The Republic of North Macedonia and the United States renewed the bilateral defence consultations after 4 years, when expert teams from the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence last held a meeting in Washington. The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Laura Cooper, with an expert team from the Pentagon, is conducting expert consultations today in Skopje with teams from the Ministry of Defence and Army of the Republic of North Macedonia. This time a deepened defence cooperation will be discussed, which from a partnership, will turn into an allied cooperation in defence.
At the beginning of the working meeting, Defence Minister Radmila Shekerinska welcomed US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper and the Pentagon team, and stressed that the frequent meetings, following the meetings that were held in the United States last week, including the meeting with Patrick Shanahan, Acting US Secretary of Defense, show that the two countries are turning from partners into allies.
“We are pleased with the progress of defence reforms, and the successful path to NATO has allowed us to meet with your team as a country, whose Accession Protocol into the Alliance has been signed and already ratified by several neighbouring countries. We are continuing with the defence reforms where in its implementation we have huge support from the United States. The Long-term Defence Development Plan is ready, we expect it to soon be adopted by the Government, where once again we will confirm the determination to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defence, and as of next year we will allocate 20 percent of the defence budget for modernization of the Army. It is important that we are reintegrating the bilateral defence cooperation now, when the country is turning from a partner into a member of the Alliance and has greater responsibilities, for whose implementation the support of the US is of great importance”, the Minister said.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper said that the progress in the previous 16 months has been huge. In the first moment, the defence reform plan and NATO membership seemed too ambitious, said Cooper. The Strategic Defence Review and defence reforms are already in the implementation phase, the ambition for NATO membership is being realized, and the Protocol on Accession is already being ratified in the member states – emphasized Cooper. She also announced that soon a new Bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreement will be signed between the United States and the Republic of North Macedonia.
At the beginning of the working part of the meeting of the teams from the defence ministries of both countries, the senior guests were greeted by the Chief of General Staff, Vasko Gjurchinovski, and the State Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Dragan Nikolic.
One of the priorities for defence cooperation with the United States for this year is the assistance and support for the implementation of the Strategic Defence Review. Both delegations will exchange information on the security situation in the region, and will speak about strengthening all elements of the bilateral cooperation, in defence planning, transformation of the Ministry and Army of the Republic of North Macedonia, the plans for modernization and equipping of the Army, as well as the opportunities for support by the United States in new trainings, joint exercises and participation of members of the Army in NATO operations.