Macedonia is becoming destabilized, which is quite symbolic. Precisely on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis, May 7, opposition rallies began in Skopje, and on the night of May 9 a detachment of armed Albanians entered Macedonia from Kosovo and occupied the town of Kumanovo. Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov was forced to leave the celebrations in Moscow.
The police responded without hesitation. By the time that operation was over the militants had been routed and neutralized. But opposition protests continued, tents sprang up in the city square, and the protesters’ demands expanded to eventually include a call for regime change and new elections.
Politicians and experts are well versed in such crises, and thus a diagnosis was quickly handed down from Moscow: another «color revolution» or a Macedonian-style Maidan was in progress. Russian politicians spoke out quickly and decisively: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that not only was Russia concerned about the situation in Macedonia, he also outlined Moscow’s position on the causes behind the opposition outcry in Macedonia and the potential course of events, as well as the danger of further moves by Albanians in the Balkans, activity that is now being directed by Albania herself. Mr. Lavrov’s concerns stemmed from the fact that Tirana has mentioned pursuing its Greater Albania project. The prime minister of Albania, Edi Rama, has stated that an eventual merger between Albania and Kosovo is inevitable, regardless of whether or not that unification takes place within the context of the EU.
The Russian foreign minister is confident that the crisis in Macedonia is being orchestrated by outside forces. «Events in Macedonia are being blatantly controlled from the outside», claimed Sergei Lavrov. Indeed, the US Embassy, the CIA , and NGOs are actively assisting the protesters. American diplomats are advising the prime minister to agree to early elections and are present during all the negotiations. The street opposition truly is acting out the script to a «color revolution», as has been tried in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and many other countries. However, it should be emphasized that there are significant anomalies in the Macedonian version of Maidan.
First of all. A strong and experienced party (the political base of both the president and prime minister) is currently in power, with the complicated name of VMRO – DPMNE, 4 which commands solid support from the Macedonian public. The country’s leaders had no trouble bringing 90,000 of their loyalists into the streets. And the police are being careful to neither allow themselves to be provoked nor to cede anything to the protesters. Therefore it can be assumed that the confrontation on the streets «in accordance with the usual scenario» could drag on ineffectively for still quite a while.
The second difference is very significant – the so-called «Albanian factor.» They serve as the spokesmen for the heavy-handed foreign element in the conflict and are easy to mobilize in the event of further unrest in the streets and squares of the Macedonian capital of Skopje. If the Albanians give a «thumbs up» to their joining the protesters, that would mean that they would take up arms and begin writing their own script for regime change in Macedonia. Provocations and armed clashes with the police would begin immediately, and thus casualties should be expected on both sides. That is the most likely scenario. I will explain why.
Albanians would never support the popular protests in Macedonia unless they wanted to exploit the demonstrations for their own ends. Their goal is to unify all the lands surrounding Albania that have a majority Albanian population. Of course the project to build a Greater Albania has been in progress for more than one hundred thirty years. And early in the 21st century it seems those dreams coalesced into an explicit action plan. First the Kosovo Albanians fought to secede from Serbia, then the Albanians in Macedonia and southern Serbia joined them in 2001. Soon the Kosovo Albanians of that province declared their independence in 2008, with Washington’s support. After the talks between Belgrade and Priština (2011-2013), Kosovo became virtually independent, needing only one additional step – the acquiescence of Serbia – to achieve legal, recognized sovereignty. Then even the UN Security Council would not be able to challenge the will of Belgrade. But Belgrade is vacillating. And the patience of the Kosovo Albanians is at an end. And not only they, but also the Albanians in Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece are left waiting. After all, the plan could not be more clear. Once Kosovo is granted a seat at the United Nations, Albanians in Macedonia, southern Serbia, Montenegro, and northern Greece will take up arms and fight to secede from Macedonia with Kosovo’s support.
The West supports these plans, as they are extremely eager to weaken the Serbs and other Orthodox faithful in the Balkans, isolating them from Moscow. The United States also needs to locate its military bases here in order to control the region. Europe silently consents, naively believing that everything will proceed peacefully. But if the plan to create a Greater Albania gets off the ground, Europe will find a very dysfunctional, explosive hotbed of perpetual tensions, hatred, crime, and lawlessness right on its own doorstep. And the semi-independent Kosovo is clear testament to this.
But because the pace of Kosovo’s path to full independence has slackened, impatient Albanians are beginning to crop up in Serbia and in Europe. First, a process has begun that cannot be explained either in the Balkans or in Europe: Albanian families by the thousands are leaving home, quitting Kosovo, Montenegro, and Macedonia, headed for Albania and Europe, thanks to the open border. Officials in these countries are puzzled and dismiss it as a reaction to widespread unemployment in the Balkans. But it seems to us that this march of the Albanians must either be a reminder to Europe to take another look at the issue of Kosovo’s independence or else the buildup for a massive war.
In Preševo, Medveđa, and Bujanovac (in southern Serbia), preparations are in full swing for those areas to secede from Serbia. In Montenegro, ethnic Albanians make up only 5.5% of the population, but even there a restless drift is unmistakable. Nor can Greece escape problems with Albanians: Albania has filed claims against Greece over some border districts. Second, Albanians are demonstrating right there in Macedonia that they can begin to resolve their question militarily. Radical forces from Kosovo are demanding that Tirana and Priština intervene in the events in Macedonia and «stop that dictator Nikola Gruevski», the prime minister of Macedonia, because the police in Macedonia have attacked Albanians. They promise that seven million Albanians «will move into Macedonia with their bare hands, and soon that state will exist no more».
Which scenario is most likely in Macedonia? European and UN politicians will likely express concern about the status of democracy in Macedonia, condemn the actions of the Macedonian police in Kumanovo, and demand an «impartial» international investigation of «violations of citizens’ rights» (with no mention of terrorism). As long as the police are afraid to act, Albanian militants will fabricate a series of provocations and acts of terrorism in the country, accusing the government and the president of responsibility for the casualties. The Albanians in Tetovo, Kumanovo, and Skopje will form armed units and gain control of the territory. By threatening to block Macedonia’s entry into the EU, the European Union will urge Gruevski to make peace with the rebels and refrain from military action.
If the Albanians once again call up the National Liberation Army as they did in 2001 (but which has since gone underground), war in the country cannot be avoided. Militants from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State will rush in to support their Muslim brothers. And they will dictate the terms to the Macedonians. Those who encouraged the Albanians in Kosovo and forced an expansion of their rights in Macedonia in 2001 will be reconciled. At the negotiating table the government will be forced to grant significant concessions to the Albanians, who will raise the issue of independence for part of the country. This will satisfy their yearnings for a Greater Albania, as well as the American goals to fully control the Balkans and establish docile and obedient puppet states there. And most important – Washington hopes that Russia’s influence in that region will finally come to an end.
(1) The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity is a nationalist party that favors a course toward Euro-Atlantic integration.