As I noted last month, Greece and Macedonia traded barbs at the United Nations General Assembly over the terribly pedantic dispute over the name of the country formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). As inane as a dispute over the the name of a country may sound, it has had very real world consequences over the years. Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO bid in 2008, and is currently blocking potential Macedonian entry into the EU.
With the NATO summit coming up in Lisbon next month, this seems to be a good time to revive prospects that Macedonia may enter the alliance. Sally McNamara and Morgan L. Roach make the convincing argument that Macedonia deserves to join NATO:
Having been a primary consumer of security in the past, Macedonia has quickly made the transition to being a provider of security, both regionally and globally. Although Skopje does not enjoy the benefits of NATO membership, it has advanced NATO’s core mission of providing for the collective defense. Macedonia was a critical staging area for the NATO intervention in Kosovo and provided a safe haven for over 360,000 Kosovars during the conflict. Macedonia continues to provide logistical coordination and support for the Kosovo Force mission.
One of the most impressive acts of good faith by Macedonia has been its robust participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Despite having a population a fifth the size of Greece’s, Skopje has deployed more troops than Athens has to Afghanistan. Maintaining a commitment of 240 troops, Macedonia is one of the largest per capita contributors to the mission, providing security at NATO headquarters in Kabul.
There’s more. But the point is, the case for Macedonian ascension to NATO is strong on the merits. (The same can be said of joining the EU.) Still, after 18 years, the name dispute shows little sign of resolution. Macedonia is trapped in NATO ascension limbo. Why not just let them in?