TRUMP AND MACEDONIA: what’s in store for Macedonia? - Part 1 - (Prelude)
By Sasha Uzunov
You all have been amused or bemused by some enterprising Macedonian teenagers from the town of Veles who made some very good money in running "fake news" assisting Donald Trump win the US Presidency against favourite Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's a cute funny story - probably a Hollywood move in the making down the track, perhaps a Disney teen coming of age film ! Zac Efron, Lindsey Lohan or Taylor Swift as stars. Probably too old by the time the film is ever made.
There is a perception amongst Macedonians both in the Republic of Macedonia and abroad - and perceptions are sometimes more important that realities - that Trump is pro Macedonian as opposed to Hillary, seen as pro Albanian. The scope of this story is not to go over old ground - Hillary and husband Bill, US President (1993-2001) and their support for the Kosovar War in 1999 which then spilt over into Macedonia in 2001 - because of US aid to the Kosovo Liberation Army.
We have ex-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger plus a number western commentators such as Charles Krauthammer who saw the 2001 war in Macedonia as simply a land grab by the Kosovo Liberation Army wrapped up or hidden by the demand for "Albanian rights" in Macedonia. There are those who dispute this assertion. Be that as it may. On the whole, in one shape or form US culpability remains
We still don't know what Trump's views are about Macedonia - there have been murmuring from advisers about support for Macedonia. But we will have to wait and see after the dust settles where Trump actually stands. Will he pressure Greece to stop its outrageous destabilisation of Macedonia? Will he give short shrift to Albanian separatists who are simply looking for any excuse to break away from Macedonia, no matter that their demands keep getting more and more deliberately unfulfillable?
POLARISATION THEORY OR FACT? - Washington’s Belgradists, Albanian separatists, and Bulgarianists in Macedonia? Greece’s historical ally and proxy in the Balkans is Serbia. What Athens can’t do, Belgrade can…The US doesn’t lift a finger to stop it? In recent times we saw the European Union and the United States lean on EU and NATO member Croatia to remove any veto to Serbia’s application to join the EU. Yet the EU and US can’t do the same for Greece’s nearly three decade long blocking of Macedonia, since it became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991. Why?
Is there a deliberate polarisation of Macedonian culture and society pushed and pulled by Pristina-Belgrade-Sofia; thus making Macedonia virtually ungovernable until it self-implodes? Why hasn’t the US done anything about it? As we shall see below TEAM UZUNOV will go into some detail but first a prelude to set the mood.
Out of left field - Washington’s Belgradists / Baathists in Macedonia!
These people were publicly mouthing what was required of them and writing flowery articles criticising extremism but alongside this they were going on Social Media and longing for the return of Saddam, Tariq Aziz, the Republican Guard and the “bad old good days".
Your immediate reaction would be that these people are not sincere and questions would be asked back in Washington. You would probably have some Congressional or Senate hearing asking how can this be?
The funny thing is - this similar scenario has developed in the Republic of Macedonia decades after the collapse of Yugoslavia.
It sounds odd but true. The U.S. has engaged Macedonian activists, journalists best described as Belgradists, Serbian Cultural Hegemonists, Yugoslavists, and authoritarians masquerading as “internationalists” who don’t believe in the concept of an independent Macedonian state nor an independent Macedonia culture.
How was this possible? - Prelude:
2002 - A rude introduction to the “Draskovic Double Act” in Macedonia and Serbian Cultural Hegemony - the “Pro Americans” who really hate the United States !
22 November 2002 - “Hey, you’re an American spy! But I’m writing for Putin’s Pravda !”
DOWN ON THE BORDER ! Tabanovce and the “elite’s paranoia.”
On 22 November 2002, I attended a media conference at the Holiday Inn, Skopje, Macedonia, for the International Crisis Group, involved in the country after the ethnic Albanian uprising.
ICG official Ed Joseph was about to hand down a report on Macedonian corruption, including an attack on the ousted Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski VMRO-DPMNE government, which lost the national election earlier in September of that year.
My Macedonian Press accreditation - I was registered as a stringer for Australia’s state-run multicultural broadcaster SBS - its radio section.
She then let me have it: I had no place being at the media conference because I was a CIA agent. I was part of the evil West. The West had no place in Macedonia or the Balkans or Yugoslavia. I had to leave Macedonia immediately !
For a second, I thought I was hearing ultra Serb nationalist Vojislav Seselj put on one of this media performances…but Ana wasn’t wearing a “shajkacha” - the traditional Serb cap… I rubbed my eyes just to make sure it was her !
I didn’t know what to make of such a “performance” from Ana. She after all was the pro American, the “internationalist” and “anti nationalist.” A recipient of a US college scholarship to study in the US… She wass more American than the Americans.
This was my rude awakening to what I call the Draskovic Double Act - and Serbian Cultural Hegemony - Macedonians who claim to be “internationalists” but are hard line Belgradists. People such as journalists and “activists” Borjan Jovanovski, Branko Geroski etc. (more on this later).
In hindsight, her comments are hilarious because she was taking “Western cash” from Reuters. But I was the “decadent Western imperialist.” Hilarious. A Jerry Seinfeld comedy moment !
Yet I was writing for Pravda, the Russian newspaper at the time ! - see link. Go figure?
Photo: ICG media conference 2002. Photo by Sasha Uzunov.
Ed Joseph (left), Nicholas Whyte (centre). Translator (right)
After this false denunciation of being a CIA spy, I was “invited" to the Macedonian Interior Ministry (MVR) for a “friendly chat.” I had MVR or SDB/DBK (security service) intelligence officers, usually a male with a female, turn up uninvited at my regular table at Del-fufo restaurant in Skopje, which made great pizzas.
In January 2003, I was pulled off a bus at the Tabanovce border checkpoint by Macedonian police after returning from a trip to Belgrade, Serbia and Hungary, following up a story about the US using a NATO Hungarian NATO base to secretly train an Iraqi Army funded by the CIA for the upcoming Iraq War - a kind of Bay of Pigs operation which didn’t eventually get off the ground.
US Army base at Taszar, Kaposvar, Hungary. Iraqi exiles were being trained for an Iraqi army before the war broke out in 2003. Published as a Front page photo in The Ottawa Citizen newspaper (Canada), "Canadians training for post-Saddam Iraq," story by Scott Taylor. January 24, 2003. Photo by Sasha Uzunov.
On the 23 January 2003, I was pulled off a bus at the Tabanovce border checkpoint by Macedonian police after returning from a trip to Belgrade, Serbia and Hungary
I sensed something was wrong when they entered the bus and instead of checking other passengers’ passports went straight for me - I was sitting right at the back of the bus - and told me to get out. Both had their Kalashnikovs drawn. They said I had an issue with a “visa irregularity” even though I had left Macedonian over 48 hours prior and was told there would be no issue when I did return to Tabanovce.
I was made to wait in the snow. I asked if I could seek shelter inside the checkpoint office. The Border post commander then became aggressive and started swearing and shouted how dare I ask such a thing. He had, he said, worked all his life, to get that warm comfortable chair (fotelja) and he wasn’t going to share it with anybody !
I was literally walked at gunpoint by two Macedonian Border Police almost right to the border with Serbia. Some time passed, a bus heading for Belgrade arrived and I was physically pushed into the bus. The driver was ordered to take me to Belgrade !
I reached Belgrade and headed for the Macedonian Embassy. I, then copying Ana Petruseva’s routine, began to act aggressive and started screaming to get attention. Eventually I was spoken to by an embassy official. I explained my situation. He said there must have been a misunderstanding. He would smooth things out. There would be no hassles.
I eventually made my way back to Skopje. Eventually the harassment form MVR tapered off !
The title of the story was Vojnata e valkana rabota - War is a dirty business (or work).
He asked me about Iraq and I told him of an incident in late 2002 / early 2003 where I was pulled off a bus on the Serbian-Macedonian border by Macedonian border police and held at gunpoint over “alleged" visa issues. The journalist made the wry and witty observation: “znaci poloso si pominal so nasata policija otkolku od Irak…”
Translation: “you had a worse time in dealing with our [Macedonian] police than in Iraq..."
- Looking back, it is hilarious now but I can reassure you having a Kalashnikov pointing into your back by the Macedonian Border Police was no laughing matter at the time!
Simply put, it is saying one thing in public but holding a very different view in private. My experiences in Macedonia during 2002-03 and in dealings with local journalists revealed this double act - publicly and cynically pro American but privately anti American and pro Serb. So you might get a cute story “criticising” say Serb dictator Slobodan Milosevic or Serb nationalism but more out of opportunism than out of genuine motivation. You never get any protests in Skopje against Serb extremism. These people are also obsessed with blaming a soft target, alleged Macedonian nationalism for Macedonia’s ills. It’s nothing more than a red herring used to polarise Macedonians and Albanians.
I’ve dubbed the routine after ultra Serb nationalist Vuk Draskovic who in 1991, oddly, told a western newspaper, see link, that he wanted to cantonise or federalise Macedonia because he was concerned about “Albanian rights” but, according to a CIA report from 1990 -contradicting the 1991 statement from Draskovic - coming down hard on Milosevic for being too soft on Kosovar separatists. see link
Draskovic interview - 21 March 1991
Draskovic’s intentions in jumping upon the Albanian rights bandwagon wasn’t out of a genuine concern for Albanians nor Macedonians but to set both groups at each other’s throats, thereby giving ammunition to Albanian separatists in Macedonia. Federalising Macedonia would mean the end of the country. It would fall apart, and whatever was left would be absorbed by Serbia or Bulgaria.
Albanian separatism in Macedonia and the perceived US’s support of it, will also be discussed in part 2, as will Washington’s turning of a blind eye to NATO ally, Bulgaria, and its nationalist interference in Macedonia.
A classic and blatant example of the Draskovic Double Act comes from Macedonian pundit, Borjan Jovanovski.
In 2001 - as a Voice of America correspondent based in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, Jovanovski urged his fellow Macedonians to give up Yugoslavism and its concomitant, Serbian Cultural Hegemony, but even he couldn’t bring himself to use such terms instead employing the sugarcoated euphemism of “Brotherhood and Unity.” - see link.
In 2015, almost twenty five years of Macedonian independence from Yugoslavia, Jovanovski told his 10,000 plus followers on Twitter that he wanted Macedonia to return to defacto Serb-Yugoslavist rule. A move that would lead to certain civil war. We can now see his 1991 statement was made out of cynicism, otherwise why would you want to return to Yugoslavist rule, which the Albanians opposed for over 40 years in Kosovo? - see link . It’s taking US taxpayer dollars as a Voice of America correspondent under false pretenses.
But we have to ask why does the United States, knowing these people’s flimsy allegiance to the West, give them succour? What is Washington’s end state in using Macedonian Belgradists?
PART 2 - coming soon… link here