From James Jones, the New Atlanticist: This weekend, when NATO leaders convene in Chicago, enlargement may be swept under the rug in deference to other topics of concern. That would be a blow to stability in the Balkans and to the Republic of Macedonia in particular.
Macedonia has been prevented from joining NATO despite meeting all qualifications for membership except for arriving at a satisfactory agreement with Greece concerning its name, and despite its contribution to NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. . . .
At NATO’s 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, alliance members were in unanimous agreement that Macedonia should be invited to join NATO — with one exception. Despite its significant contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, Macedonia was denied an invitation due to objections from Greece.
This development broke with a long-standing precedent that ensured bilateral disputes would not prohibit an aspiring country from joining the alliance.
Macedonia has already changed its national flag and constitution to address Greek concerns and reach a 1995 accord that prohibits Greece from blocking Macedonians’ entrance into international organizations.
Last December, the International Court of Justice, by a 15-1 margin, ruled that Greece violated that accord when it blocked Macedonia’s entry into NATO. It should be recognized that Macedonia’s ongoing exclusion from NATO empowers ethnic nationalists and imperils southeastern Europe’s hard-won stability. A continuation of the status quo is not in the best interests of the alliance.
We know all too well the cost in blood and treasure that the United States and its allies have paid to stabilize Southeastern Europe and maintain peace. As Macedonia’s soldiers wait on the doorstep of NATO forces’ headquarters in Afghanistan, facing the same dangers as American troops, without any national caveats, the summit in Chicago seems to be the right moment for NATO to open its doors to Macedonia without objection from any of the 28 member states.
Retired General James Jones is chairman-designate of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and the former national security adviser and commandant of the Marine Corps. He served as chief of staff to Joint Task Force Provide Promise for operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. This piece originally appeared on Roll Call.