The Greece-Macedonian issue: American-Greek relations at odds

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 3 18:41:23 UTC 2008

The name that Greece suggests is FYROM: "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"
I think that Macedonia is suggesting "Republic of Macedonia."


On Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 11:32 AM, Ann Evans <annevans123 at> wrote:
> What is the name(s) that Greece is suggesting for FYROM?  What name(s) is
> Fyrom suggesting?
> Ann
> On Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 7:41 AM, Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at> wrote:
>> American-Greek relations at odds
>> Dr. George Voskopoulos in American Chronicle
>> June 01, 2008
>> The US and Greece have been strategic allies ever since the end of the
>> Second World War. Greece became a NATO member in 1952 thus cementing
>> the alliance´s south-east European flank against the Warsaw Pact. In
>> this way the leaders of the country hoped to strengthen democracy and
>> assist development in the only country that practiced free market in
>> the region. During the Cold War years the Atlantic Alliance provided a
>> reliable casus foederis against non-alliance members, a fact that left
>> out of this collective security mecha-nism the biggest military threat
>> the country faced. Still Greek governments supported alliance policies
>> vis-à-vis neighboring countries and refrained from upsetting its
>> cohe-sion and its overall effectiveness in dealing with Soviet
>> expansion. This explains Greek subtle policy vis-à-vis non-aligned
>> Yugoslavia and Tito´s expansionist dreams.However, today the picture
>> of bilateral relations looks rather gloomy. One of the causes of the
>> rift is the Greece-FYROM dispute over the latter´s constitutional
>> name. At the end of the Cold War the issue originally appeared to be a
>> technicality, yet it proved to be more than that.
>> Under the circumstances FYROM is treated as a de facto and de jure
>> ally and Greece as alliance outcast. All of a sudden the US appears
>> willing to overlay the essentials that brought the two countries
>> together. They give Athens wrong signals and adopt an inconceivable
>> policy that affects bilateral relations. The prerequisites of turning
>> American-Greek relations into a meaningful strategic partnership again
>> are simple. Most of them apply to every single partnership built on
>> consensus not coercion. Even-tually going back to the basics will
>> assist the revitalization of this strategic partnership and trigger
>> the so needed by both sides understanding of the issue at hand. The
>> first refers to the US being able to acknowledge the vital interest of
>> a local part-ner who faces multidimensional hostile activities by a
>> neighboring state wishing to join the Atlantic Alliance. Vital
>> interests are defined in terms of threats, their percep-tion and
>> intensity and the degree they affect the survival of a country.
>> Eventually they may turn into non-negotiable national interests and
>> lead to a dead end.
>> In the so called "Macedonian dispute" [1] Greece has made every single
>> effort to meet the other side half way. It is obvious that the Greek
>> political elite is ready to accept a name with a geographical
>> definition that leaves no space for further misunderstanding. Greece
>> has taken a step back in its rhetoric and policy with a view to
>> enhancing stability in the region.
>> However the other side refuses to adopt a name that clearly
>> distinguishes it form the Greek province Macedonia. Constructivism may
>> be a useful, at times, approach to international relations, yet, it
>> runs the risk of over-extending into relativism, thus making any
>> claim, whether sustainable or not, appear attractive or noble.
>> Eventually it dramatically blurs the dividing line between facts and
>> beliefs, something American officials should comprehend. The semantics
>> of Skopje rejecting the covertly implied by the Greek government
>> solution enhances suspiciousness in Athens and eventually reveals the
>> real motives behind Macedonianism, a state ideology built on Great
>> Idea inspirations. These are externalized in the form of a demand, a
>> historical duty on the part of Slav-Macedonians and especially the
>> Diaspora to unite geographical Macedonia. A part of this strategy
>> includes "liberation" of Greek Macedonia. A less informed or
>> misinformed reader would probably think that there used to be a united
>> country dismembered by neighboring states. Yet, the truth is
>> different. What we know is that "the region of Macedonia, inhabited by
>> Slavs from the fifth century, was never able to have its own
>> independent state" [2]. Still even if history had proven an
>> unfortunate experience for our neighbors they would not be liable to
>> advance irredentism as a means of purging it. This would certainly
>> give many in the region the right to start claiming possessions of the
>> past. It would probably give me and another 1.200.000 Greeks forced
>> out of Asia Minor the right to claim our property. This is not the
>> case and we should all ac-knowledge certain facts of history, politics
>> and reality.
>> Second, the issue at hand is not related to race purity or historical
>> accuracy but security. The concept affects not only inter-state
>> relations but national psychology. After all, the feeling of security
>> bears a strong psychological aspect. This makes the in-volvement of
>> the Atlantic Alliance imperative on the basis of its being a
>> collective security mechanism. Once an ally faces hostile propaganda
>> and overt irredentist claims NATO should be in a position to intervene
>> and protect existing non prospec-tive members. It is a matter of
>> priorities stemming from alliance commitments not vague ideological
>> stances. Providing stability is what gives NATO its raison d´ être and
>> makes it a meaningful (or meaningless?) alliance.
>> Washington´s support to a revisionist state constitutes today´s
>> paradox with American policy in the issue. The US joins lines with
>> extremists in FYROM and supports the weakest but aggressive party, a
>> non-NATO member not a strategic ally that has defended the territorial
>> status quo and served the alliance´s interests ever since 1952. Greece
>> is the only NATO member and EU country that still faces military and
>> non-military threats. It is the only NATO member whose security has
>> been solely con-structed on the realist concept of self-help.A
>> substantial number of US senators have acknowledged that Greek worries
>> are not imaginary and do not constitute a side-effect of national
>> psychosis. Actually this could not have been the case since there are
>> tangible facts that turn FYROM into the odd man in the Balkans. It
>> also exposes the inability of the political establishment in Skopje to
>> define real enemies as illustrated by the 2001 crisis.
>> What is disappointing with US policy is its easiness to dismiss Greek
>> security considerations, at least on the practical level, since in
>> terms of rhetoric the State Department is more careful. What we have
>> seen so far is a policy of punishing a NATO ally for defending
>> territorial status and regional stability, a policy that means to
>> consistently provoke Athens through the use of the term Macedonia, a
>> policy of supporting all those inside and outside the country that
>> wish to destabilize the political system. It is fully understood that
>> America´s strategic priorities vary from balancing short-term needs
>> and long-term interests in a region prone to Russian influence. Yet,
>> long- term allies and their interests cannot vanish into thin air.
>> They have been there to sup-port what used to be the West and they
>> will be there in times of need. Supporting a country that has just
>> discovered the merits of Atlanticism (this is what I call
>> opportun-istic Atlanticism) gives merit to those – like me - who
>> suggest that NATO has lost its collective security meaning, a debate
>> inaugurated in the early 1990s after the demise of the Soviet Union.
>> US policy during the last years has been a challenge to foes and
>> allies since it has lost its "persuasive credibility", arbitrariness
>> and ability to see the obvious. It has led allies to question NATO´s
>> scope, its utility and above all its ability to impose norms of
>> in-ternational behaviour based on rigid, uncompromised principles and
>> values. Above all it lacks the ability to devise policies formulated
>> outside the current militarily and power-imposed ethos.
>> In 2005 T.K. Vogel and Eric A. Witte, senior fellows of the
>> Democratization Policy Council, commented on the gap between American
>> policies and rhetoric suggesting that "grand rhetoric about democracy
>> and freedom only resonates when it is supported by actual policy". [3]
>> In the same way American policies cannot bear multidimensional
>> semantics that can be interpreted in many contending ways. It has to
>> be clear at least vis-à-vis allies such as Greece. One of the greatest
>> challenges leaders and simple individuals have always faced is to cope
>> with power and how to put it in good use. Whether a university
>> professor or the leader of a superpower one needs internal balancing
>> mechanisms to reconciliate needs, values, prerogatives and
>> commitments. In the case of an alliance priorities should be formed on
>> the basis of the needs of those inside and the advertised ethical
>> basis of American active involvement in world politics. It takes at
>> least two to have least two to go to war and at least two to
>> form an alliance.
>> notes
>> [1] The term "Macedonian issue" is rather inaccurate, since "the
>> Macedonians of to-day are not, as many in the West think, descendants
>> of the long vanished Macedoni-ans of Alexander the Great. They are
>> Slavs, who speak a language related to the Serbo-Croatian and the
>> Bulgarian. Together with other Slavs, they came from the
>> Russo-Polish-Ukrainian plains at the end of the Great Migrations, in
>> the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. and settled in the mountainous
>> Balkan land then ruled by the Byzantine emperor. All the Slav tribes
>> that almost fourteen hundred years ago had established in the
>> Byzantine provinces known of old as Macedonia in the second half of
>> the nineteenth century began to use the name of that province as their
>> own national appellation". See Stoyan Pribichevich, Macedonia, its
>> people and history, The Pennsylvania State University Press,
>> University Park, 1982, p. 2
>> [2] Stephane Lefebvre, "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
>> (FYROM): Where to?", European Security, vol. 3, n. 4, winter 1994, p.
>> 711.
>> [3] "America should ditch its tyrant friends", International Herald
>> Tribune, August 15, 2005.
>> --
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138

Email: haroldfs at


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