Last Chance in Macedonia: Washington Needs to Act Quickly
Last Chance in Macedonia: Washington Needs to Act Quickly
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia 2 minutes

Last Chance in Macedonia: Washington Needs to Act Quickly

Macedonians were out in the streets here Monday night protesting the way the international community has involved itself in the four-month conflict with Albanian rebels called the National Liberation Army. In front of the Parliament, demonstrators burned pictures of the European Union envoy Javier Solana and the flag of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The reasons for this were what many Macedonian Slavs saw as a double humiliation. The military humiliation happened on Monday a few miles from Skopje when NATO troops escorted Albanian rebels, with their weapons, out of the suburb of Aracinovo in a deal struck by Mr. Solana.

Meanwhile, in Luxembourg that same day, Macedonia's foreign minister was informed by European Union ministers that Macedonia would not receive further economic aid unless a political settlement was reached with Albanian opponents of the government.

Both actions made Macedonians angry and both were European moves, although American troops, by chance rather than design, helped in the removal of Albanian fighters from Aracinovo. The United States has essentially been absent since the crisis began in March.

Rightly or wrongly, people in the Balkans still see America as the only credible force in making peace. This is why it is urgent that the United States immediately send a high-level envoy to join the EU's new special representative, François Léotard, a former French defense minister.

The job of these two diplomats - and it has to be undertaken in the coming few days, not weeks - must be to prevent the conflict from reaching the proportions of a full-fledged intercommunal war.

This can be done by assisting - not mediating but leading - the two parties, ethnic Albanians and Macedonian Slavs, toward what they are incapable of achieving on their own: a road map and clear talking points, if not objectives, for a political settlement.

It may be too late for the United States to refute the opinion that violence pays. The Kosovo Liberation Army focused the international community's attention on the plight of Kosovo Albanians. Now some Macedonian Albanians, too, are thinking of achieving with guns what their political leaders have been unable to achieve in the last 10 years.

The armed rebels are not yet running the show in Macedonia. But the window of opportunity for the United States to become usefully and peacefully involved is very small.

Macedonia today looks much as Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo once did. It could be very costly if the United States waited for journalists to broadcast from Macedonia images equivalent to those of the Sarajevo market bombing, or for a report like the one on the Racak massacre in Kosovo, before policymakers accepted that they must act.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.