Dear Messrs. Anderson and Binstein:
In your article "Kosovo Will Be Thornier Still than Bosnia" (August 9, 1995, CompuServe News Service), you paint a very disturbing picture of extended warfare in the Balkans. In your scenario, the peoples of the Balkans are actors in a Greek drama marching toward a predetermined tragic fate that they can lament but are powerless to change. The United Nations is the chorus, observing the drama as it unfolds and explaining it yet unable to affect the outcome.
First and foremost, your statement that "both Bulgaria and Greece consider Macedonia their territory" is a patently irresponsible one. While Bulgaria does indeed still harbor irredentist aspirations towards the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where the Slavic population speaks a dialect closely related to Bulgarian and where many FYROMians still consider themselves Bulgarian, Greece has repeatedly and genuinely stated that it has no territorial claims on land within FYROM whatsoever. And this is for a very good reason; not only are there very few ethnic Greeks left within FYROM today, but even during the Balkan Wars Greece had never laid claim to all of the region encompassing ancient Macedonia, only to the southern region it presently occupies where the majority of inhabitants were Hellenes. On the contrary, that Greece is embroiled in a dispute with FYROM over the use of the name Macedonia, the use of historical Greek symbols and the expansionist clauses in the new republic's constitution has everything to do with Greece's fear, well-founded in the historical record, of Slavic expansionism into her territory. In fact Greece, by far the most prosperous, democratic and stable nation in the Balkans, is the only country in the area not to harbor territorial claims on any of its neighbors. Your claim of Greek expansionist aims against FYROM is simply untenable and finds no support whatsoever in the record.
Your article also mentions Greece "enter[ing] the war against Albanian Muslims." Here, again, Greece does not have any territorial ambitions on Albania and her policies over the past two years provide ample proof. Rather, the specter of Greece being dragged into a larger Balkan War against Albania would be the result of Albanian persecution, and possibly ethnic cleansing, of its minority of approximately 250,000 to 300,000 Greeks in southern Albania. These Greeks of Northern Epirus, having lived there since ancient times, had somehow survived as a community despite horrific pogroms under communist despot Enver Hoxa. Under his regime, thousands of Greeks were executed, tens of thousands were tortured, imprisoned, and sent to labor camps, and thousands more were forced to relocate from their ancestral homes in the south of the country to the north in order to further dilute their numbers.
Despite having officially been granted a large degree of autonomy and having been granted extensive human rights guarantees under the 1914 Protocol of Corfu as well as by a landmark 1935 decision by the International Court of Justice (two classic expressions of international law which continue to serve as prototypes for the protection of ethnic minorities to this day), the beleaguered Greek minority of Albania continues to be denied basic rights including the right to practice its religion and teach its language. In April of 1994, Albania jailed a group of Greek-Albanian human rights activists on charges of espionage and prosecuted them in what amounted to a mockery of a trial condemned by the international community and human rights organizations. Throughout this trial and beyond, the Greek government maintained its cool and worked for the release of these activists without resorting to military threats. As a result of these largely unilateral diplomatic efforts by the Greek Government, relations between the two countries have been steadily improving.
Recently, while some Western nations have been planning military maneuvers in Bosnia while covertly arming the Croats and Muslims, Greece has been working with the government of Iran to try to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. She was also primarily responsible for diffusing a potentially explosive situation and brokering the release of U.N. hostages held by Serbs. Furthermore, Greece has refused to place peace-keeping troops in Bosnia, arguing that troops from the Balkans would be a destabilizing force.
No such considerations restrained Turkey. At the first opportunity Turkey placed its troops into Bosnia in an openly provocative move and has repeatedly called for the end of the arms embargo to the former Yugoslavia. Turkey has had no historical or geopolitical interests in the ex-Yugoslav region since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, particularly since the area was frozen and dissected from any such real or imagined interests upon the dropping of the Iron Curtain. Neither is there a Turkish ethnic minority in the region to justify Turkish involvement. Turkey's feigned concern over "Moslem brethren" in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania clearly serves as a pretext for expanding its role in the region and extending its sphere of influence over an area it has had absolutely no justifiable interests in. This move fits squarely within the leadership's rhetoric of a revival of the Ottoman Empire, as do Turkey's baseless claims over Aegean Greece and northern Iraq and its continuing occupation of Cyprus. What may be the ultimate irony of Turkey's involvement in the region is, just as Britain's selfish colonialism has continued to reverberate as the source of countless tragedies in the Middle East, India and Africa, the Turks' nightmarish 500-year tyranny over the Balkan peoples is the very wellspring of the savage bloodthirst and fanaticism which has come to characterize the region.
Lumping democratic EEU and NATO stalwart Greece in with Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey or any of the other countries in the Balkan region may appear geographically convenient -- and may simplify the plot for an American public weaned on sound bites and simplistic bottom lines -- but it encourages a gross misrepresentation of the geopolitical realities and dynamics of the area. If anything, Greece is a country that is working to establish in its neighborhood a future without bloodshed. With more support from the Western powers she may be able to help stop the march towards another world war, and change the ending to this drama after all.
Very truly yours,Leo E. Argiris, P.E.