COPENHAGEN – Two dangerous signals were sent from NATO’s Bucharest summit. The first was that Russia has reestablished a “sphere of interest” in Europe, where countries are no longer allowed to pursue their own goals without Moscow accepting them. The other was that all NATO member states are free to blackmail their partners into supporting their own narrow goals.
The first signal was sent when Ukraine and Georgia were denied the “Membership Action Plan” (MAP) that they sought. Several European heavyweights, led by Germany and France, said no, despite strong support for the idea from the United States.
The second signal was sent when Greece successfully vetoed membership for Macedonia, a move that reflected the two countries’ unresolved conflict over Macedonia’s name (which Greece insists must be Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia – FYROM – one of the most disgraceful acronyms harassing international politics today).
The dispute with Macedonia goes back to the early 1990’s, when Yugoslavia collapsed into independent states. Greece vehemently opposed its tiny northern neighbor – with only two million inhabitants – using the name Macedonia and symbols from the days of Alexander the Great in its flag and crest. Macedonia at one point agreed to design a new flag and remove the symbols, as well as to amend its constitution to clarify that it had no territorial claims on Greece, but it flatly refused to live under one of the tongue-twisting names suggested by its bigger neighbor.