U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned against the “malign” influence of Russian trolls and Chinese investment during a visit to North Macedonia.
Speaking in the southwestern town of Ohrid on October 4, Pompeo also said he expects North Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member before the end of the year.
Talking to the press after meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Pompeo warned the Western Balkans country must “take firm measures to resist and defend against malign influences.”
"The hearts and minds of North Macedonia citizens should guide your country forward, not Russian bots and trolls on social media," he said.
Pompeo also warned against "the risks of Chinese investment and sensitive technologies," including "China's bribe-heavy strategy for infrastructure deals.”
While the EU accounts for the majority of direct investments in the Western Balkans, China has significantly increased spending on infrastructure projects in the region in recent years.
Pompeo also said he is confident that lawmakers in the United States will ratify North Macedonia’s entrance to NATO in the coming months.
"I am convinced that Northern Macedonia will be a strong NATO ally and I am confident that the U.S. Senate will approve the Membership Protocol this fall, and we will formally welcome you to the alliance," Pompeo said after meeting Zaev.
Zaev said he expects "good news from Brussels" in the coming days for the country, which has made European Union and NATO membership foreign policy cornerstones.
North Macedonia's path to membership in both organizations was cleared after Skopje reached agreement with Greece over the former Yugoslav republic’s official name.
"Membership in NATO means achieving a historic goal, it is a great benefit for our country and for the whole region," Zaev said.
"Northern Macedonia deserves a negotiation date. A stable Balkan region is in the interest of the EU and this visit by Secretary of State Pompeo is of great importance to us," he added.
Pompeo is on a tour of southern Europe that also included stops in Italy and Montenegro.
From North Macedonia, Pompeo plans to travel to Greece later in the day on October 4.
Pompeo Warns North Macedonia On 'Russian Trolls,' Chinese Investment, Upbeat On NATO