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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Is NATO right to go into Macedonia?
NATO has gone into Macedonia full of confidence that it will be able to collect enough rebel weapons to support the peace deal there.

But there are still very different ideas about the number of weapons the ethnic Albanian rebels are supposed to hand over. And that's just one of many questions looming over Operation Essential Harvest.

It's the question of the moment in Europe: Is NATO right to go into Macedonia? Can its mission succeed?

Europe Today's Mark Reid brought together Richard Bennett a leading military analyst whose next book - out next month - 'Fighting Forces' assesses the world's most important armies, and Jonathan Steele of the British newspaper the Guardian.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

If the NLA are freedom fighters, then why does George Robertson call the IRA-Terrorists and Javier Solana call ETA terrorists? Isn't it the same thing. The answer to all of this is that Nato is held hostage by the Albanians in Kosovo, Nato fears that if it does not back the terrorists in Macedonia then the Albanians in Kosovo will retaliate against Nato troops in Kosovo.

We all know that public opinion means a lot in the West, imagine if 20-50 Nato soldiers in Kosovo were to be killed by Albanians? It will be the end of the mission for Nato in Kosovo and Nato does not want that. So why not destroy a small and peaceful nation in order to please the Albanian's appetite? Macedonia will just be considered as collateral damage.
Richard Thompson, Australia

The evil must be fought and cannot be discussed or supported

Jane, Australia
Absolutely not. Nato already made a big mistake by bullying the President into discussions with the terrorists. It may be extreme, but the evil must be fought and cannot be discussed or supported.
Jane, Australia

Why is it when an Albanian terrorist commits an atrocity like demolishing a church nothing is said, but when a Macedonian politician speaks out against the atrocity, he is branded as an ultra-nationalist and accused of derailing the peace process? What about the actual bombing itself? What about these acts of terrorism by the Albanian groups? It seems that the Balkan nations, cannot even stand up for themselves anymore without being branded as nationalist troublemakers. We need to stop and look at the situation, Albanian terrorism is running rife in the Balkans, the West is too scared, so they take the policy of bullying democratically elected governments and forcing them to heed to terrorist demands
Tom, UK

A Slavic-Macedonian guy said "The Albanians have much more to give than they are willing to give up. Even if they gave up every gun they had they could realistically re-arm in few days, there are plenty of guns in Albania proper and Kosovo to..." I would have to say that he is right and he better belive that, we will fight till we are free from this Slavic-Macedonian foolishness. We want our rights and by Dear God we will have them. Since when do they have the right to govern us in our own territory, since when do they have the right to impose on us their own language? NEVER is the answer if you ask me.
Luan, Kosova

Nato should not collect museum weapons in Macedonia, but seize the Albanian arsenal in Kosovo, disband the "Kosovo Protection Corps" and arrest chief terrorists in Pristina. It is the only way to show that Nato is not a factor of instability in Europe and that it has the ability to correct its own mistakes. Two days of enhanced police actions in Pristina will not be a catastrophe, six months terror against non-Albanian citizens in Tetovo region is a tolerated war crime.
George Ritzoulis, Greece

Officially the FYR Macedonian government says the Albanians make up c.23% of the population. The Albanians say they make up c.35%. Whatever the correct figure is, the fact remains the Albanians are a large minority in a small country and who realistically cannot be expected to conform to the mono-cultural national identity set by the Slav-Macedonians. This is what ignited the flame of the current crisis and it is Nato's timely intervention that has prevented the nation from exploding into full-scale civil war.
Tyro, Australia

NATO is right in that something should be done to prevent this situation from turning into a civil war which could quite easily spread to FYROM's neighbours but the organisation has taken the wrong side. It is the Macedonian people who need help not the Albanians, they have proved themselves (the NLA) to be terrorists beyond doubt with no respect for Macedonia's fledgling democracy and hard work in an unstable region.

After all, the Albanians have their homeland already, it is called Albania, therefore the NLA must respect the sovereignty of Macedonia and the same can be said for the Albanians in Kosovo. If neither the Kosovan Albanian's or the Macedonian Albanian's do not like the land they are living in, it is certain that Albania will gladly provide them with a home and welcome them with open arms. But then again, it is the Albanians who want expand and create a Greater Albania, all with our help!
Mark, UK

Oh come on, Macedonia will split into two entities and a greater Albania will be formed (all but in name). Nato couldn't disarm Kosovo with 40,000 or so troops and it really thinks that it is going to disarm the NLA with 3,500 troops. Not even your fancy hi-tech bombers can save you when both sides decide to target Nato.
Brane Pesic, Australia

Nato may be able to bully the president, but it cannot control the reaction of the Macedonian people

Nato should leave Macedonia alone. Nato may be able to bully the president, but it cannot control the reaction of the Macedonian people. What happens when the Macedonians react by electing a new president who will rid the nation of the "problem"? Nato is just asking for another Milosevic.

The myth that Albanians in Macedonia have their rights trampled is outlandish. It is amply documented by various international bodies that Macedonia has the best human rights record out of all ex-Yu. I'll humor NLA's farce "We fight for human rights" for a moment. So, we pick up guns, assault the countries status and authorities, start taking territory by force, and expelling a sizable amount of the non-Albanian population. Later we'll have some sort of a census and say "See, there are only Albanians here. I don't see why we have to be a part of this brutal country."

Meanwhile the 100.000+ expelled non-Albanians sit on cardboard boxes in the streets of Skopje and wait in vain for their own government to provide them with the most basic of human rights. In conclusion, compare Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walk in Selma Alabama, and the actions of the NLA and you'll get a very clear picture what human rights activists look and act like.
Radoj, US

Why doesn't Tony Blair tell us why we are being forced to spend money on this? During Kosovo he was forever on the media. Why is he shying away from this? Is it that he will only show his face when convinced that the operation will work? I truly don't know why we haven't heard from him especially when the lives of our soldiers are at stake, yet again.

No, Nato should not stick its nose in this part of Europe. The Macedonian Government is more than capable of dealing with the situation if it is left to get on with the job of eliminating terrorists who have crossed the border from Kosovo and Albania. The mission is destined to fail because they have arrived (as always) to help the terrorists each time they become vulnerable to liquidation. I guess Nato has other vested interests in the region and it will not be easy for them to back out.

They are not disarming but are arming the terrorists for the final assault. The Macedonian people have been around for a long time and will not be that easy to get rid off from their homeland. The best thing Nato can do is to get out of there the sooner the better.
Alexandar, Australia

At first NATO supply the weapons to rebels and now they're collecting the same weapons back. Where is the sense?
Mile, Namibia

NATO should stay out of the Balkans full stop!

Tom, London, UK
NATO should stay out of the Balkans full stop! They are the ones who caused all this trouble in the first place by arming Albanian nationalists and encouraging them to oppose Yugoslavia and Yugoslav rule, rather than Milosevic. NATO let the genie out of the bottle and now does not want to own up, so they place the blame on the poor Macedonians, calling them nationalists and hard-liners and forcing them to accept an agreement which can only be divisive. The real nationalists and hard-liners are the Albanians, the ones who are pointing the guns that they shouldn't have in the first place - and wouldn't have had if NATO didn't supply them.
Tom, London, UK

NATO are doing a great job. Looks like the only ones against it are Slav-Macedonians. They are acting as if they would have won the war! - maybe the war of words So this way everyone wins ..NATO ROCKS
Shqipja, New York, USA

NATO not only had no right to the actions they undertook in Macedonia, but their actions are in fact utterly disgraceful. American and other analysts in the west believe the NLA will not turn over all its weapons, and even NATO itself acknowledges that the NLA can easily acquire more. There is also the question of splinter groups forming from the NLA who will not be covered by the disarmament/ decommissioning, such as the ANA. Nato's actions will not deter the Albanians, yet they are deterring Macedonia from protecting its statehood and its territorial integrity. As early as 1991, despite the precarious ethnic mix in the country, Macedonia was judged to have sufficient protection for ethnic minorities in its laws by an independent EU fact-finding commission headed by M. Badinter, while four other ex-Yugoslav states (Croatia, Bosnia Serbia and Montenegro) were not.

By forcing the Macedonians to negotiate with the NLA at gunpoint, NATO has essentially negated every single effort that Macedonia has made to become a democratic multi-ethnic state, and validated the methods of the Albanians to use violence against a nation which has struggled to achieve democracy and tolerance despite being in a highly unstable region of the world.
Jovan Ivosevic, Serbia

The Albanians have much more than they are willing to give up

Milenko, U.S.A
Let's be serious. The Albanians have much more than they are willing to give up. Even if they gave up every gun they had, they could realistically re-arm in a few days - there are plenty of guns in Albania proper and Kosovo to go around. If the NATO forces want to really know how many guns the NLA has they should ask the CIA for an inventory list. That is where they got it all anyway.
Milenko, U.S.A.

This token gesture does nothing to deal with the upsurge in Albanian nationalism that has been nurtured and allowed to flourish by NATO by their ill-conceived intervention in Kosovo. Ethnic cleansing by these Albanian rebels has been going on for a long time in this region and has been massively fuelled by the perceived NATO support already. NATO used Macedonia as an access route to Kosovo and was welcomed. We now should be doing much more to support this country that welcomed us with open arms. Whose side are we on here?
Andrew, UK

To NATO soldiers in the Balkans: keep up the good work

Gjon Buzuku, UK
It is very disappointing to read some responses. This is the 21st century, not the 15th (remember the crusaders), and NATO has not intervened in the Balkans to protect, as some say "Muslims" and ignore "Christians". People in the Balkans probably don't know that in most of today's Europe it does not matter whether you are "Muslim" or "Christian". This is not the age of the crusaders. And to those who don't agree with that I would say that Albanians are 27% Orthodox, 15% Catholic (approximate figures) and the rest are Muslim (who converted from Christianity to Islam under the Ottoman empire). There are absolutely no religious problems amongst Albanians, therefore Albanians do not have problems with their Slav neighbours because of the religion.

South Slavs such as Serbs and Macedonians should stop saying that they are fighting to "protect" Europe from "Nazis" (Croats and Germans) and "Muslims" (Albanians); that is a myth that the leaders they voted for used to brainwash them. Finally, the NLA has emerged because of the discrimination Albanian people were facing in every aspect of life, an issue never addressed by the government. For example, Tetova/Tetovo is around 90% Albanian town and you never find any Albanian inscriptions. Albanian has simply not been allowed to be publicly used. The NLA emerged because Albanians in Macedonia wanted a better future for their children. To NATO soldiers in the Balkans: keep up the good work.
Gjon Buzuku, UK

NATO should leave Macedonia, because unfortunately it is favouring the Albanian terrorists over the Macedonian authorities. Why does NATO turn a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing currently going on against ethnic Macedonians by the Albanian terrorist groups??Ethnic Albanians have more ethnic rights in Macedonia than in Albania proper. It's a far cry from the ZERO rights that Macedonians have in Greece, Bulgaria, or Albania.
Petar Yankov, Canada

If Nato thinks that picking up a mere 2000 weapons out tens of thousands more is going to make a difference, they might as well go back home. What Macedonia needs is a long-term peacekeeping force. THAT is what will really make a difference.
Gordana Blazevski, USA

It is ridiculous to send 5,000 soldiers to collect 3,200 unusable weapons. Definitely there is a hidden agenda which will emerge in the coming weeks. Nato's dishonesty towards the Christians in the region is amazing and now they "wonder" why the non-Albanian population is not supportive to their mission. Talking about "two sides" where one of the "sides" are the terrorists who have crossed over from Nato's pet project in Kosovo, and giving them the same legitimacy as the government troops is a bit too much from any perspective. Lets imagine how the same approach would look like in the N. Ireland.
Gjuro Gjurovski, Skopje-Macedonia

Of course not! Nato troops should stay in their own countries and mind their own business, i.e. Northern Ireland, the Basque, Corsica. How hypocritical! You have your own separatists movements that you openly call terrorists, but here in Macedonia, no, they are freedom fighters. NATO and the EU will be the death of democracy in Europe!
Tom, UK

The alternative is to do nothing and wait for the real war

Peter, Netherlands
It is certainly worth a try. The risks and the expense are limited and the potential benefits considerable. The alternative is to do nothing and wait for the real war. We will then have to descend on Macedonia in force and take over the administration of that country as well. Surely there has never been a better chance than this to prevent the outbreak of wholesale carnage and destruction such as we have seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo. If our politicians had had the moral courage to send 3,500 troops into Slovenia or Croatia in 1991, the whole region might never have blown up and we might have been back out by now with hardly a shot fired.
Peter, Netherlands

Yes, Nato should deploy its forces in Macedonia, but they should stay more than 30 days, because otherwise, there is no reason to go there. Albanians definitely will not give up all weapons. Therefore Nato should not collect useless weapon but stay there in order to keep peace.
Michail, Russia

Morally: Probably the right thing to do; Politically: Great opportunity for the undecided to sit on the fence ready to say "I told you so"; Militarily: Potential quagmire; Historically: Of no significance whatsoever.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

How can it not work with all the international hype. It will always get criticism, but in the end Nato will claim it is a success and stopped a major disaster.
Toby, UK

While we are waiting for a European military force, Nato is the only one which could try to make some order. But its mission can't succeed. It is too late and too difficult to stop now.
Vlad Roman, Bucharest - Romania

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