In a country where public opinion is divided over support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, used the occasion of his annual address to Parliament on December 22 to outline his government’s position on the conflict.
Pendarovski, who played a key role in securing NATO membership for the country, stated categorically that “we do not help Ukraine because we are a member of NATO and because our formal status obliges us to help.”
The Macedonian President argued that support for Ukraine is aligned with his country’s national interests: “Our logic is as follows: small states must support an international order based on rules and principles because in a world based on arguments of force, our chances of survival are zero. Second, Russia’s arguments for military aggression, by which they want to de facto annul Ukrainian sovereignty, do not differ at all from the big-state reasons of the Balkan states from the beginning of the 20th century and their humiliating treatment of smaller nations, including us. In the collective memory of the Macedonians, the knowledge of why we were among the last to become a state in the Balkans is deeply engraved, and precisely because of this, we know very well today how to early recognize those models of hegemonic behavior towards us.”
Pendarovski implied that Macedonians who do not support his government’s policy with regard to Ukraine were acting against the interests of the country. He told members of parliament that the conflict in Ukraine “made many of our fellow citizens justify the aggression, forgetting our own historical experience, when we, more than once, have suffered from the bigger neighbors.” Whether the President’s arguments will persuade those who are skeptical of support for Ukraine remains to be seen.