North Macedonia

North Macedonia has not much in the way of an army and its annual GDP is closer to an underdeveloped German city than to an advanced western nation, but both the US and the leading European states recognized long ago that having this country aligned with the West is worth much more than risking another Balkan turmoil. For North Macedonia there is no alternative to the membership on NATO and EU and this position has the political consensus of all major political factors and the general support of the citizens. NATO is the only efficient political, defence andsecurity organization that over the past 50 years has protected the values of democracy, the market economy and human rights, values which are shared by North Macedonia and its citizens.

North Macedonia established its armed forces following independence and the complete withdrawal of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) in March 1992. The North Macedonia Armed Forces consist of an army, navy, air and air defense force, and a police force (under the Ministry of Interior). Under its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Membership Action Plan, Macedonia has made strong strides on major reforms and reconstruction of its armed forces toward the goal of building and sustaining a modern, professional defense force of about 12,000 troops.

Successive Macedonian governments have viewed integration into Euro-Atlantic political, economic, and security institutions as the country's primary foreign policy goal. In pursuit of these goals, Macedonia restructured its military to be smaller, more affordable, defensively oriented, and interoperable with NATO. The Macedonian Government has welcomed close cooperation with the US military and seeks to deepen this relationship as it restructures its forces.

North Macedonia played an indispensable role as the Kosovo Force's (KFOR) rear area, hosting the logistical supply line for KFOR troops in Kosovo. As part of these efforts, North Macedonia hosts NATO troops, including U.S. troops, in support of NATO operations in Kosovo and to assist North Macedonia's efforts to reform its military to meet NATO standards. Close U.S.-Macedonian bilateral defense cooperation continues. Macedonia has contributed troops to international coalition operations in Iraq, and continues to have troops in Afghanistan and in the EU peace support operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with four percent of its military.

Within Macedonia itself, in 2001 an ethnic Albanian insurgency under the rubric of the National Liberation Army (NLA) came perilously close to paralyzing the country in a state of political and civil gridlock; equally, the leaders of NATO, the European Union, and the United States seemed unclear about what—if any—course of action was best to take. Ultimately, even the ethnic governing coalition within Macedonia, formed in May 2001 and proclaimed a "national unity government," appeared incapable of agreement on central, critical issues. The expanded coalition of ruling ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders, with facilitation by U.S. and European Union (EU) diplomats, negotiated and then signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001, which brought an end to the fighting.

After the military conflict in 2001, the Ministry of Defense started a process of serious reforms in the defense sector. In that direction, Macedonia conducted a Strategic Defense Review and began implementing its recommendations. Furthermore, special emphasis was put on the restructuring of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) and the reorganization of the Ministry of defense. According to the current restructuring process of ARM, the army is consisted of General Staff including the standard G-1 to G-7 divisions, command of the land forces, air force and defense command, logistics and training1. The Ministry of defense is in charge of policy-making and the General Staff of ARM for operational planning.

The new model of structure of ARM would be comprised of a Joint Operational Command (land forces commend and the air force command), Logistic Support Command, Training Command, Forces for Special Operations, Electronic Surveillance Centre and Air Surveillance Centre. ARM scheduled a decrease of its total active strength from 9000 (end of 2004) to 8700 in 2007, including a decrease of the number of generals. Additionally, the government gradually increased the share for defense in the budget from 14% in 2004 to 18% in 2006 with the sole purpose of modernizing of the army's equipment. Fundamental efforts have been undertaken in order to eliminate conscription and to introduce a completely professional army.

ARM's special units ("Wolves" and "Scorpions") have been participating with a great success in the operations for maintenance of peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. Starting from August 2006, the Macedonian army joined the EUALTEA mission in Bosnia.

The general legislative framework for the creation of the National Security Strategy of Macedonia is consisted of the following documents: the Constitution ofthe Republic of Macedonia, the Law on Defence, Army Service Regulation Law, National Concept, Strategic Defence Review, Annual National Program, Strategy for Transformation of the Army etc. A General National Security Strategy still has not been adopted, but many elements could be found in the aforementioned documents. It should be mentioned that Annual National Program 2006 - 07 has not been adopted.However, the last Annual National Program has been prepared in close cooperation with all the relevant ministries and institutions competent for the realization of the tasks and goals related to NATO membership. This was achieved through theWorking Committee for the Integration of the Republic of Macedonia in CollectiveDefence Systems chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and co-chaired by the Minister of Defence.

Road conditions differ significantly from those in the U.S. High speeds, unpredictable drivers/pedestrians, poor vehicle maintenance, uneven road surfaces/widths, and poor lighting all contribute to precarious driving conditions. Most major highways are in good repair, but secondary urban and rural roads vary widely in condition and lighting. Horse-drawn carts, livestock, rocks, or other objects can be found in roadways. Many vehicles are quite old by Western standards. Mountain roads can be narrow, poorly marked, lacking guardrails, and become dangerous in inclement weather.

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