US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Macedonia on Monday September 17th with a warning that Russia was attempting to meddle in a referendum to change the Balkan country’s name and open the door for it to join Nato.
A referendum will be held in the Republic of Macedonia on 30 September on the government’s deal in June with neighbouring Greece to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.
Mattis said, “We are just looking at how do they shape their own future… not shaped by someone else. We do not want to see Russia doing there what they have tried to do in so many other countries.”
As reported by Reuters, Mattis, who will be in Skopje for only a few hours, is expected to meet the country's prime minister and defence minister as well as President Gjorge Ivanov, who opposes the deal.
Moscow's ambassador to Skopje has criticised Macedonia's ambitions to join Nato, saying it could become "a legitimate target" if relations between Nato and Russia deteriorate further.
Greece, a member of both Nato and the EU, has refused to accept the Balkan country’s existing name, saying it implies territorial claims on the Greek province of Macedonia.