THE BAILY ULTIMATUM - Part 2 - Bringing the Heat !
By Sasha Uzunov
Like the film character Jason Bourne, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Baily seems to be suffering from some memory loss- that’s one way to interpret his inability to respond to TEAM UZUNOV’s written questions, sent to him by email several weeks ago. It should be noted that in a live encounter on 29 August 2018 Mr. Baily did say he would ‘think about’ answering, but dismissed all 23 of TEAM UZUNOV’s questions as ‘bullshit.’ The reader can make up his or her own mind about this depiction after reading the articles to follow.
- previous article Part 1 of the BAILY ULTIMATUM at this link here
BAILY- BRINGING THE HEAT
Ambassador Baily has been no stranger to controversy, indeed even before coming to Macedonia he was already stirring up emotions as he referred to Macedonians as ‘Slavs’ in his 2014 Senate confirmation hearing. That caused the then-Gruevski government to issue a protest note, as Balkan Insight reported on 22 September 2014. see link here
The British website also reported Baily’s comments in that hearing regarding his future plans- ‘he said that during his term in Skopje, he will pay particular attention to the improvement of media freedoms and trust in the judiciary in Macedonia.’ This is particularly ironic given that Baily would not respond to TEAM UZUNOV’s questions, nor indeed has he stood up to the current Macedonian government’s banning of TEAM UZUNOV for spurious reasons from the recent press conference of U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis in Skopje.
After Ambassador Baily finally arrived in Macedonia in February 2015, his image took considerable hits as he was seen to be partisan (pro-SDSM) during the wiretap scandal, in the drafting of the Przino Agreement of July 2015, that created another very controversial body (Katica Janeva’s Special Public Prosecutor’s Office) and paved the way for early elections that were held on 11 December, 2016. Baily was criticised by many Macedonians for the U.S. role in the so-called ‘Colourful Revolution’ that helped SDSM take power and, especially, for the U.S. failure to oppose the post-election ‘Tirana Platform’ of ultra-nationalist ethnic Albanian demands, signed in the office of Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama.
U.S. Fingers on the Funding: EWMI and the NGOs
The former and present U.S. governments’ claims of ‘Russian interference’ in Macedonia are particularly bizarre in that the U.S. and not Russia is the superpower that spends millions of dollars annually in funding for quasi-political NGO programs that have included support for violent left-wing movements. While USAID has a massive footprint in the country, no similar Russian aid program exists- aside from the EU and its programs, the only other foreign country with a visible presence is Turkey and its development agency, TIKA, albeit on a much more modest level.
As TEAM UZUNOV exclusively reported last year, Mr. Rama’s ex-wife Delina Fico just happened to be on the U.S. books at election-time, working with the coordinative grant-managing body dealing with Macedonian NGOs, called the East-West Management Institute. Leaked emails between the Macedonian NGO activists involved revealed their excitement to be working with ‘big players’ in the U.S. through this scheme. see link here
New official data on EWMI collected by TEAM UZUNOV proves that this organisation is in reality just a USAID/State Department front group. EWMI’s 2016 financial disclosure statement - see link -
states that ‘the Institute received approximately 91% and 88% of its total revenue in 2016 and 2015, respectively, either directly or indirectly from the USAID. Any significant reduction in the level of support from the USAID could have a material adverse effect on the Institute’s programs.’
The document adds that the Institute’s ‘government revenue arises primarily from contracts, cooperative agreements, and grants’ from USAID and the State Department for ‘judicial reform, legal aid, and rule of law programs in Cambodia, Albania, Georgia, Vietnam, Serbia and Sri Lanka,’ in addition to ‘training and support for non-governmental organisations, grassroots networks, public policy, and human rights programs in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Macedonia.’
Ironically enough, soon after Baily’s offensive ‘Slav’ referenced caused tensions in Macedonia in 2014, the not-yet-appointed ambassador did get some support in parts of the local press- including one website, Factchecking.mk, which decried a ‘media smear campaign’ and ‘hate speech’ against Baily. see link here
Yet after the article proper (which was written by a Macedonian) the following disclaimer indicates that the Embassy was essentially writing its own damage-control PR with the story!
This analysis was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project – Media Fact-Checking Service Component, implemented by Metamorphosis. The analysis is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).
BATTLE LINES DRAWN – THE BAILY OFFENSIVE
Ambassador Baily became even more controversial during the Macedonian election period- which was followed shortly by the shock election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016, an event having major impact for the Macedonian expectations, particularly among VMRO-DPMNE, that the new administration might call off its attack dogs in the State Department and Embassy. However, this did not happen.
Although it won fewer MP seats than expected, the winning VMRO-DPMNE party was technically capable of forming a coalition with old partner DUI, the main ethnic Albanian party. However, Baily’s direct pressure quashed this possibility, a Macedonian former MP tells TEAM UZUNOV: ‘on election night, they were celebrating in the DUI shtab (headquarters). They thought they will have a new coalition. But then a phone call from the U.S. Embassy came and they were told to forget that idea, because VMRO-DPMNE would not be allowed to be in power.’
This claim is not as shocking as it might appear, considering the consistent involvement the U.S. has always had in Macedonian politics. At the same time, the Embassy was forced to issue a public statement denying that its staff had entered the premises of the State Election Commission (DIK) during the vote tallies and recounts. The statement read in part: ‘let us correct the record to clearly state that the U.S. Ambassador has not met with, visited, or intervened with anyone at the SEC.
Regardless of what happened or didn’t happen, no question the Embassy was under withering assault and felt it had to defend itself. This got worse as Edi Rama’s interference with the ‘Tirana Platform’ resulted in months of street protests (the ‘Ilinden4’ movement) and a deadlock on forming a government, as President Gjorge Ivanov refused to grant SDSM’s Zoran Zaev a mandate unless he abandoned the ultra-nationalist Albanian demands, citing the Macedonian constitution.
RAPID-FIRE ACTION- INTRIGUE FROM SKOPJE TO WASHINGTON
The drama heated up when VMRO-DPMNE supporters additionally took measures to point out the longstanding ties of both SDSM and the USAID grant-making schemes to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, with a campaign called Stop Operation Soros. see link here
All of this scrutiny brought the tension to a fever pitch. A local Macedonian source on good terms with US Embassy officials tells TEAM UZUNOV that the Ambassador was ‘absolutely livid’ at the official letters sent by American parliamentarians inquiring into his mischief-making.
Republican Senator Mike Lee on 17 January inquired about the Embassy’s political role. see link here
On the same day, Congressman Christopher Smith and five others sent a similar letter, which TEAM UZUNOV publishes here.
The Congressmen gave Baily two weeks to reply to questions about “credible reports” that during Baily’s tenure the Embassy had “actively intervened in the party politics of Macedonia” along with media and civil society interference. On top of that, the congressmen asked Baily to specify his own role in negotiating the December 2016 elections, as well as the two scuppered ones earlier in the year that were cancelled for various reasons.
A Macedonian-American diaspora activist in Washington with tight connections to some US political heavy hitters recently told TEAM UZUNOV that “Baily was getting all his supporters lined up to support him, nobody was sure what the new Trump Administration was going to do and there was a real fear that he might no longer be able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.”
This concern was increased when the influential conservative group, Judicial Watch, also announced an investigation into the role of government funding for Macedonian NGOs, announcing on 28 February2017 that Soros was giving millions to destabilise Macedonia. see link here
The next day the conservative watchdog announced that it would launch an investigation into the Skopje Embassy itself in regards to its funding of Soros-linked NGOs loyal to SDSM, reported MIA see link here
On 3 February, then-State Department Spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement that the department had “full confidence” in the Skopje Embassy and in the beleaguered Baily.
On 14 February, the Embassy issued a brusque press release that it ‘had responded’ to Senator Lee.
BAILY’S ‘SHERIFF”S BADGE’ LETTER FROM MACMANUS
However, the legislators were persistent and only after a letter of 14 March did the senator receive an official reply, dated 23 March, which TEAM UZUNOV is publishing here.
The letter, written by Joseph E. Macmanus (pictured below), combines the usual legalese with claims that are highly controversial, if not outright false. For example, the apparatchik writes that “U.S. foreign assistance is not used to support political party agendas or to influence a particular political outcome.” It lists generic adherence to USAID guidelines, but ignores any questions about Baily’s specific engagement, just noting generalities like USAID is used for “funding and support for democratic reforms and civic engagement,” and so on.
The Washington source tells TEAM UZUNOV that ‘it really shows how scared Baily and the Embassy were about the congressional investigations- he didn’t just have his boss Hoyt Yee or someone else write a nice letter on his behalf, Baily had to get an official letter from the State Department’s legal division. Macmanus is a heavy-hitter, a former Hilary Clinton insider who has had a long career, even working for Obama on the Iran deal negotiations. But this was like Baily’s get-out-of-jail free card, as after that they were not hassled much, and especially after the 27th April parliament events [attack in parliament], nobody in DC could support the VMRO-DPMNE position.”
When asked to elaborate the Washington source said simply that “the VMRO-DPMNE advantage was that Baily’s Colourful Revolution group, which was commemorated here by things like art shows, had been violent. So SDSM, and frankly Baily, they needed something violent to blame on VMRO-DPMNE, which they got with the parliament storming. So after that it was like a moral equivalence argument, and no lawmakers were willing to stick their necks out for the government. Baily won the same way SDSM got their mandate, through violence, which was the same way they got their last mandate after the war in 2002.’
Ironically enough, the story does not end there. The official State Department biography of Macmanus lists his impressive career results. see link here
Even more bizarre, later in 2017, Donald Trump nominated him as ambassador to Colombia- a nomination which drew criticisms from Republicans due to Macmanus’ close ties to Hilary Clinton! see link here
REGIME CHANGE - NAME CHANGE - BAILY’S END STATE IS THE END OF THE MACEDONIAN STATE? - Mission Complete?
It is no coincidence that the dramatic and earth shattering changes that have taken place in the Republic of Macedonia over the past four years have “coincided” with Ambassador Jess Baily’s tour of duty - from toppling the previous VMRO-DPMNE government, flawed and corrupt in its own right, to installing another government that of Zoran Zaev’s SDSM, and it too flawed and corrupt but holding absolutely no scruple in breaking promises about keeping “red lines” over national interest such as name change of Macedonia into North Macedonia and signing the Prespa Agreement and the Bulgarian Good Neighbourly Agreement, both seen as capitulatory.
The Russian “interference” in Macedonia narrative used is nothing more than a convenient label to stick on anyone who deviates from the Ambassador’s view. It’s been clever to some extent but seriously flawed - namely the key US supporters in Macedonia are ex Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic supporters who were anti NATO and anti US (and by default pro Russian) at one point and cynically have jumped on the NATO/US bandwagon - for opportunistic reasons and to cover up their own previous “naughty behaviour.”
US Embassy insiders have told TEAM UZUNOV that the diplomat can’t wait to get out of the country soon enough. If the 30 September 2018 referendum in Macedonia goes without a hitch and Macedonians swallow the fantasy in believing that by changing their identity they will enter EU utopia and that NATO membership will automatically confer riches, then the US diplomat leaves Macedonia with mission complete stamped on his US State Department personnel file and on to a well deserved vacation.
THE BAILY ULTIMATUM
PART 3 - link here
PART 4 - link here