The United States will conduct new military exercises with the North Macedonian army.
This announcement was made known, as the Macedonian army marks the 30th anniversary of its establishment.
According to experts in political and military affairs, this step clearly speaks of Washington's commitment to maintaining stability in the Western Balkans region.
In an amendment to the National Defense Act, the US Congress asked the Pentagon to propose more military exercises with North Macedonia next year, according to the Defense Budget Bill for the next fiscal year.
With this federal law, the USA determines the Pentagon's annual budget and expenses, and this year, for the first time, North Macedonia is also included in it.
"The committee strongly supports North Macedonia's role as a NATO ally and emphasizes the value of NATO's 'Quick Reaction 22' military exercise in North Macedonia for NATO interoperability, regional integration and deterrence against Russian aggression" , the draft law states.
It states that "it is of fundamental importance that the United States and other NATO members continue to conduct similar exercises with North Macedonia and strive for further integration".
The message that the US is sending is that it is focusing again on North Macedonia and the region, after a pause of several years in which not only the US, but also the EU dealt with their problems, says Metodi Haxhi-Janev. professor of International Law at the Military Academy in Skopje.
"Joint exercises are one of the stages of prevention to send a clear signal to those who want to challenge the region that they are serious about not leaving room for other foreign influences", says Haxhi-Janev.
According to him, these steps are the result of changes in the geostrategic and geopolitical plan, especially with the unification of China and Russia.
"With this, the USA will assure its partners that the processes of democratization, and therefore of Euro-Atlantic integration, must continue", says Haxhi-Janev.
Mersel Bilalli, professor of International Law at the FON University in Skopje, tells Radio Free Europe that the US decision to strengthen cooperation with the countries of the region, in this case with North Macedonia, is a strong message that it will not allow other countries, in particular Russia, to extend its influence or attempt to destabilize the region.
"With the prolongation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, I think that all Russian military activities in that region are compromised, and now as if Russia wants to take the conflict to other parts in order to distract attention from the debacle that is happening there [Ukraine] which is disproportionate to its original purpose... The Western Balkans is a neuralgic point that can quickly flare up, and Russia hopes that such a thing is possible, so the US is taking the last steps, in a preventive manner, to counter it," he says Bilal.
Now that the Macedonian army is part of NATO, it must engage in modernization, but first of all in the treatment of its personnel as well as in economic development, adds Bilalli.
"The state must do two things, focus on economic development and defense capabilities.
The financing of the internal military capacities and of course the existing real economic power of the state is also taken into account.
Therefore, North Macedonia should focus much more on practical treatments than on technology for which there is another security channel", he emphasizes.
On Thursday, North Macedonia marked the 30th anniversary of the formation of its army, which consists of about 9,000 professional soldiers, mainly equipped with light weapons.
Skopje is a member of NATO since March 2020.
Members of the Macedonian army have participated in various military missions such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon and recently in Kosovo./REL/