Here’s how Russia could still sabotage Macedonia’s plans to join NATO
Nearly thirty years after the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, many countries caught up in Russia’s regional influence are still struggling to “pick a side.” In North Macedonia (until recently, just “Macedonia”), politicians have been working towards NATO membership for many years, an effort that could bear fruit within 2019 if NATO allies vote in favor of its ascension. Russia, however, has been working to prevent Northern Macedonia and the broader Balkan region from strengthening these ties. Just last year, NATO found that Russia attempted to influence the country’s referendum. Fearing this interference, many in the country are trying to speed up the NATO ascension process before any Russian efforts can gain ground. “Every single day more left to the process gives a day more for those who want to hijack the process and those adversaries that would like to compromise” NATO ascension, argued one of Northern Macedonia’s deputy prime ministers. “I think we got the last train. This region of the world, geopolitically, is becoming very dynamic, and I think it was the last [chance] for us to define the geopolitics in the region, that this region belongs to NATO, belongs to the Euro-Atlantic family of countries.” Experts see Russia working to strain relations between Macedonia and Greece, which only just recently reached an agreement on their long-standing disagreement over the name. Macedonia currently spends 1.2% of GDP on defense, but is projected to reach the NATO threshold of 2% in 2024.