California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has always been something of a foreign policy maverick. Whilst his knowledge is often superior to that of his colleagues, his conclusions often veer from the entirely sensible to the odd and even absurd.
On Russia, Rohrabacher has been a consistent voice of reason. He has been critical of antagonistic and provocative US actions against Russia, particularly those made during the Obama administration. He has been an outspoken critic of America’s disconnected policies towards Crimea. He has also said that his vote for the Iraq war of 2003 was a mistake. So far so good.
But here comes the bad. Like many in Washington, he is an outspoken critic of Iran and for all the wrong reasons. He has voiced his support for US intervention to back regime change movements in the country.
And here comes the ugly. In the 1990s, Rohrabacher found himself on the same side as Saudi Arabia and ironically also Iran in supporting the Bosniak war against Yugoslavia, which included genocidal tactics against Bosnian Serbs.
He also supported arming the Albanian terrorist group KLA, which for most of the 1990s even Bill Clinton’s White House considered a terrorist group.
Now he’s talking about the Balkans again. He has stated that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is ‘not a country’. Something which can mean a number of things depending on the context.
Indeed, of all the modern Balkan states the only ones which have legitimate historical claims to statehood prior to the 20th or 21st centuries are Serbia, the Hellenic Republic/Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Croatia. The rest were perpetually under rule of other larger states, empires or federations.
Of course the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is no exception. Many argue that the Macedonian identity is part of the wider ethnic Bulgarian identity. The name of the post-Yugoslav state has also earned the consternation of Greece with its historic Macedonian province. This is of course why one must call the state, the Former Yugoslav Republic, in order to differentiate it from the region of Greece.
The main problem in respect of Macedonian statehood apart from NATO eyeing the country as a kind of prize, is an on-again/off-again Albanian insurgency among the ethnic minority population in an otherwise Slavic country.
Albania which only became a state in any recognisable sense in 1912 and did so with the aid of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, has many politicians desirous of creating a Greater Albania, typically using Ottoman maps of the region as encouragement for creating insurrections in Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro, in order to increase their state.
The biggest current flashpoints are in the Serbian province of Kosovo which many in NATO have unilaterally recognised as a micro-state and then there is the sizeable Albanian minority in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In many ways, Rohrabacher is right about the history of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but in this particular context, his words are deeply dangerous. Rohrabacher was speaking with an Albanian television channel and his remarks that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ought to be split between Albania and Bulgaria (as well as the non-state of Kosovo), is a deeply irresponsible and dangerous statement. He was clearly fanning the flames of hatred before an eager, captive audience.
Rohrabacher is openly encouraging insurrection in the country, in spite of the fact that Skopje has made concession upon concession to the Albanian minority, often at the expense of the Slavic majority.
In this sense, one has a group with no grounds to complain, seeking to destroy a state which itself has dubious historical legitimacy as a sovereign entity. For anyone, especially an American congressman to throw a match on this barrel of gunpowder is totally wrong.
Like Donald Trump, Dana Rohrabacher has managed to at once be labelled pro-Russia, whilst spitting on some of Russia’s most important strategic and historical allies, in this case his views on Iran and China as strategic allies of Moscow and many Balkan Slavs as an historically fraternal peoples.
America might be colloquially known as the land of opportunity, but one must hope that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia doesn’t become a land of foreign opportunism to break apart yet another fragile former Yugoslav state.