WHEN FACT BECOMES MORE EXCITING THAT HOLLYWOOD ACTION FICTION
by Sasha Uzunov
The United States’s Ambassador to Macedonia, Mr Jess Baily, has been a controversial figure from day one of his appointment in 2014. It’s hard to separate the various myths, legends and facts about him and his omnipotence. Some have attributed to him enormous superpowers and involvement in many wild conspiracies which are simply downright silly and do nothing to throw any light on his activities. Moreover, he is not a popular man amongst Macedonians in general because of his behaviour or perceptions about his behaviour, especially a pro Albanian bias.
TOUR OF DUTY
But one thing is certain he has played a key role in Macedonia being on the threshold of changing its name and identity in order to gain NATO and European Union membership. The US diplomat’s tour of duty has coincided with the controversial Colour Revolution of 2016 which led to vandalising of Macedonian monuments and brought “regime change” in Macedonia – the removal of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski – the 27 April 2017 attack in the Macedonian parliament; US State Department official Hoyt Yee strong-arming the Macedonian President George Ivanov into giving Zoran Zaev of the Social Democrats (SDSM) a mandate to form government; a disputed election of the new Parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi; the Tirana Platform; the Good neighbourly deal with Bulgaria and the crucial Prespa Agreement signed with Greece. What now remains is a referendum to be held in Macedonia on 30 September asking in a convoluted way will Macedonia’s change it name in order to secure Greece not vetoing Macedonia’s NATO and EU bid.
In other words will Macedonian identity have to be sacrificed for US strategic needs, that is bedding down the Balkans and keeping the Russians out, and appeasing Bulgarian, Greek and Albanian nationalist demands in Macedonia? Is it a cynical case of the path of least resistance for Washington? Is it easier for the US to satisfy NATO members Bulgaria, Greece and Albania? During the US diplomat’s tenure the fear of Russian “interference” in Macedonia has been talked up to obsessive levels but the interesting thing is Ambassador Baily’s willingness to embrace those in Macedonia who were once anti US and pro Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic and who have now opportunistically hitched their political wagon to NATO. This reveals a Machiavellian side and raises questions of morality; of political expediency and dare we say it, deceit? – more on the Prespa Agreement at this link here – more on the Bulgarian Good neighbourly deal here – more on the Tirana Platform here
The delicious irony is the US diplomat’s behaviour or perceptions of his behaviour has turned many Macedonians who were pro US away from US foreign policy in Macedonia and given Russia some steam and influence in Macedonia, though not of the proportions that are being claimed.
Ambassador Baily remains elusive in fact he refuses to answer certain questions dealing with Albanian extremism and perhaps this fuels the distrust many Macedonians have towards him.
Recently in 2018, Team Uzunov blog contacted Ambassador Baily a number of times requesting an on camera interview in order to get his side of the story over many controversial issues relating to Macedonia. Last year he declined an on camera interview but his media spokesman answered a list of questions sent to him – see link here.
This time around Ambassador Baily has not responded at all to a list of questions below – which over a number of future articles will be examined in more detail.
QUESTIONS FOR THE US EMBASSY IN MACEDONIA FROM TEAM UZUNOV
1. How did the US embassy help to facilitate the Katzen Art Center’s fall 2016 photo exhibit on the ‘Colourful Revolution?’ What was the purpose of this exhibit? Do you think it helped put a positive spin on US backed protests and other events in the summer of 2016 broadly associated with the pro-SDSM Colourful Revolution’? link here
2. Did employees and/or contractors of US government programs literally buy the paint from the shop in Skopje (that was used for throwing paint bombs at monuments in the summer of 2016)? Was that within the mandate of USAID’s mission?
3. Why did [US diplomat] Hoyt Yee resign from his position in the [US] State Department?
4. A cover image of the tabloid Slobodan Pechat, which favors SDSM, depicted Mr Yee as karate-kicking President Ivanov into accepting the terms of a new government, perhaps a nod to his Asian ancestry. Do you think this was a racist cartoon that crossed a line?
5. Did any US Embassy officials counsel Zoran Zaev in his approach to phrasing the words of the paper he signed to win the mandate from President Ivanov? If so, what did they do?
6. Who were the American advisers who helped draft the Prespa Agreement, and what parts in particular did they draft?
7. In numerous cases, Macedonian media [see articles – links below] has proven personal relationships between Embassy employees (including the ambassador) and persons involved closely with political parties, the Special Prosecutor’s Office and most recently, the new head of the Bureau of Public Safety, Saso Tasevski, had close relations with Ambassador Baily and was in trainings with the FBI (not to mention took part in shootings in parliament on 27 April 2017). Even the country’s Eurovision song contest contestant last year was the daughter of the Ambassador’s personal assistant. Do you acknowledge that Macedonian critics have a point when they allege that the ambassador has an outsized influence in the country? links here and here
8. How was the McCann (www.mccann.com.mk) advertising company selected to work on the fall 2016 campaign with AECOM Skopje? Do McCann personnel have any lingering connections with embassy personnel?
9. In Ambassador Baily’s 2014 Senate Confirmation Hearing, he referred to the Macedonians as ‘Slavs’. As an expert on the region, surely he would have known this was understand as a racist and pejorative term. Why did he use this term?
10. The last foreign trip of former CIA Director John Brennan was to see Albanian PM Edi Rama right before the Macedonian elections of December 2016, not long after which the Macedonian-Albanian political leaders met in Rama’s office to agree the so-called ‘Tirana Platform’ of extreme nationalist ethnic Albanian demands, that let to months of protests in Macedonia. To what extent was your embassy involved with Brennan in arranging the progress of events that led to this Platform? Why would the Embassy knowingly back and then refuse to criticise an ethnically chauvinistic program, especially in consideration of the historical sensitivities in the region? links here and here and here
11. Explain the process of how the Embassy coordinated with Brennan before his trip- how early, whether you are satisfied with the result obtained?
12. Media groups that do not support the 30 September referendum such as Republika have complained that the government is censoring similar people online. To my knowledge, your embassy has not criticized this policy. Why?
13. Do you believe the benefits of stifling free speech in the long run will outweigh the drawbacks?
14. Why did David Stephenson resign from the US Embassy in Macedonia ? What are his current activities as a strategist in Skopje? Is the embassy or present/former staff providing advisory services to the Macedonian government or its supporters to try and pass the referendum?
15. Given that the US Embassy has for many years called for freedom of media, public association and general human rights, do you believe that the government is in danger of infringing upon Macedonian citizens’ human rights with such measures? Supporters of public opposition groups to the referendum such as #Bojkotiram have written that they fear the government will target them.
16. When the U.S. officially recognised Macedonia’s constitutional name in 2004, why was that not a permanent form of recognition? The U.S. now is working hard against the name 14 years later, by promoting the Prespa Agreement. Why the reversal?
17. Does the US support the right of the Macedonians to self- determination and self-identification, basic human rights which are inalienable and guaranteed by all major human rights instruments, and if so, why does it also support the Prespa Agreement which so blatantly deprives Macedonians of these rights and imposes the use of the name Republic of North Macedonia erga omnes.?
18. In 2008 the US Embassy in Macedonia warned against official bilingualism – elevating Albanian on par with Macedonia – for fear of the country unravelling. Why has the US reversed this policy?
19. Last year the US Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia strongly criticised far right extremists who had carried the US flag during a march but in Macedonia the US stubbornly refuses to condemn World War II Albanian Nazi statues built by Albanian politicians over the past decade. Why the blatant inconsistency?
IRON MIKE FRITZ OF OTI – USAID’s “special trouble-shooting unit.”
20. Who suggested the Office of Transition Initiative (OTI) program be implemented in Macedonia, considering this has only been used in a handful of third world countries?
– Did someone in the US Embassy in Skopje requested this? When?
– How beneficial was it that Iron Mike Fritz is [was] Head of OTI in Washington and previously been head of USAID in Macedonia?
21. Did Ambassador Jess Baily know ex US Ambassador Phillip T. Reeker from their college days?
22. When did the US Embassy learn of the “Kumanovo shootout” of 2015 involving Albanian terrorists against Macedonia’s police? How did it learn of the attack? What did the US Embassy do? Did it pass on advance warnings to the Macedonian government? – Kumanovo shootout link here
23. Why has it been US strategy in Macedonia to deliberately use Serb chauvinists who pretend to be anti nationalists and anti corruption campaigners such as Borjan Jovanovski, Pavle Bogoevski etc to attack Macedonian identity but who hypocritically refuse to protest outside the Serb Embassy in Macedonia over Serb nationalism and extensive money laundering, which the US State Department considers Serb money laundering as very grave and having an impact globally? Isn’t this racist? Can you imagine a Chinese impersonating a Vietnamese? Also ex Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic supporters / enablers such as Vlado Kambovski and Ljubomir Frckoski have also been coopted into supporting NATO. Doesn’t this undermine the NATO referendum by cynically using people in Macedonia who were at one time staunchly anti NATO? Are you willing to accept that many Macedonians genuinely remain sceptical about joining NATO?