George Soros & Skopje

Newsgroups: soc.culture.yugoslavia,soc.culture.greek
Date: 18 Mar 1995 23:15:43 GMT

Over the past 3 years, many Western policy-makers have contended that the
Republic of Skopje is "weak" and "defenseless", and therefore no match for
"Greek thugs" who allegedly seek to destabilize it. Well, that's not true,
and now there is proof. Skopje has many powerful allies, one of whom is
Mr. George Soros, who has invested millions of dollars of his own fortune
to demonize Greeks in the Western media.

The following article is quite long, but very, very informative. It has
taken me quite some time retype it on the computer, but I think it is well
worth it. I encourage Serbs, and especially Greeks, to read it.

Quoting parts of an article from "The New Yorker", published on
Jan. 23, 1995. Reprinted without permission, for "fair use" only.

The World According to Soros By: Connie Bruck

Nowhere has Soros put more energy and money into bolstering a government
than in Macedonia. "George is the savior of Macedonia," his friend Morton
Abramowitz declared. And the Macedonian representative in Washington, Ljubica
Acevska, says of two separate Soros loans of twenty-five million dollars,
"People have found it difficult to believe. The opposition said, 'A country
does not help you -- why would an individual help you?' Remember, twenty-five
million dollars in Macedonia is like billions here. . . . The fact that Soros
did it helped the government a great deal."

By betting aggressively on Macedonia, Soros plunged into one of those
simmering Balkan disputes whose apparent simplicities mask lethal complexities.
The Macedonia that excited Soros was a province of Yugoslavia once known as
Vardar Banovina; it was renamed the Republic of Macedonia in 1945 by Marshal
Tito. Its populace was varied, the largest portion being Slavs, whose ancestors
had arrived in the region nearly a thousand years after the most famous
Macedonians of all, Phillip II and his son, Alexander the Great. However,
Tito -- coveting the large Greek region of Macedonia -- encouraged the
irredentist idea of all Macedonians' sharing a distinct ethnic identity. He
then supported the Communist-led Democratic Army in the Greek Civil War, a
brutal conflict that tore the country from 1946 to 1949.

Greece's fears were reawakened in 1991, when the fragment of Yugoslavia
declared its independence as the nation of Macedonia; its newly elected
President, Kiro Gligorov, was one of Tito's Communist bosses, and had helped
propagate the idea of a separate ethnic identity for Macedonians. Gligorov
says that his Macedonia has no territorial ambitions, but the Greeks have not
been comforted. In 1992 and 1993, Gligorov's government issued new school
textbooks that showed "geographical ethnic boundaries" encompassing the whole
of Greek Macedonia; the country's flag carries the symbol of the empire of
Alexander the Great; and a preamble to its 1991 Constitution pledges it to
protect Macedonians everywhere. The Greeks do not pretend that the Lilliputian
Macedonia, with its two million people, poses any threat to them at the moment,
but history has taught them to take a long view. In a scenario that some Greeks
project, for example, Macedonians might someday attempt a hostile incursion,
in concert with their fellow-Slavs in Bulgaria, which occupied part of Greece
during the Second World War.

This was the situation when Soros arrived in Skopje, the Macedonian capital,
in September, 1992, during a whirlwind tour through his proliferating
foundation network. He had come directly from Bulgaria, where a member of the
board of his foundation in Sofia had given him the prevailing Bulgarian view:
that there is no such thing as an ethnic Macedonian, and that Macedonia's
fervent attempts to establish this identity cloaked irredentist aspirations
bequeathed by Tito. "Soros knew nothing about Macedonia," Acevska said. "When
he arrived, his head was filled with propaganda from Bulgaria -- he was
probably sorry that he was here. Then he had a meeting with the Prime Minister,
whom Soros really likes, and the President had a lunch for him -- and he
changed his mind."

That afternoon, Soros held a press conference at which he announced that he
was committing an additional million dollars to the budget of his foundation
in Macedonia, and, furthermore -- and this carried as much weight -- he was
changing its name from the Open Society Foundation of Skopje to the Open
Society Foundation of Macedonia.

When I described Soros's overnight conversion to the Macedonian cause to
someone who used to work for Soros in the financial markets, this person
asserted that it was "pure Soros." He said, "As a fund manager, you're looking
at life and then simplifying it in order to find predictive qualities. So he
gets the 'broker's recommendation' -- that is, the consensus view -- from
Bulgaria. Then he gets to Macedonia, and, instead of getting corroboration, he
decides that the reality is totally different. And he thinks, If I HIT the
reality hard, the illusion will give way. It's his PERFECT market position!"
This person noted that Soros is always happiest going against the herd:
"That's when the wind's in your hair."

He pointed out, however, that in the market "you see if you're right or
wrong; the market tells you. Now George is in an area where there is no real
right or wrong; where it's more nuanced. He says, 'If I spend enough, I will
make it right.' "

In the good-guy, bad-guy formulation to which Soros is so partial, the
Greeks became the bad guys. He did not go to Greece to get the Greek view.
In his few hours with Gligorov, he became persuaded, as he has often insisted
since, that Macedonia is the only multi-ethnic state left in the Balkans with
a government devoted to pluralism and democratic principles -- a view contested
by many ethnic Albanians, Macedonia's largest minority, who charge that
Gligorov's actions belie his words, and that they are discriminated against in
schooling, employment, and political representation.

The executive director of the Soros foundation in Skopje, Vladimir Milcin,
maintains that he, too, is committed to the principles of an open society. But
it is difficult to reconcile a dedication to pluralism with the demagogic
passion that Milcin exhibits on the question of Macedonian ethnic identity.
He gave me propagandist literature on Macedonia and Greece (including a
pamphlet of excerpted texts entitled "Modern Greeks Are Not Descended from the
Ancient Hellenes"). Efforts to resolve the ongoing dispute with Greece have
included discussions about changing the name of Macedonia to something like
Vardar Macedonia or Nova Macedonia. But in an interview I had with the Prime
Minister, Branko Crvenkovski, which Milcin attended, the two men insisted that
the name is not negotiable. Milcin declared, "If they change the name, I will
go to the mountains and fight with the guerrillas!"

Such strong partisanship is not the normal language of foundations. As
tax-exempt organizations that receive tax-deductible contributions (from
Soros), the Soros foundations, according to I.R.S. rules, are not supposed to
engage in most forms of political activity. They may not lend support to a
particular party or a campaign, for example, and they may not lobby (though
"lobbying" is rather loosely defined). Soros, as he has done often in his
financial life, is moving aggressively in a gray area -- in both his personal
lobbying and the work of his foundations. Soros has made no secret of his
willingness to lend support to Gligorov, even in the context of an election
campaign. In November, Gligorov and his coalition won an ample majority (in an
election that the two main opposition parties have charged was rigged). About
a month before the election, Soros told me that he would have gone to Macedonia
to help Gligorov if the election had seemed in doubt. Ljupco Georgievski, the
right-wing head of the opposition V.M.R.O. (International Macedonian
Revolutionary Organization) Party, charges that the Soros foundation is
"a support machine to the government." Virtually all foundation grants, he
says, go to those associated in some way with the ruling party. Referring to
a television station, A1, that receives Soros support, Georgievski said, "It is
truly an alternative in its cultural programming; however, in politics. . . you
see ministers of the present Macedonian government more often than on state
TV." Marshall Harris, who was formerly in the State Department and is now the
executive director of the Action Council for Peace in the Balkans (an
organization started in 1993 with Soros's funding), told me, "The complaints
I've heard a lot -- that the [Gligorov] government freezes out all other
parties, even those in its own coalition, that information about negotiations
[in the dispute with Greece] is kept under VERY tight control -- are not
suggestive of a new system."

Since the fall of 1992, Soros has been lobbying aggressively for United
States recognition of Macedonia, while Greece has been making the case that
recognition should not come before Macedonian concessions on its name, its
flag, and its Constitution. Last February, President Clinton did agree to
recognize Macedonia under the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
-- an attempt not to show prejudice to either side. Greece retaliated with an
embargo, and Clinton, after meeting with representatives of a Greek-American
lobby, essentially froze the recognition.

At this point, one well-placed person in the Clinton Administration told me,
Soros moved into high gear. "He wrote a sharp letter to the President, raising
parallels with 1938 and appeasement," this person said. Soros also wrote a
somewhat more moderate piece for the Op-Ed page of the Times. In public
appearances, he denounced Greece and the Greek-American lobby. He has lobbied
Strobe Talbott and others in the State Department and the National Security
Council. And at the Bretton Woods Conferences in Washington last July, Soros
worked the corridors assiduously, attempting to persuade members of the
European Union to help Macedonia. (Greece, which then held the chairmanship
of the E.U., has vetoed any aid.)

Nor were all Soros's efforts so overt. The Soros-funded Action Council for
Peace in the Balkans launced a major effort on Macedonia. In February, 1994,
it issued a "Macedonia White Paper," highly supportive of Macedonia's position
vis-a-vis Greece, and this was circulated to the White House, Cabinet offices,
Congress, and hundreds of media people. Several months later, in May, it
issued another report, which also supported Macedonia. The report had been
produced, according to its cover letter, by "a bipartisan, independent

The Action Council letterhead lists fifty people -- including members of its
steering committee and its executive director and its program director -- but
not Soros. (According to Aryeh Neier, Soros wants to "foster the debate"
rather than "be identified with detailed positions.") Nor, for that matter,
does it list John Fox, who is the head of Soros's Washington office, and who,
according to Marshall Harris, "was director of the policy group. . . the
behind-the-scenes group at the working level of the council," and was involved
in the preparation of both reports.

Few would disagree with the high premium Soros has placed on achieving a
stable Macedonia. For if tensions were to ignite between its Slav majority
and its large Albanian minority, that conflict might well precipitate a
wider Balkan war -- one that could involve Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey,
and Greece. And his denunciations of the Greek embargo are no so off the mark,
either; even many who understand Greece's sensitivity on the Macedonian
issue acknowledge that Greece, in imposing the embargo, has handled the
situation in an unjustifiable as well as self-damaging way.

But the problem with Soros is the extremity of his views -- his tendency to
beatify one side and demonize the other -- and the way in which that is
reflected in his activism. If Soros had pursued a more moderate, conventionally
diplomatic course at the start, listening to both sides, it is just
conceivable that he -- with his influence and resources -- might have been able
to mediate a settlement before the issue became so enmeshed in the politics of
both countries. In the event, however, Soros's intervention -- as self-styled
deus ex machina -- has done nothing to move the conflict toward resolution; if
anything, one might argue that his zealousness (and funds) has contributed to
Macedonia's intractability. According to one person familiar with the
situation, the Greeks have become somewhat more flexible, while Gligorov --
after his recent electoral victory -- has stiffened. It bears noting, too,
that Soros's strength has always been abstraction, while his weakness has been
judgments about character, motivation, the more nuanced stuff of life -- and,
for that matter, of politics. As one person with considerable diplomatic
experience told me, "Gligorov is very smart, but he did spend thirty-five years
in the Tito government -- and to have survived in that system you have to be
a tough bastard. We should not have illusions about him. Soros does romanticize

"Soros sees this situationin black-and-white," this person continued. "But
in my view, no. In this region, there is no black-and-white, and it is a
mistake to view it that way."

To Soros fans like Strobe Talbott; Leslie Gelb, the president of the Council
on Foreign Relations; and Mark Malloch Brown, the head of public affairs at the
World Bank, Soros is the trailblazer they hope other businesspeople will
follow, moving to fill the vacuum left by an overextended and inadequate
government. But Soros's Macedonian expedition seems to be almost a parable
about the pitfalls of that idea. Soros, unsurprisingly, is to a considerable
degree a creature of his experience in the markets: idiosyncratic, intuitive,
prone to quick judgments often based on scanty information, aggressive,
manipulative, so self-reliant that he trusts no one's judgment but his own --
a profile, in sum, hardly suggestive of a diplomat. And, unlike the
governmental bodies he has long disdained, Soros is a free agent, accountable
to no one, subject to no checks and balances of countervailing opinion --
whose power is rooted, in the end, not in a consensus on the wisdom and
sophistication of his world view but in his money.