A picture of North and South Korea, showing lights in South Korea and darkness in the North, shone through projectors as Dr. Zoran Jolevski, the Republic of Macedonia’s Minister of Defense, began to speak. However, instead of an audience of politicians, he was addressing students.
On Jan. 29 Jolevski paid a visit to Florida Southern College, giving two lectures to students and eating lunch with Dr. Anne Kerr. Jolevski gestured to the map when he spoke.
“You see what bad leadership can bring to a country and you see what good leadership can bring to a country,” Jolevski said.
However, Jolevski’s reasons for visiting FSC went beyond giving guest lectures. Macedonia is looking to expand its military, and Jolevski has begun considering the creation of a formal ROTC-like program to meet demands for officers.
When Cadet Madison Nickell, FSC’s ROTC battalion commander, heard about his visit around two weeks ago, she was surprised. She had been told that Jolevski might be coming, but she was not sure it would actually happen until it was announced.
“We’re one of the smaller ROTC programs in the state, so I was a little shocked that he chose us out of the bigger schools that have a lot more cadets,” Nickell said.
The reason for Jolevski’s visit is actually rather straightforward. Jolevski often goes on vacation in Florida and he told his friend, Robert Scharar, president of FCA Corp. and FSC trustee, about his interest in ROTC programs. Scharar suggested that he come to FSC and a visit was arranged.
Lt. Col. Scott LaRonde, head of the ROTC program, said Jolevski was particularly interested in how students join the program and when they sign a commitment. At FSC, cadets can enlist in ROTC during their freshman year but not sign a commitment to join the military until their junior year.
The program’s inclusiveness also came up, as military science is only offered as a minor at FSC. This creates greater diversity in graduates while in Macedonia military graduates only receive degrees in military science.
In the end though, Jolevski was just as much an object of interest to the cadets as they were to him. Jolevski has long been involved with politics in a country that has only existed since 1991, leading LaRonde to compare him to one of the U.S.’s founding fathers.
Students were given a chance to ask questions as Jolevski gave two lectures at FSC, leading to some prior research.
“There wasn’t much that I knew beforehand, but the more I researched about the country, and the more I learned about it, it was very fascinating,” Nickell said.
Currently several eyes are on Eastern Europe after recent events. The elction of the radical Syriza party in Greece could lead to issues down the road with Macedonia, just like Macedonia’s desire to join NATO and the European Union might lead to issues with Russia.
Macedonia has long desired to join both organizations, and Jolevski says that the idea is extremely popular with the population.
“I think any emerging country that wants to establish a relatively stable economy, wants to improve unemployment, wants to create jobs, being a part of the European Union will do that,” LaRonde said. “I also think that translates very well to NATO.”
In the past, there had not been any problems when they told Russian President Vladimir Putin that they wanted to join NATO. However, during a September interview with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Macedonia joining NATO would be seen as a provocation.
“But Macedonia sees itself as a NATO ally,” Jolevski said. “We are part of NATO missions.”
As for the near-future, there may be another connection between FSC and Macedonia. LaRonde says that Jolevski asked Kerr to send FSC cadets to Macedonia, something LaRonde wants to follow up on and Nickell finds interesting.
“We’re not just working with our own people any more, and only speaking our own language,” Nickell said. “We have to be able to be able to work with other people from other nations and other cultures.”