameful ending’ to mission former Nato head says” The Inverness Courier, August 20, 2021:
“This will not be an easy meeting for NATO foreign ministers. The alliance has been weakened, America and the west have been weakened, and it’s a shameful ending of a mission which achieved so much for society in Afghanistan.” (Former NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson as quoted by BBC Radio 4 World at One)
“Parliament holds Joe Biden in contempt over Afghanistan,” The Telegraph, August 18, 2021:
“Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee, who fought alongside Afghans as a British soldier, called out Mr Biden’s criticism of the Afghan army.
‘To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran, is shameful,’ he said, to murmurs of approval from other MPs.”
Because of this ongoing catastrophe, the reputation, honor, and credibility of the United States has been damaged and because that has been damaged, the reputation, honor, and credibility of NATO has been damaged. Not because the United States and NATO allies left Afghanistan, but the way in which it happened, all attributed to US President Joe Biden and his administration, including his State Department.
Let me be clear: the men and women, the soldiers and military of NATO member states, including Macedonia, including the US, and all other NATO allies are not to blame in any way for this — they have been outstanding and honorable. The blame lies with the Taliban, first and foremost, a murderous group of scum, the government of Afghanistan, for being corrupt, and the civilian leadership of NATO, US President Joe Biden and his administration, and others.
European allies, members of NATO, should be worried. The Baltic countries are certainly worried. As noted above, so are other countries in Europe, to say nothing of non-NATO allies like Taiwan.
What does all of this mean for Macedonia? The government of Zoran Zaev made the decision to trade Macedonia’s honor for NATO membership by giving away Macedonia’s name — and identity and much else — to other countries; first Greece, and perhaps, now Bulgaria. And perhaps, in the near future, another country and people.
In return, Macedonia secured NATO membership and as Zaev continues telling Macedonians, NATO makes Macedonia safe, secure, and prosperous. But NATO, like all human institutions, has its flaws, its own internal problems, and of course a shelf-life. Where NATO goes from here is anyone’s guess.
Welcome to NATO, Macedonia.