The state of FYROM has managed over the past decade to construct a highly effective pressure group strategy in Washington by networking with prominent figures and acquiring first class assistance by some very dynamic firms that engage in this sort of public relations activities.
The main corporation that manages the exposure of Skopje in the States is named, ORION Strategies and it is owned by Randy Scheunemann who is also the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor of the Presidential candidate John McCain and also a personal friend of the latter and a major contact of him in his relations with foreign leaders.
The "United Macedonian Diaspora" (UMD) organization has already provided 500,000 USD to ORION in mid 2008 in order to conduct a wide range of promotion for Gruefski's "tactic of tension" with Greece that includes frequent media statements against Athens in a variety of issues. According to well-informed sources UMD is linked to the intelligence service of FYROM and that relays around the strategic aim of Gruefski to create even greater issues in the near future, as a main component of his political agenda. Moreover the overall budget by UMD to ORION is estimated at 1, 5 million USD that will handed over within the following year.
The President of UMD, Meto Koloski is a well known personality for the Diaspora of the Slavmacedonians and can be classified as the "mentor" of several radical politicians in FYROM in relation to the name issue. For instance he maintains an extensive database that includes a mailing list with thousands of e-mail addresses and conducts propaganda operations on a daily basis with the assistance of a team of collaborators spread across the world and covering all time zones, from Melbourne-Australia to Toronto -Canada.
Koloski's main pressure points are the existence of "Aegean Macedonian minority" in Greece, as well as "Human rights abuses" of them. Further, other lesser known figures of UMD, are very well informed around the situation in Greece, by exploit open sources information around the domestic situation, not only confined in politics but also on social and security affairs.
Another Diaspora group which is well-organized and active is the "World Macedonian Congress" (WMC), which is based in Ormond Beach in Florida and has as a Head the local businessman, George Atanasoski who maintains very strong links with the government in Skopje and Gruefski himself. He ran for a President in FYROM in 1994 without success. Currently he spends substantial amounts of capital in Florida in order to promote the interests of WMC, which is considered as more "moderate" than UMD, although that is superficial since they both work in the same line but use different tactics. Moreover Florida is a state with significant Greek influence, thus WMC is rather inclined in pursuing pressure tactics involving "Soft power" techniques, such as cultural festivals, athletics, and other social activities. They also use internet extensively and they are related to FYROM Diaspora organizations in Canada with which they have regular communication.
Another interesting aspect is the donation by the Association of the Turks who live in the US -"Turkish Coalition for America"- of the sum of 150,000 USD in the UMD
The support to Skopje from Turkish lobby in the US is not at all accidental. It happened after Nikola Gruevski opened the issue of the property of the FYROM refugees from Greece, and Turkey enabled to its archives in order to find documents and notary acts which could help in fulfillment of their requests.
It has to be noted that certain NGO's that operate in the Balkan region, are also involved into assisting the UMD actions and in general the Skopje's policies. Those include SEEMO and Eurolang, that although officially concerned with a variety of themes; over the past decade they have specialized in media attacks against Greece and in favor of FYROM. It is interesting to point out that Greek citizens participate in these organizations and are actively assisting the aforementioned. Those NGO's are financed by numerous governments and other such as Germany, USA but also from the Open Society Foundation and the European Union.
According to unverified information, the NGO's at hand are also cooperating with the UMD and have become a function of the wider FYROM lobby.
Lastly Transparency International who has already a national chapter in Skopje is involved in expanding the reach of that office and actively promotes its peripheral influence by promoting its members in international conference and making it a "Regional communications hub". There are many more instances were well-known NGO's promote and support financially FYROM, much more in analogy than in any other Balkan state.
The pressure groups of FYROM have managed to attract the support of certain influential individuals in USA, such as:
Mike S. Zafirovski: President of Nortel Corporation-George Bush staff member; Board of Directors at Boeing since 2004; In July 2007 President George W. Bush appointed him to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee
Edward P. Joseph: Ex-U.N, OSCE, U.S. Army/NATO, and the International Crisis Group senior official; visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Slavko Mangovski: New Jersey businessman and main contributor for the "Macedonia Caucus" in USA Congress.
Lawrence Butler: Dept. of State, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
Paul Pfeiffer: (State Dpt. official; closely attached to the FYROM Ambassador in Washington)
Randy Scheunemann's involvement in lobbying strategies is extensive and he was one of the main "spin doctors" of the March 2003 war against Iraq and the preparatory of the public opinion in favor of it. According to the Associated Press his company was paid 800.000 USD by the State of Georgia under President's Saakasvili personal command in order to promote the image of the country.
Further, it has accepted 500,000 USD by the Taiwanese government, 400,000 USD by Romania and 250,000 USD by Lithuania. It has to be stressed that ORION has only two salaried members in its offices in Washington and does most of the work by subcontracting the projects to other firms. Thus the amounts mentioned are greatly sufficient for the actual work involved.
Scheunemann is also a consultant for the Iraqi politician Ahmad Tsalabi and was for a brief period assistant oft he ex-defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Lastly ORION Strategies is also a paid consultant of the Open Society Policy Center in USA, an organization which is part of the Soros Foundation.
Randy Scheunemann was also listed in the Worldwide Strategic Energy (WSE) brochure as part of its executive team. Also he represented the sister company named Caspian Alliance in 2005. The latter is the only representative of the large American consultant KPEMG in Kazakhstan. Moreover there was a scandal recently involving a $2m deal with the Kazakh government to arrange a visit by Cheney to the central Asian country.
In that case Stephen Payne the President of WSE, had to relinquish his seat on the advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security, when it was revealed that he asked large sums of money by foreign governments in order to arrange visits by the White House officials.
Although the above is note directly related to the FYROM pressure groups, it portrays the web of contacts Skopje has managed to arrange its position into, and become a part of the overall strategy of the Bush Administration in Eurasia.
In overall, the alignment between Skopje and certain influential circles in the States has upgraded the significance of that country in the eyes of the State Department and to a lesser extent of the White House and the Congress.
As this report is being written on the 3rd of November 2008; the results of the election in USA are not known but it is a fair estimation that the election of Barack Obama in the White House will have as a side-effect the diminish of the reach of the above pro-FYROM groups. On the other hand it has to be noted, that Greece although much stronger in terms of finance abilities and the presence of a sizeable Diaspora in USA, is moving on a wrong direction by not having invested on the pressure groups sector over the past generation, thus leaving space for its "Competitors". If one adds the much stronger Albanian and Turkish lobby in Washington, then the daunting responsibility of the Greek foreign ministry can be showed.