Mattis visited Macedonia ahead of the September 30 referendum on formally changing the country’s name:
NATO has invited Macedonia to begin accession talks with the alliance, but says it must first change its constitution and adopt the new name. The EU has also said it would set a date for Macedonian accession talks pending implementation of the deal.
Recent opinion polls suggest a majority of Macedonians will support the name deal, though nationalists oppose it. Several thousand Macedonians rallied on Sunday in Skopje in support of the deal and of NATO and EU membership.
“There is no alternative for the Republic of Macedonia then integration into NATO and EU,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Monday, standing beside Mattis.
The resolution of the dispute between Greece and Macedonia is good news, but Macedonia has no reason to join NATO and the alliance has no need to add yet another dependent member. Macedonia faces no external threats that require its membership in what is supposed to be a collective security alliance, and it has very little to offer the alliance in terms of the contributions it can make. It is a landlocked country surrounded on three sides by other NATO members, so it is neither strategically valuable nor vulnerable to foreign aggression. Like nearby Montenegro, Macedonia is being offered alliance membership as a reward for political decisions that have nothing to do with enhancing the security of Europe and the United States. Unlike popular opinion in Montenegro, the Macedonian public is broadly in favor of NATO and supports accession, but then alliance membership is being offered up as a sign of inclusion in Western institutions rather than a response to genuine security needs. Neither the U.S. nor the alliance is made more secure by adding more small states in the Balkans.
NATO expansion keeps stumbling ahead like the zombie policy that it is. In a few years, the U.S. will be handing out another security guarantee that it doesn’t need to make, and this will happen without any serious debate in Washington.