Opinion

The Relationship Between The U.S. And Macedonia Is Reaching A Critical Point

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Maj. Gen. Ronald Johnson Retired Major General, U.S. Army

Donald Trump’s recent presidential victory coincides with Macedonia’s election, where Nikola Gruevski is expected to be re-elected Prime Minister. The political developments in both countries mark 2017 as a crucial period to further American-Macedonian relations.

Someone might question why the United States should care about Macedonia. Crucially, Macedonia represents a friendly, stable nation during a time of upheaval across a pivotal region. The combination of the Syrian refugee crisis and Greece’s failing economy left the future of Europe uncertain.  Throughout this instability, Macedonia and Nikola Gruevski acted as a friend and indispensable ally to the United States.

Both Macedonia and the U.S. worked together to end the refugee crisis. Further, Macedonia’s interest in joining NATO so that it can assist NATO members in their fight against terrorism and ISIS demonstrates the overlap in interests between America and Macedonia.

Macedonia is a small, landlocked nation that acted as the primary transit path for refugees from war-torn nations like Syria. As a result of the increase in refugees from the Middle East, Macedonia took extraordinary measures to address both the security and humanitarian concerns posed by the refugee crisis that occurred.

Despite being surrounded on three sides by European Union and NATO countries  – which look after each another –  Macedonia was left to deal with the refugee crisis on its own.

The political stability of the Balkan region was threatened by the refugee crisis. To prevent further insecurity, Macedonia provided safe transit for hundreds of thousands of refugees. Neighboring countries depended on Macedonia and viewed the country as a leader in the region on this matter.

More than 1 million people came from Turkey and through Greece trying to reach the EU. Even though Macedonia was not the final destination, Macedonia dealt with the situation and the refugees using the Western Balkan route into Greece through Macedonia.

Macedonia had to endure significant costs in dealing with these challenges that were not of their doing but instead was a global problem that was put on Macedonia’s doorstep. Macedonia’s leading role in the refugee crisis has helped make this small country a vital ally in the fight against ISIS and the fight against terrorism more broadly.

With Trump’s presidential victory and Nikola Gruevski’s likely election in December, it’s more important than ever that two nations work together in the global fight against terrorism and in assisting Macedonia in becoming a full-fledged NATO member in 2017.

Macedonia’s physical location makes it crossroads where East meets West. After two decades of investment, this chronically war-prone area is beginning to stabilize. America cannot forget about Macedonia and the Balkans.

With Putin and Russia on its doorstep, it’s vital that America and president-elect Donald Trump counter Russian efforts in the Balkans by allowing Macedonia to enter NATO. Joining this organization will make Macedonia much less vulnerable to the Kremlin’s meddling hand and, more importantly, will enable Macedonia to improve its relationship with America and the West in 2017.