When the leaders of Nato meet on Wednesday, they do so amid warnings that the very future of the Western alliance is at stake. But one small nation is confident that among the decisions the summit will take is an invitation for it to join.
Macedonia has reached a deal with Nato member Greece to unlock its path to membership of both the military alliance and the European Union.
Once it changes its name to the Republic of North Macedonia accession talks can begin. That will have to take place via a referendum and constitutional change in the former Yugoslav republic and by a parliamentary vote in neighbouring Greece.
In the case of the EU, membership is a distant prospect. Serbia and Montenegro are much further down the road towards accession – and they have been given a target date of 2025.
But Nato is a different matter. On the day that Macedonia and Greece signed the agreement on the name change, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was first out of the blocks with his congratulations.
“This will set Skopje on its path to Nato membership and it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans,” he said.
‘Nato’s door is open’
Since then, the words have swiftly been converted into action.
When Mr Zaev visited Nato’s Brussels headquarters at the end of last month, Mr Stoltenberg not only greeted him as “my dear friend Zoran”, but made it…