Archive for September 2008

Serbia, Russia, and the Pax Americana in South Eastern Europe

September 15, 2008

By Dušan Reljić


Harvard International Review




Two decades have passed since the dissolution of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia began destabilizing southeast Europe, but there is still little reason to proclaim that the region has reached the point of no return for ethnic conflicts and wars. Until recently, many pundits blamed the unresolved issue of Kosovo as the main cause for enduring instability. Yet, even after the overwhelmingly Albanian majority in this Serbian province declared independence on 17 February, 2008—a unilateral move sponsored and micro-managed for the most part by the United States—there is no evidence that the political endgame in the region has started. Indeed, there are unambiguous signs that starting positions have been occupied for a new “great game” in the Balkans. Yet, the rules for the next rounds are being changed at the moment: equipped with new possibilities to influence the region through its energy policy, Russia is re-entering the stage with more clout than ever since the Soviet Union collapse.
Since the very beginning of the turmoil in Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, the United States, the European Union (EU), Russia (at that moment still the Soviet Union), and some Muslim countries (i.e. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, etc.) became progressively involved in the events on the ground. At the outset, the external interest was declared to be of humanitarian nature, yet, unavoidably, external involvement soon shifted to bickering for influence in the successor countries of former Yugoslavia and thus, in southeast Europe as well.
Without doubt, the United States was most successful in the wheeling and dealing in southeast Europe in the last two decades. Washington applied both soft power (economic aid for reconstruction and development, financial assistance to institution building, civil society, the mass media, etc.), and hard power by leading NATO military interventions in the region. On balance, since 1991, the United States determined all outcomes in the series of post-Yugoslav conflicts. Thus, there is solid evidence to justify calling the present situation in the area of former Yugoslavia a Pax Americana. Yet, there is also reason to assume that US influence in southeast Europe has passed its peak. The apogee was reached with the United States decision to unleash the NATO attack on Serbia in the spring of 1999 without approval by the UN Security Council. The downturn commenced in the past winter after Washington signalled to the Kosovo Albanians that the United States would stand behind a declaration of independence. This meant bypassing, the UN Security Council and its resolutions again; ignoring the reservations by a number of EU and other countries, including China; and acting in defiance of Serb and Russian vehement protests. It is unlikely that the United States will be in the position to intervene in the same imperial manner in south eastern Europe any time soon.

The United States: No role-model for Serbia
The last two decades in south eastern Europe were not only years of ethnic conflicts but also a time of political, economic, and social transition. In a parallel transformation, the countries opted for Euro-Atlantic integration to replace the previous membership in the Eastern block, or, in the case of former Yugoslavia, its non-aligned position. By now, most states of the region regularly hold elections that are considered free and fair by the observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OECD). They have achieved some of the highest growth rates in Europe (although serious economic problems persist). Membership in the EU is supported by the vast majority of the voters throughout the region. In various forms, NATO is present in all countries of the regions and has invited Albania and Croatia to join the alliance. The United States has new military bases in the region: in Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Krivolak (Republic of Macedonia) and “Camp Bondsteel” (Kosovo). Apparently, the Pax Americana is working.
Yet, in Serbia, the biggest and arguably the politically most important country in the region, the United States enjoys little popularity among “normal citizens,” as confirmed by recent opinion polls. Serbia is formally part of the NATO Partnership for Peace program, but there is little reason to expect that this country will one day want to join NATO—the wounds from the 1999 war are too deep. Now, after the United States enforced the Kosovo Albanian independence declaration, the relationship between Washington and Belgrade is worse than ever, since the time Serbia toppled the populist leader Slobodan Milošević eight years ago.
But how do the “normal people” view the future of their country? After all, they have the opportunity to determine Serbia’s orientation in free elections. Should the United States be the role model for Serbia? Merely 3 percent of the respondents in a representative poll carried out in this April by the respected Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID) in Belgrade thought this to be a good idea. Only China and eastern Europe scored equally low in this survey. Western European (17 percent), Scandinavian, and neutral countries (each 16 percent) are still the Serbs’ favorites. However, Russia (17 percent) has become the rising star in the eyes of many Serbs. The obvious reason for this surge in sympathy is the support that Moscow is providing Serbia, while the United States is the staunch protector of Albanians.
Indeed, for most of the time since the disintegration of Yugoslavia began almost two decades ago, the United States ignored Serbia’s concerns, even after the democratic change in Belgrade in the year 2000. On the other hand, Russia’s involvement with Serbia is century-long and usually portrayed in the prevailing political discourse in both countries as based on common Slavic roots and a long history of mutual solidarity. Although this interpretation does not reflect historical facts, because both states were always primarily pursuing their particular interests, the “special relationship” is often romanticized and serves as an efficient tool to mobilize emotions. In any case, it is evident that a politically assertive and financially open-handed Russia is eager to win Belgrade over to its side.
At this point, the public opinion in Serbia still prefers EU membership as confirmed in a recent opinion poll by the Belgrade pollster Politikum, yet the pro-Russian mood is also strong. An overwhelming number of respondents also refuse a trade-off involving Serbia’s faster accession to the EU in exchange for accepting the secession of Kosovo (see charts).





Clearly, Serbia is struggling to define its new political identity after the series of defeats in the wars for Yugoslavia’s succession since 1991. At present, its “soul” is caught in the middle of the nets of political, economic, and military influences that the EU, Russia, NATO, and the Untied States are spreading over south eastern Europe. The outcome of this struggle will not only define Serbia’s own perspectives but also Russia’s ambition to establish a foothold in south eastern Europe and the United States determination to treat this region as its exclusive sphere of influence. Equally, it will decide whether the EU will succeed with its enlargement policy—the scheme to offer membership to all states in the continent—and thus create eternal peace in Europe.


Russia’s frustration in the Western Balkans
In the course of the Yugoslav wars, Russia has been habitually frustrated by its lack of political and military potential to project its power into south eastern Europe. Moscow’s anguish reached its climax in the spring of 1999, when the United States ignored Russia’s protests and led a NATO bombing of Serbia for almost three months. Because Russia had failed so miserably in 1999, the future status of Kosovo became an overriding issue for Moscow. Alexander Alexeev, the former Russian envoy in Belgrade and now a high-ranking officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently described the Russian determination with the following: “In the defence of Kosovo, we will stand as firm as in the battle for Stalingrad”. Abkhazia and other frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space remain of secondary importance for Moscow in this context, while South-Ossetia, recently achieving international headlines, had remained insignificant up to this point. Russia is mainly interested in gaining equal standing with the United States on the global political scene so as to emerge as a stronger global power once more.

Strangely enough, Western diplomats ignored Moscow’s potential reactions with regard to the issue of Kosovo. From the very beginning of their mandate in 2006, the UN Kosovo negotiators Martti Ahtisaari from Finland and his Austrian deputy Albert Rohan waved questions as to whether they really believed that Moscow would agree to their plan for Kosovo. This, in spite of the fact that already a year before this, former President Vladimir Putin had plainly said that Moscow would vehemently oppose a solution imposed by the West on Serbia. Yet, again and again western diplomats would insist in private discussions that Russian policy on Kosovo was just diplomatic posturing and that Moscow would eventually give in.

The United States did not budge an inch in its support for the Albanian cause any more than it did in any other disputes with Moscow. Why the United States unwaveringly backs the Albanians, the authors of this policy in Washington have never publicly elucidated. In Europe, several hypotheses concerning the United States strategic motives are raised:

First among them is that the Albanians, as their leaders enthusiastically point out, are the most pro-American nation in Europe. They are happy to support US interests not only in their region, but also to participate in far-away military interventions, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, the Albanians have the highest natural birth rate in Europe and one of the highest in the world (Kosovo 12 per thousand inhabitants, Albania 5.5, Serbia minus 4.3). Within years, the Albanians will grow to be, after the Romanians, the second biggest nation in the Balkans, whereas the population of the other ethnic groups, and especially the Slav nations, will continue to shrink rapidly. Consequently, the United States will have the most dynamic nation in south eastern Europe on its side.

Third, some observers see in Kosovo “a symbol of United States-Muslim partnership” and, therefore, interpret Washington’s policy vis-ΰ-vis this issue to be a component of a much more important concern, namely the so-called war on terror. Indeed, in the course of several hearings in the US Congress, the opinion was voiced that Washington’s support of ethnic Albanians proves to the Muslim world that the United States can have close allies among Muslim nation, much as it did in Bosnia. This belief rests more on projections than on facts, as religion does not play a central role in Albanian nationalism. Yet, as some US diplomats have put it, if the impression spreads on the international scene that Washington can forge alliances with Muslim nations, then this is a nice side-effect of its Kosovo policy.

Finally, the United States apparently sees Serbia as a proxy for Russia. Therefore, it is in the interest of United States, once it has decided upon its course, to prove that it will be moved by neither Russia nor its alleged or real proxies.

Only after the Albanians in Kosovo had declared their independence on 17 February 2008, did the chief negotiator Frank Wisner offer a circumstantial interpretation of the United States position in a number of interviews. He stipulated that the Kosovo issue was of importance to Washington because the United States was also responsible for security in Europe. Russia, on the other hand, had no such interests, according to him, and is not even contiguous to Serbia, but was on the contrary far away from Serbia. Russia and the United States should not try to interfere in each other’s areas of interest, according to Wisner. However, in his opinion, Moscow was trying to secure access to Kosovo, and the United States would not accept such meddling. For Russian observers, such statements were nothing but the proof that the United States has always had Russia as the real object of intervention in south east Europe and elsewhere with the purpose to diminish as much as possible any kind of Moscow’s role in international relations.



Russia out, Serbia down, and the United States in?
Undoubtedly, if Russia were indeed a neighbour of Serbia, or if both states were at least connected via friendly countries that would have permitted Russia military aid to pass through to Serbia if necessary, neither the NATO campaign against Serbia in 1999 nor the West’s recognition of the Kosovo Albanians’ declaration of independence in 2008 would have occurred. However, in 1999, new NATO member Hungary and candidate countries Romania and Bulgaria denied overflight permission for aircraft carrying reinforcements for Russian troops that had taken over the airport at Priština before the UK and US forces. Moscow’s surprise move, which had been intended to at least amend the outcome of the NATO campaign against Serbia, ended in humiliation. In 2003, Putin withdrew the last forces from Bosnia and Kosovo, stating that Moscow no longer wanted to support flawed Western policies.





Furthermore, at this point, immediately after the Milošević regime was overthrown in Serbia, Russia no longer had any suitable allies in Serbia. Even the national-conservative groups still remembered how emissaries from Moscow were sent on 5 October 2000, when the police and military had finally withdrawn support for Milošević, to the election winner Vojislav Koštunica to try to persuade him to compromise with the old regime.

Yet, in the meanwhile, the United States and western Europe approach to the issue of Kosovo has undermined the position of the pro-European forces in Serbia. The convergence between Serbia and the EU seems to have reached a stalemate in spite of the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) 29 April. Any further contractual interlocking between the EU and Serbia will be contingent on how each of the two sides treats the new entity of Kosovo. No government in Belgrade will ever be able to sign a treaty that implies any acknowledgment of Kosovo’s secession. On the other hand, a majority of EU countries have extended recognition to Kosovo, and will, therefore, not wish to let Serbia into the EU as long as it continues to maintain its claim to Kosovo.

For Moscow, this is not really good news, as Russia is more interested in having Serbia as an ally inside than outside the EU. Russia’s improving relations with Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary illustrate this notion. Russia’s most important markets for energy exports, trade, and technology acquisitions are in the EU.




“Gazprom” ante portas!
As a counterpart to the German-Russian “North Stream” project, there are plans to build a Russian-Bulgarian-Serbian-Hungarian-Slovenian-Italian natural gas pipeline named “South Stream.” In order for Serbia to access this project, the country had little choice in early 2008 but to sell the state-owned petroleum company NIS to Gazprom for far below the market price. In return, Serbia (like the other participating countries) will receive assurances of long-term oil and gas deliveries. Serbia’s interest is evident: there are many outside investors who have enough capital to build pipe-lines and modernise refineries, but there are no sources of reliable long-term supplies of gas and oil such as Russia and Gazprom.

Currently, approximately 60 percent of Serbia’s foreign trade is with EU states – the country’s greatest single exporting company is US Steel (which owns the Smederevo steel works) – while Russia accounts for only 11 percent. Nonetheless, in perspective, Gazprom’s arrival could quickly tilt the balance.





The Danger of New Instability
Under the auspices of the United States, the West has chosen to ignore the Serbian interests in the dispute over the future status of Kosovo. The course pursued by the West has consistently been portrayed as the only conceivable option, which a priori precluded any consideration of Serbian or Russian concerns. This uncompromising stance was presumably based on the assumption that Serbia was unable politically and militarily to do any damage to the West; nor was Russia seen as being capable of enforcing its own point of view in the matter of Kosovo. Both of these assumptions have proven to be correct in the sense that the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence has created a fait accompli and is irreversible.

However, the Serbian resistance, aided by Russia, is now concentrating on a focal point where any possible Western “victory” in Kosovo may yet come at a substantial political and military cost: in the almost exclusively Serbian-populated northernmost point of the province around the town of Mitrovica. While the US State Department has pointed out that it considers the protection of Kosovo’s “territorial integrity” to be a task for NATO, Belgrade’s tactics are apparently aimed at deepening the already existing de facto separation in the north. Any military action on the part of NATO to force the Kosovo Serbs to accept Albanian control over them would most likely lead to an exodus of the Serbian population and create major international fault-lines.

Russia is emerging in this part of south eastern Europe as precisely the kind of actor that the United States has tried to prevent: an indispensable protecting power for Serbian interests – in the same way that the United States has long acted as a patron of the Albanians. It remains to be seen how the EU will fulfil its role in the field of tension between the United States and Russia as a self-declared “driving force” in the process of economic and social transformation and political reconciliation in Kosovo and the region. Already, the EU’s protracted internal strife about whether to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia, as the first contractual step to future membership, and (because it is not mandated by the UN Security Council) the legally flawed start of its rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) have once more strained its credibility.


World military update

September 13, 2008


India looks to South Korea to boost ship design capabilities


The Indian Navy has said that it wants to encourage closer links between the country’s state-owned shipbuilders and those in South Korea in order to improve domestic naval ship design capabilities. Speaking to Jane’s on 3 September, Commander Nirad K Sinha, official spokesman for the Indian Navy, said that during Indian Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s visit to South Korea and Japan, which ended on 24 August, potential design and co-development projects were discussed with government and industry officials



Finland green lights naval NEMO project


The Finnish Defence Forces (FDFs) have approved construction of a new mortar-armed patrol boat technology demonstrator, under Patria Weapon System’s NEMO Navy study. As the name suggests, the programme will see a marinised version of Patria’s 120 mm NEMO smoothbore, semi-automatic mortar weapon system turret installed into a modified version of Marine Alutech’s Watercat



Romania’s upgraded radars offer easier maintenance


Lockheed Martin has completed upgrading the first two of Romania’s five AN/FPS-117(E)1T long-range air-defence surveillance radars. The work included upgrades to the platform’s electronics cabinets, new displays and remote maintenance centres; and has resulted in improved signal and data processing capabilities for the ground-based system, which has been operated by the Romanian Air Force since the late 1990s






Safir launch ‘paved way for placing Iranian satellite in space’


Contrary to initial reports, the Shahab 3-based Safir (Messenger) vehicle launched by Iran on 16 August 2008 did not place a satellite in orbit. The US Spacetrack system recorded nothing being orbited between the launch of Americom-21 and Superbird 7 communications satellites from Kourou in French Guiana on 14 August and the launch of an INMARSAT 4-F3 communications satellite from Tyuratam in Kazakhstan on 18 August




Taiwan considers different military hardware sources
Taiwan could seek to acquire military technologies from Europe if the United States continues to freeze the sale of defence hardware to the country, according to Jack Tang, programme director at Taiwan’s Industrial Participation Programme (ICP) Office. Referring to Washington’s apparent reluctance to move ahead with the sale of military equipment to Taiwan for fear of destablising improved relations between the country and neighbouring China, Tang told Jane’s on 18 August that the impasse could have a significant impact on Taiwan’s defence industries





Romania moves closer to fighter acquisition decision


Romanian Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu announced on 2 September that the government would make a decision “in a week or two regarding the acquisition procedure for a new fighter [aircraft]”. The announcement followed Melescanu’s meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Sven Tolgfors, in Bucharest. Melescanu acknowledged that the Saab Aerospace JAS 39 Gripen “is part of the list” of respondents for the contract, “where [a total of] five competitors meet the operational criteria set by air force specialists”



Source: Jane’s Defence journal

World military update

September 6, 2008

Boeing’s Super Hornet enters Denmark’s combat aircraft contest


The US Navy (USN) has responded to a request for information (RfI) from Denmark regarding the Boeing F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet multirole combat aircraft, it was announced on 27 August. The RfI, which Boeing received in May, pertains to the Royal Danish Air Force’s (RDAF’s) New Combat Aircraft competition for 48 aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16AM aircraft



Belgium transfers second Wielingen-class frigate to Bulgaria


The second of three Belgian Navy Wielingen-class frigates, the ex-BNS Westdiep , was officially transferred to the Bulgarian Navy by the Belgian Ministry of Defence at Zeebrugge Naval Base on 22 August. The delivery to Bulgaria of the renamed Gordi follows a pre-transfer sanitisation and pre-handover training of the 90-strong Bulgarian crew



Romania’s upgraded radars offer easier maintenance
Lockheed Martin has completed upgrading the first two of Romania’s five AN/FPS-117(E)1T long-range air-defence surveillance radars. The work included upgrades to the platform’s electronics cabinets, new displays and remote maintenance centres; and has resulted in improved signal and data processing capabilities for the ground-based system, which has been operated by the Romanian Air Force since the late 1990s



Georgia releases images of ‘Russian missile wreckage’


The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has released a series of photographs showing what it says is the wreckage of Russian Tochka (SS-21 ‘Scarab’) and Iskander (SS-26 ‘Stone’) tactical ballistic missiles fired against targets in Georgia. Early reports of Russian ballistic-missile attacks on Georgian territory focused on the Tochka



Safir launch ‘paved way for placing Iranian satellite in space’


Contrary to initial reports, the Shahab 3-based Safir (Messenger) vehicle launched by Iran on 16 August 2008 did not place a satellite in orbit. The US Spacetrack system recorded nothing being orbited between the launch of Americom-21 and Superbird 7 communications satellites from Kourou in French Guiana on 14 August and the launch of an INMARSAT 4-F3 communications satellite from Tyuratam in Kazakhstan on 18 August





Taiwan considers different military hardware sources


Taiwan could seek to acquire military technologies from Europe if the United States continues to freeze the sale of defence hardware to the country, according to Jack Tang, programme director at Taiwan’s Industrial Participation Programme (ICP) Office. Referring to Washington’s apparent reluctance to move ahead with the sale of military equipment to Taiwan for fear of destablising improved relations between the country and neighbouring China, Tang told Jane’s on 18 August that the impasse could have a significant impact on Taiwan’s defence industries





Romania moves closer to fighter acquisition decision
Romanian Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu announced on 2 September that the government would make a decision “in a week or two regarding the acquisition procedure for a new fighter [aircraft]”. The announcement followed Melescanu’s meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Sven Tolgfors, in Bucharest. Melescanu acknowledged that the Saab Aerospace JAS 39 Gripen “is part of the list” of respondents for the contract, “where [a total of] five competitors meet the operational criteria set by air force specialists”



Source: Jane’s defence journal

Arms scandal in Ukraine

September 6, 2008





A scandal on government-inspired illegal arm suppliesto Georgia gathers strength in Ukraine. The Supreme Rada’s investigative commission, headed byValery Konovalov, has already revealed facts onsupplying arms worth a whopping 200 million dollars tothe Saakashvili regime – money that had never reachedUkraine’s state coffers. Elaborating on that is our observer Alexander Vatutin:The Ukrainian authorities appeared to have done theirbest to render full-fledged aid to their staunchCaucasian ally – a fact that came to light followingthe end of the hostilities in the Georgia-SouthOssetia conflict zone. In the course of a military operation against Georgiancommandos, the Russian military collected imposing wartrophies, including Ukrainian-made T-72 combat tanks,small-arms weapon and ammunition, which
 were usedagainst Tskhinvali’s civilians. This is, however, only the tip of the iceberg. Previously, there were reports about a Russian TU-22strategic bomber being shot down by Georgian airdefense systems. But it is clear that the bomber could hardly bedemolished by mothballed air defenses the Georgianmilitary was earlier equipped with. To all appearances, the Russian high-altitude bomberwas eliminated by the most advanced S-200 air defensesystems, which might well be supplied to theSaakasvili regime by none other than Ukraine. So it is safe to assume that the Yushchenkoadministration added significantly to building upGeorgia’s offensive military muscles – acorruption-leaning move that patently rode roughshodover Ukraine’s existing legislation. By the way, a similar sandal recently hitBosnia-Herzegovina, where opposition leaders hadpointed a
 finger at PM Nicola Spiric, who they claimedmight well damage ties with the republic’s close allyRussia by moving to supply arms to Georgia. The Russian side has given solid evidence that duringthe South Ossetian conflict, the Georgian militaryused the state-of-the-art military hardware made notonly in Ukraine but in many other nations from aroundthe globe as well. The Military Prosecutor-General, Sergei Fridinsky,says that Russian peacekeepers seized plenty ofmilitary hardware and small-arms weapons produced bythe United States, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria,Romania and Israel, whose drones, by the way, werewidely used by the Georgian air forces. In a recent interview with the Voice of Russia, aMoscow-based noted military expert lamented the factthat so far there had been no international law whichcould bar a nation from supplying arms to the conflictareas. Alexander
 Pikayev added that in this sense,each country is keen to stick to its own policyprinciples. Regrettably, an international document to prevent anation from supplying arms to the conflict zones hasnot seen the daylight yet, Alexander Pikayevcomplains. At the same time, he adds, there are currently severalEU accords that say a firm no to EU member states’involvement in the matter. That means that bysupplying arms to Georgia, EU members violated theirown agreements, Alexander Pikayev contends. It remains to be added that the current scandal seemsto be the first link in the chain of exposures thatwill certainly shed enough light on who moved tosponsor Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia.

US Senator Joe Biden Calls for Full Withdrawal of Turkish Troops from Northern Cyprus

September 5, 2008

US Senator Joe Biden, running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and an experienced diplomat, has called for the “full withdrawal” of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus in an interview posted on ”Kathimerini” on- line edition.

Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee – who has referred to the Cyprus occupation as an “anomaly” – told Kathimerini that Washington’s relations with Ankara “will be influenced by how the Cyprus problem is solved, namely by the full withdrawal of Turkey, and from how Greek and Turkish differences in the Aegean are settled.”

Mr. Biden said the stance of President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat made him “more optimistic than ever” that a settlement will be agreed upon.

Mr. Obama’s running mate pledged Washington’s “constant and active support” for peace talks. “We have the opportunity, with the cooperation of Greece, to find a logical solution to Cyprus and end the occupation,” he said.

As for tactics for breaking the deadlock, Mr. Biden said negotiators should focus on existing common ground and build from there. “Part of diplomacy is determining which issues serve common interests and focusing on these to find a solution,” he noted.



Source: Cyprus MFA

Ένα επίκαιρο γεωπολιτικό θεώρημα…

September 5, 2008

Diktyo21 – Newsletter


Του Χρύσανθου Λαζαρίδη, αντιπροέδρου του ΔΣ/Δ21

6η Σεπτεμβρίου 2008



Η Ιστορία δεν έχει «άκαμπτες νομοτέλειες», όπως φαντάζονται κάποιοι. Ούτε ισχύουν στην Ιστορία τα αυστηρά θεωρήματα των Μαθηματικών.
Ούτε επαναλαμβάνεται η Ιστορία μέσα από «κύκλους», όπως υποστηρίζουν κάποιοι αθεράπευτοι ντετερμινιστές…
Υπάρχουν, ωστόσο, ορισμένοι ιστορικοί κανόνες, που έχουν την τάση να επαληθεύονται σε αντίστοιχες ιστορικές συνθήκες. Κι όταν συνδυασμοί παρόμοιων συνθηκών επανεμφανίζονται, κάποιες ιστορικές τάσεις, που θεωρούνταν «ξεπερασμένες», γίνονται ξανά ισχυρές. Ενίοτε και κυρίαρχες…
Τέτοια «ιστορικά θεωρήματα» καθιστούν την Ιστορία – δηλαδή την συστηματική μελέτη του παρελθόντος – εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα για την Πολιτική, δηλαδή για τη διαχείριση του παρόντος και τη χάραξη του μέλλοντος.
Ένα τέτοιο ιστορικό θεώρημα θα εξετάσουμε σήμερα. Γιατί μας ενδιαφέρει εξαιρετικά και γιατί γίνεται ξανά ιδιαίτερα επίκαιρο: Αφορά τη συσχέτιση ανάμεσα στη γεωπολιτική θέση της Τουρκίας και τη Ρωσία – μια συσχέτιση που έχει τρία σκέλη (συνοψίζεται σε τρείς εναλλακτικές προτάσεις):
— Όταν υπάρχει στρατηγική σύγκλιση Ρωσίας-Δύσης, η θέση της Τουρκίας αποδυναμώνεται – και η Τουρκία υφίσταται καταστροφικές κρίσεις.
— Όταν υπάρχει στρατηγική σύγκρουση Ρωσίας-Δύσης, η θέση της Τουρκίας αναβαθμίζεται και η ίδια κερδίζει σε πολλά μέτωπα.
— Κι όταν αποδυναμώνεται η Ρωσία, οι φιλοδοξίες της Τουρκίας αυξάνονται και ο «ακτιβισμός» της εντείνεται.
Ας δούμε μερικά παραδείγματα:

* Στις αρχές του 19ου αιώνα οι Ευρωπαϊκές δυνάμεις συνασπίστηκαν κατά του Ναπολέοντα και κατάφεραν να τον νικήσουν. Στον συνασπισμό αυτό πρωτεύοντα ρόλο έπαιξε η Ρωσία και η Βρετανία. Μετά τη νίκη τους δημιουργήθηκε η «Ιερά Συμμαχία» (Αυστρίας-Πρωσσίας-Ρωσίας), που κατέστησε τη Ρωσία πολύτιμο εταίρο των ευρωπαϊκών δυνάμεων για δεκαετίες.
Εκείνη ακριβώς την εποχή η Οθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία υφίσταται την πρώτη διαλυτική κρίση της, με αποτέλεσμα την Ελληνική Ανεξαρτησία, παρά το γεγονός ότι η «Ιερά Συμμαχία» στράφηκε εναντίον των εξεγερμένων Ελλήνων.
Το πρώτο σκέλος του θεωρήματος επαληθεύεται: Η στρατηγική σύγκλιση Ρωσίας-Δύσης συμπίπτει με μια πρώτη διαλυτική κρίση στην Οθωμανική Τουρκία.

* Κατά τη διάρκεια του Κριμαϊκού Πολέμου (1853-56), Γαλλία και Βρετανία συγκρούονται με τη Ρωσία και τη νικούν. Εδώ ο ρόλος της Οθωμανικής Τουρκίας προσωρινά αναβαθμίζεται, ενώ η Ελλάδα υποχρεώνεται να αλλάξει καθεστώς (εκδιώκεται ο Όθωνας), το νέο καθεστώς υποχρεώνεται να εγκαταλείψει προσωρινά τη «Μεγάλη Ιδέα» (ένθερμος οπαδός της οποίας υπήρξε ο Όθωνας στα τελευταία χρόνια τη βασιλείας του) και να υιοθετήσει στις επόμενες δεκαετίες την «άψογο στάση», δηλαδή την πλήρη ευθυγράμμιση με την πολιτική των «Προστάτιδων Δυνάμεων».
Το δεύτερο και το τρίτο σκέλος του θεωρήματος επαληθεύονται επίσης: Από μια σύγκρουση Δύσης-Ρωσίας ενισχύεται η Τουρκία κι από μια – προσωρινή όπως αποδείχθηκε τότε – αποδυνάμωση της Ρωσίας, επωφελείται μεσοπρόθεσμα η Τουρκία.

* Το 1878 η Ρωσία επανέρχεται στο ευρωπαϊκό προσκήνιο (μέσω Βαλκανίων). Αυτή τη φορά οι επιδιώξεις της δεν οδηγούν σε ρήξη με τις Ευρωπαϊκές δυνάμεις (όπως έγινε 25 χρόνια πριν, με τον Κριμαϊκό Πόλεμο), αλλά σε συμβιβασμό μαζί τους (με τη μεσολάβηση Μπίσμαρκ και Ντισραέλι).
Η Τουρκία τελικά χάνει απΆ όλες τις πλευρές: Η Ελλάδα κερδίζει τη Θεσσαλία το 1881 (χωρίς να χρειαστεί να πολεμήσει γιΆ αυτό), ενώ η Βουλγαρία προσαρτά την Ανατολική Ρωμυλία το 1885.
Το πρώτο σκέλος του θεωρήματος επαληθεύεται ξανά: επανάκαμψη της Ρωσίας και στρατηγική σύγκλισή της με τις Ευρωπαϊκές δυνάμεις, στοιχίζει αμέσως στην Οθωμανική Τουρκία. Η οποία, έκτοτε, μπαίνει σε μακροχρόνια κρίση, που θα αποδειχθεί μοιραία για την ίδια…

* Η αποχώρηση του Μπίσμαρκ από το προσκήνιο – της Γερμανίας και της Ευρώπης – σπρώχνει την ίδια τη Γερμανία σε τροχιά σύγκρουσης με όλους τους υπόλοιπους. Γαλλία και Ρωσία συγκλίνουν κι εκείνες στρατηγικά εναντίον της Γερμανίας, ενώ μετά το 1908 στην συμμαχία τους (Αντάντ) προστίθεται και η Βρετανία. Η στρατηγική σύγκλιση της Ρωσίας με τη Γαλλία και τη Βρετανία οδηγεί σε νέο διαμελισμό της Τουρκίας, πριν ακόμα ξεσπάσει ο Πρώτος Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος:
Πρώτη η Ιταλία επιτίθεται στις αφρικανικές κτήσεις της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας, το 1911, και αποσπά τη Λιβύη και τα Δωδεκάνησα. Αμέσως μετά (1912) οι Βαλκανικές χώρες επιτίθενται στην αποδυναμωμένη Τουρκία και της αποσπούν όλες τις Ευρωπαϊκές κτήσεις, εκτός από την Ανατολική Θράκη.
Η διάλυση της Τουρκίας δεν οφείλεται μόνο στην ήττα της στον Α΄ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο. Έχει αρχίσει πιο πριν και οφείλεται κυρίως στη σύγκλιση Ρωσίας-Δύσης, που αποδυνάμωσε πολλαπλά την Τουρκία απΆ όλες τις πλευρές.
Το πρώτο σκέλος του θεωρήματός μας, επαληθεύεται ξανά…

* Αμέσως μετά το τέλος του Πανευρωπαϊκού Πολέμου, κι ενώ η ηττημένη πλέον Τουρκία δεν φαίνεται να μπορεί να αποφύγει την πλήρη «εξαφάνιση», τελικά «διασώζεται» γιατί έχει μεσολαβήσει μια σημαντική γεωπολιτική ανατροπή: Στη Ρωσία έχει επικρατήσει η Μπολσεβίκικη Επανάσταση. Η Σοβιετική Ρωσία πλέον, μπαίνει σε φάση μακροχρόνιας αντιπαλότητας με τη Δύση. Κι αυτό δίνει την ευκαιρία στο Κεμαλικό κίνημα, στην αρχή να συμμαχήσει με τους Μπολσεβίκους, στη συνέχεια να συμμαχήσει με τους Γάλλους, τους Ιταλούς, τελικά και τους Βρετανούς, και να ανασυγκροτήσει την Τουρκία, ως εθνικό κράτος πλέον.
Το δεύτερο σκέλος του θεωρήματος επαληθεύθηκε και πάλι: Η μακροχρόνια αντιπαλότητα Δύσης-Ρωσίας, που εγκαινιάζεται την περίοδο 1918-20, επανέφερε την Τουρκία στο προσκήνιο, επέβαλε στους πάντες να συμμαχήσουν μαζί της και της επέτρεψε να αποφύγει την οριστικό διάλυση και εξαφάνισή της.

* Κατά τη διάρκεια του Δεύτερου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου, η Ρωσία ξανά συμμαχεί με τις Δυτικές δυνάμεις ενάντια στο ?ξονα. Όμως, αυτό δεν οδηγεί σε νέα διαλυτική κρίση της Τουρκίας, για τρείς λόγους:
— Πρώτον, διότι αυτή τη φορά η Τουρκία τήρησε στάση ουδετερότητας κατά τη διάρκεια του Πολέμου. Έτσι απέφυγε να βρεθεί με την πλευρά των ηττημένων μετά τον Πόλεμο.
— Δεύτερον, διότι η Ελλάδα είχε στο μεταξύ υποστεί μεγάλη καταστροφή από τον τετραετή κατοχή ενώ στη συνέχεια βυθίστηκε στο χάος του Εμφυλίου Πολέμου για άλλα τέσσερα χρόνια.
— Τρίτον – και σπουδαιότερο – διότι αμέσως μετά το τέλος του Πολέμου, άρχισε ο Ψυχρός Πόλεμος και η Ρωσία βρέθηκε ξανά σε σφοδρή αντιπαλότητα με τη Δύση.
ΠαρΆ όλα αυτά, η Ελλάδα κατάφερε να κερδίσει τα Δωδεκάνησα το 1947-48, παρά τις σφοδρές αντιρρήσεις της Τουρκίας τότε…

* Στη διάρκεια του Ψυχρού Πολέμου, η Τουρκία αναβαθμίζεται γεωπολιτικά και το δεύτερο σκέλος του θεωρήματος επαληθεύεται ξανά.

* Μετά την περίοδο 1989-91, όταν καταρρέει η ΕΣΣΔ, η Ρωσία μπαίνει σε περίοδο εσωτερικής κρίσης και «έκλειψης» από το προσκήνιο, ενώ ο ρόλος της Τουρκίας αναβαθμίζεται προς όλες τις κατευθύνσεις: και προς την Κεντρική Ασία, όπου φιλοδοξεί να γίνει ηγέτης όλων των τουρκόφωνων λαών, και στα Βαλκάνια, όπου φιλοδοξεί να γίνει ηγέτης όλων των εκεί μουσουλμανικών πληθυσμών και προς τη Μέση Ανατολή, όπου φιλοδοξεί να γίνει ηγέτης του «μετριοπαθούς Ισλάμ». Γενικά η Τουρκία μετά το 1990 προσπαθεί να ανασυστήσει μια ηγεμονία «από την Κίνα ως την Αδριατική κι από την Κασπία ως τον Περσικό Κόλπο».
Το τρίτο σκέλος του θεωρήματος μοιάζει να επαληθεύεται ξανά: Η «έκλειψη» της Ρωσίας από το παγκόσμιο προσκήνιο αναδεικνύει νέες (αχαλίνωτες) φιλοδοξίες για την Τουρκία.

* Όμως, η στροφή των ΗΠΑ κατά της ισλαμικής τρομοκρατίας, μετά την 11η Σεπτεμβρίου του 2001, φέρνει την Τουρκία σε δύσκολη θέση. Η εκστρατεία του ΝΑΤΟ κατά του Αφγανιστάν, καθιστά τη Ρωσία ξανά «προνομιακό σύμμαχο» της Δύσης στην κεντρική Ασία κατά του Ισλαμικού φονταμενταλισμού.
Όμως το πιο ανατρεπτικό έμελλε να συμβεί λίγο αργότερα: Η Ρωσία επανακάμπτει στο προσκήνιο. Κι αυτό ανατρέπει τα σχέδια όλων:
— Οι Αμερικανοί δεν μπορούν να παραμείνουν στο Αφγανιστάν χωρίς τη Ρωσική «στήριξη».
— Ούτε μπορούν να «σταθεροποιήσουν» το Ιράκ – και να απεμπλακούν από κει χωρίς ταπεινωτική ήττα – αν δεν συμφωνήσει και η Ρωσία στους μελλοντικούς «διακανονισμούς» ολόκληρης της Μέσης Ανατολής.
— Ούτε η αντιμετώπιση (των πυρηνικών φιλοδοξιών) του Ιράν είναι εφικτή δίχως της συναίνεση της Ρωσίας.
— Ούτε μπορούν να αντιμετωπίσουν την ανερχόμενη Κίνα μακροχρόνια, χωρίς στρατηγική σύγκλιση με τη Ρωσία.
?ρα, παρά τις ψυχροπολεμικές κορώνες που ακούμε τελευταία, η επιστροφή στον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο είναι εξαιρετικά δύσκολη.
— Για τους Ευρωπαίους είναι, επί πλέον, απαγορευτική. Διότι η Ευρώπη παραμένει ενεργειακή εξαρτημένη έναντι της Ρωσίας και πολιτικά διχασμένη απέναντί της.

Το θεώρημα που επισημάναμε σήμερα συσχετίζει όχι τη Ρωσία με την Τουρκία, αλλά την εκάστοτε σχέση Ρωσίας-Δύσης (αν πρόκειται για σχέση στρατηγικής σύγκλισης ή στρατηγικής αντιπαλότητας) με το ρόλο και τις φιλοδοξίες της Τουρκίας.
— Αν μπαίνουμε ήδη σε νέα φάση Ψυχρού Πολέμου (όπως βιάστηκαν να συμπεράνουν κάποιοι) αυτό ενισχύει το ρόλο της Τουρκίας στην περιοχή μας.
— Αν αντίθετα πλησιάζει η ώρα ενός μεγάλου συμβιβασμού που θα εγκαινιάσει νέα περίοδο στρατηγικής σύγκλισης Ρωσίας-Δύσης, τότε είναι πιθανότερο η θέση και ο ρόλος της Τουρκίας να υποβαθμιστεί τα επόμενα χρόνια.
Η προοπτική του μεγάλου συμβιβασμού και της σύγκλισης στρατηγικών συμφερόντων Ρωσίας-Δύσης είναι πιο ορθολογική και πιο ρεαλιστική – και για τη Δύση και για την Ρωσία..
Η προβληματική που παρουσιάσαμε σήμερα, αλλάζει όλο το πλαίσιο της συζήτησης για την ελληνική εξωτερική Πολιτική.
Το πρόβλημά μας δεν είναι πλέον, αν «έχει δίκιο» η Ρωσία ή η Δύση, αν θα επικρατήσει τοπικά η Ρωσία ή τα γειτονικά της καθεστώτα που στηρίζονται από τη Δύση (και κοντράρουν τη Ρωσία), ούτε αν «μας συμφέρει» η επικράτηση της Ρωσίας ή η περιθωριοποίησή της…
Το πρόβλημα είναι ότι μας συμφέρει η επαναφορά της Ρωσίας, στο βαθμό που οδηγεί σε νέο συμβιβασμό και μακροχρόνια στρατηγική σύγκλιση με τη Δύση. Δεν μας συμφέρει, όμως, αν η επαναφορά της Ρωσίας οδηγήσει σε νέα φάση Ψυχρού Πολέμου με τη Δύση.
— Επαναφορά της Ρωσίας που οδηγεί σε στρατηγική σύγκλισή της με τη Δύση, ελαχιστοποιεί τις στρατηγικές επιδιώξεις της Τουρκίας, συντρίβει τις φιλοδοξίες της και παροξύνει την εσωτερική της κρίση.
— Επαναφορά της Ρωσίας που οδηγεί σε νέα περίοδο «Ψυχρού Πολέμου» με τη Δύση, αναβαθμίζει το ρόλο της Τουρκίας, αποχαλινώνει τις φιλοδοξίες της, κι ελαχιστοποιεί τα στρατηγικά περιθώρια της Ελλάδας.
Ευτυχώς (για μας και όχι μόνο), το πρώτο είναι πολύ πιθανότερο από το δεύτερο…
Μας συμφέρει, λοιπόν, να μην αποξενώσουμε τη Ρωσία από μάς, αλλά και να μην αποξενωθούμε από τη Δύση. Ώστε να ενισχύσουμε μέσα στη Δύση τις δυνάμεις που απορρίπτουν την επιστροφή στον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο και επιδιώκουν τη συνεννόηση (σε πρώτη φάση) και τη στρατηγική σύγκλιση με τη Ρωσία (σε αμέσως επόμενο στάδιο). Πολύ περισσότερο που αυτό είναι εφικτό, ρεαλιστικό και ορθολογικό και για τη Δύση συνολικά και για τη Ρωσία.
Κι εξόχως συμφέρον για την Ελλάδα .
Αυτό είναι, λοιπόν, το εθνικό συμφέρον μας. Που μπορούν να το αντιληφθούν μόνο όσοι από μας είναι σύγχρονοι και ρεαλιστές ταυτόχρονα:
Δηλαδή όσοι έχουν πάψει να σκέπτονται με τους όρους του «Ρωσικού» ή του «Αγγλικού» κόμματος κι αρχίζουν να σκέπτονται με όρους ρεαλιστικού εθνικού συμφέροντος.
Την περίοδο Σημίτη συνέβη κάτι παράδοξο: μας επανέφεραν στη λογική της «αψόγου στάσεως» και της απόλυτης ευθυγράμμισης με τις «Προστάτιδες Δυνάμεις», παρουσιάζοντας αυτή την «ολική επαναφορά» στην εποχή Δεληγιώργη ως «εκσυγχρονισμό»… εν όψει του 21ου Αιώνα!
Είναι καιρός να κλείσουμε αυτή την «παρένθεση» και να επιστρέψουμε στον αληθινό εκσυγχρονισμό του Βενιζέλου.
Η ανακάλυψη του εθνικού συμφέροντος είναι και πάλι η πεμπτουσία του εκσυγχρονισμού. Κι όχι μόνο στην Εξωτερική Πολιτική…

The Reality and the Weight of History: Why the Greek People Cannot Easily Accept FYROM’s Claims

September 3, 2008

By Aristide D. Caratzas


Aristide Caratzas, a trained historian, is an international policy advisor and academic publisher based in Athens and Scarsdale, NY.
Published in The National Herald 20 August 2008
[Written July 16, 2008- Edited August 4, 2008]


The dispute regarding the official name by which will be known the Former [Communist] Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has appeared to many policy makers from arcane to trivial. Yet its mishandling over the last fifteen years, especially the last few months, has resulted consequences that have raised the political cost for some of the world’s major players and increased tension and the potential for instability in the Balkans, referred to by historians and diplomats as Europe’s “soft underbelly.”
The case in point is the unprecedented defeat of a U.S. president at a NATO meeting, in this case the much touted Bucharest summit in April of this year: President Bush proclaimed the “strong support” of the United States to the Skopje regime’s bid to NATO membership, only to have it denied under the threat of a veto by the Greek government. Nor did the NATO Secretary General’s visit to Athens and Skopje, following the NATO summit, increase the likelihood of a positive result, while the mediation process currently under way under the direction of U.S. diplomat Matthew Nimetz finds progress elusive.
Given the complexity of the situation it is useful to reconsider, or consider for the first time, some of the elements of this case that make it much harder to resolve than the cursory (and sloppy) assessments of some foreign policy “professionals” have heretofore suggested. Until now some of these professionals, especially in Washington, have approached this process mechanistically, hoping somehow that the implicit threat of American displeasure would sway the Greek government. On one level they cannot be faulted, as the latter caved in many times in the past; there is little flexibility on this issue however since, after repeated polling over many years, it has become clear that over 85% of the Greek public consistently demands a hard line.
This writer remembers a meeting in mid-1992 between Nicholas Burns, then State Department Spokesman, later Ambassador, and a group of Greek-American leaders. In answer to a question about the precedent affecting the European border system that would result from the recognition of the Skopje regime under the name of “Macedonia” (it then had explicit claims on Greek territory not to mention the history that is outlined below), Burns slammed his notebook shut and refused to discuss the implications. Some of the Greek-American leaders appeared more annoyed with the questioner than with Burns’ evasive little tiff. Yet this question, as does the entire dispute regarding the name of the tenuous statelet, has its foundation in the settlements following the Second World War, in recent history in short.
In the effort to understand causalities of issues that are thrust upon the stage of international affairs, it is ironic that diplomats, other foreign policy professionals and political scientists often opt to ignore history. Yet history, the word deriving from the root of the perfect tense of the Greek verb for “to know”, literally means “those things that I have come to know,” thus on one level simply is the accretion of particular knowledge of a phenomenon over time.
It is thus treacherous to wade into the Balkans, in which human experience has been recorded for millennia and folk memories are long, and not to be sensitive to recent historical traumas.  To be fair, much of the discourse of those most immediately involved has related to realities of the 5th-4th century BC, or cites mythological ethnogenetic constructions, which may be obscure to diplomats and policy makers: Many Greeks argue by making reference to 4,000 years of the Hellenicity of Macedonia, while the Skopje regime’s mythology increasingly expands its symbolic pantheon to include Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great, even though the Slavic culture and language, which are the axes of its purported identity, appeared a little more than a millennium later.
Yet the history that matters most, even if it largely has been ignored so far, refers to recent events, those taking place before, during and after the Second World War. In the Balkans these fall into three major categories, (a) the unresolved issues regarding ethnic and linguistic minorities before World War II; (b) the Axis occupation and policy of collaboration with minority groups; and (c) the successful shift from collaboration with the Nazis to alliances with Communists by some of these minority groups.
In order to set a broader historical context, one only needs to recall the use of ethnic minorities by the German National Socialist regime to destabilize Eastern Europe in the 1930s. In practice that meant that the Nazis encouraged the Sudeten German minority in Czechoslovakia and the German minority in Poland in order to put pressure on those states. The allegations of, what we would today call, human rights violations by the Czechs and the Poles, provided the justification for the interventions that lead, first to the collapse of the Czech state, and then to world war, when the Germans attacked Poland.
The defeat of the Axis resulted in settlements that effectively ended the claims by minorities, which had collaborated with it. To cite a few prominent examples: Over three million Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, many of their leaders were executed and virtually all of their properties were seized. The same happened in certain parts of Poland. In Danzig, the name of which was changed to the Polish Gdansk, the remnants of Germans were expelled and their properties were seized. Similar acts took place in other countries that experienced occupation and collaboration of minorities with the enemy.
In Greece, after the Germans invaded in 1941, they established occupation zones for their forces and those of their Italian and Bulgarian allies. In Macedonia (the Greek province only used that name at the time), the German High Command under Field Marshal Siegmund List approved of the presence of Slavophone “liaison officers” to be attached to the occupying forces. These were mostly Bulgarian officers, linked to the nationalist VMRO group (Slavic for “Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization”), whose agenda was to mobilize and to coordinate the activities of the Slavophone inhabitants in Macedonia for the benefit of the Axis occupiers.
The leader of VMRO was Ivan “Vancho” Mihailoff (also transliterated as “Mihailov” in some of the literature), a major figure in the history of southeast European extremist nationalist movements, though little studied even by experts. Mihailoff had prevailed in the bloody power struggles (which included dozens of assassinations and other terrorist acts) for the leadership of VMRO by 1930. VMRO’s main goal had always been the creation of an independent “Macedonian” state, it had built an extensive network in Bulgaria, which was used to provide financing for the organization and an operational base from which the offensives into Yugoslavia and Greece were conducted
Mihailoff had close links to Ante Pavelic, whom he assisted in the formation of the Ustashe (the Croatian Nazis, whose ardor and cruelty embarrassed even their German allies), and with Heinrich Himmler, to whom he introduced the Croat leader. Mihailoff cooperated with Pavelic in the spectacular assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia in Marseilles in 1934. The triggerman, Vlado Chernozemski, a close associate of Mihailoff, had been attached to the Ustashe on his order for the preceding two years. Between 1941-1944 Mihailoff settled in Zagreb, using it as his base of operations.
Meanwhile, the region of western Macedonia in Greece was occupied by the Italians, who were still smarting as a result of their defeat by the Greek forces. They developed a policy to exploit grievances of linguistic minorities, of which some members of the Slavophone group proved most responsive. This was the result of a visit to Rome by Pavelic, who personally persuaded Mussolini and Ciano of the wisdom of such a policy and of the intention of Mihailoff to implement it. Thus the Italians were assisted by VMRO, which sent out agents of its irredentist “Kostour [=Kastoria] Brotherhood” headed by a Spiro Vasilieff to Kastoria in order to set the foundations
Detachments of Slavophone volunteers were first formed in 1943 and accompanied Italian units searching for arms from the stores of the retreating Greek forces, which the country people often were hiding.  These volunteers joined the Italian-sponsored the “Axis-Macedonian-Bulgarian Committee,” which became better known as the “Komitato” (or “Komitet”), first founded in the Kastoria by Anton Kaltchev, a Bulgarian officer of Slavo-Macedonian antecedents connected to Mihailoff’s VMRO, who enjoyed the respect of the Germans. Soon after a military arm of this organization was formed and came to be known as the “Macedonian-Bulgarian Command,” or less formally the “Ohrana.” 
Led by Kaltchev the Ohrana, was able was able to mobilize significant forces. Bands recruited from Kastoria, Florina and Edessa and the surrounding villages, i.e. central and west Macedonia, probably fielded about 5,000 men by mid-1943. These forces assisted the Italians in operations against the Greek resistance organizations, and in intimidating and terrorizing the local population opposed to the Axis occupation. 
Parallel to these military and “police” activities Kaltchev also consolidated his control over the Slavophone population of all political inclinations. He interceded with the Germans, for example in order to free individuals, nominally identified with the Left, who had been exiled by the Metaxas government. In addition, he penetrated (leftist) EAM, for a time the major Greek resistance organization, by placing his agents in its leadership ranks through SNOF, its Slavophone partner.
The Italian capitulation and withdrawal from the war in the Summer of 1943 would have left the Slavophone Axis collaborators in Greece without a sponsor had it not been for some prescient moves by the aforementioned Ivan Mihailoff. He and his supporters in the Central Committee of VMRO contacted the Germans directly (without the knowledge of and authority from the Bulgarian government). It appears that Mihailoff’s plans extended beyond support of the volunteer units to setting the foundations for the creation of an independent “Macedonia” under German protection. It was also anticipated that the VMRO volunteers would form the core of the armed forces of a future independent “Macedonia” in addition to providing administration, indoctrination and education in the Lerin (Florina), Kostur (Kastoria) and Voden (Edessa) districts under German control.
Mihailoff traveled to Berlin in early August 1943, where he was received by Reichsführer-SS Himmler at the Sichercheitsdienst (SD= Security Service) headquarters and also appears to have met with Hitler. Mihailoff apparently received consent to create two to three battalions of volunteers that would be armed and supported by the Germans and that would be under the command and disposal of Himmler’s organization (i.e. the SS). There is extensive evidence that Himmler’s office followed up in order to implement the terms of this agreement, appointing SS Major (Hauptbahführer) Heider to coordinate the arming and equipping the VMRO volunteers.
In March 1944 the village companies of Kastoria, were reorganized into militias, and were armed and prepared for service by the Germans and Kaltchev’s loyalists based in and the villages around Edessa and Florina also were included in this project. After some initial skirmishes with the Greek ELAS resistance forces, beginning on May 4 several VMRO volunteer companies from Kastoria and Edessa participated in the anti-guerrilla “Operation May Thunderstorm,” as part of the “Battle Group Lange,” spearheaded by elements the Nazi 4th SS Mechanized Infantry Division.
VMRO also organized three volunteer battalions under its name. They were formed by Slavophone officers sent from Bulgaria to Edessa, where they arrived in June 1944. These officers met with SS Major Heider in order to formalize the implementation of the agreement reached between Mihailoff and Himmler. Thus were formed:
 The 1st VMRO Volunteer Battalion–Kostur [=Kastoria], headed by Captain Ivan Motikarov, with the strength of about 500 men; they were armed with machine guns and rifles and included one sniper company.  In summer 1944 they were assigned to a reinforced company of the 4th SS Police Mechanized Infantry Division, whence, in the words of a military historian “the civilian population was so afraid of this battle group that their very presence in the area was enough to quiet any civilian protest.”
 The 3rd VMRO Volunteer Battalion-Voden [=Edessa], headed by Georgi Dimchev and Atanas Pashkov. Dimchev, who was born near Giannitsa (deemed a hero by VMRO) and Pashkov proved successful in recruiting over 800 volunteers not only from Edessa, but Gainnitsa and Goumenissa. They were armed and equipped, and wore on their hats the skull-and crossed bones symbol, which referred both the Slavomacedonian revolutionaries and their new allies, Himmler’s SS. The last to form was the 2nd VMRO Volunteer Battalion-Lerin [=Florina], which saw action in the waning weeks of the Axis occupation.
The German forces assisted by their Slavophone collaborators launched the last coordinated attack against organized Greek resistance July 3-17. The “Operation Stone Eagle” took place in the northern Pindus area by elements of the 4th SS Division, the 104th Jäger Division and the 1st and 2nd VMRO Volunteer Battalions, 12-15,000 men total, with the objective of containing elements the ELAS 8th and 9th Divisions; according to testimonies of the time the objective was partly achieved.
When the Germans withdrew from Greece, and Bulgaria declared war on Germany, the Ohrana and the Slavophone collaborationist effort collapsed. Anton Kaltchev fled Greece, but was apprehended by Yugoslav communist partisans and delivered to ELAS. He ended up in Thessalonica, where he was tried by the Greek government for war crimes and was executed.
Many of the Greek Slavophones who had filled the ranks of the VMRO volunteer (i.e. Axis collaborator) units enlisted in the ranks of SNOF, created by the Greek Communist Party. After Bulgaria aligned itself with the Soviets, this process accelerated. Thus Slavophone collaborators found their way to DSE (Demokratikos Stratos Elladas), the military force of the Greek Communist Party, during the civil war in Greece, 1946-1949. After the communist defeat, most of those who sided with the Axis, later with the DSE, in the name of “Macedonian” nationalism, were never allowed to return to Greece.
Mihailoff survived the war and settled in Rome, where he died in 1990, a year before the collapse of Yugoslavia. In 1950 he published a book in the United States titled Macedonia: A Switzerland of the Balkans, in which he proposed the establishment of what we would today call an independent “multi-cultural” state where the [Slavo-]Macedonians would have the dominant position in this entity, a thesis that paradoxically has been revived by some present-day West European “progressives” and American liberals . Mihailoff wrote in the shadow of the People’s Republic of Macedonia, a communist state that had been formed by Tito in 1945 within the Yugoslav Federation. He devoted the next forty years of his life in guiding the nationalist extremists of the Slavomacedonian diaspora in the US, Canada and Australia.
It is ironic, but not altogether surprising, that FYROM, the present successor state to the People’s Republic invented by Tito, is ruled by one of VMRO’s factions. While the Skopje regime formally rejects Mihailoff, it has resumed a not-so-couched irredentist, nationalist extremist rhetoric reminiscent of the discourse of its collaborationist predecessor-namesake. It draws much of its support from the Slavomacedonian diaspora in the US, Canada and Australia, the ideological inheritor of Ivan Mihailoff, close friend and ally of Anton Pavelic and Heinrich Himmler.
In this reality, borne of a bitter historical experience, is to be sought the reason for the nearly instinctive reaction of Greek popular feeling (cutting across party lines) against FYROM’s claims, whether as to its name or its revived irredentist claims about minorities and properties. The Slavomacedonian collaborators and their children, who fought twice against the Greek state, should no more expect recompense by that state than the children of the Germans of the Sudetenland expect from the Czech Republic or those of Danzig from Poland. When they accept that truth, it will be the first step for a genuine rapprochement with the Greek people.
Realism however dictates that we should not be optimistic in the short term. Hijacking the name of Macedonia, arbitrarily seizing cultural symbols (i.e. Philip II, Alexander the Great, Saints Cyril and Methodius, among others) and now claiming “minorities” and properties in Greece as this piece is being written, demonstrates that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevsky, heading the present day VMRO  and the Skopjan leadership, have inherited Mihailoff’s nationalist extremist vision. Unless they sober up, they will reap the whirlwind…
Meanwhile, Bush and those of his supporters in Washington and elsewhere who have been studiedly ignorant until now, should come to understand that the Greek people (supported not only by most Greek-Americans, but many other people who experienced the wrath of totalitarian extremists) are not likely to agree to terms proposed by a regime which revives the discourse of its dark past.