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    Moldova: The forward edge of the European front line

    Friday, 13 March 2020
    This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
    Aerial view of Moldova's capital Chișinău
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    Moldova, a small post-Soviet republic, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, is a place where dramatic events are happening today, the results of which will demonstrate the effectiveness of the European neighborhood policy.

    A country with weak state and democratic institutions, an underdeveloped civil society, a corrupt political class, a fragmented society, today is rapidly drifting towards Moscow. If decisive action is not taken, Moldova will soon settle in the Kremlin’s orbit, and the European Union will receive a powerful Russian outpost at the border. So far, political, but it is possible that in the medium term – also military.

    The reason for concern is the ongoing negotiations in Chisinau on the formation of the ruling coalition between the pro-Russian Party of Socialists led by incumbent President Igor Dodon and part of the Democratic Party, lead by the ex-Prime Minister Pavel Filip.

    These negotiations were preceded by turbulent political events. In June 2019, the protracted political crisis caused by the inability to form a stable majority after the parliamentary elections ended with the creation of a coalition between political antipodes – pro-Kremlin socialists and the pro-European ACUM block. At the same time, the Democratic Party, which ruled in Moldova over the past four years, was ousted into the opposition.

    The EU and the United States, which had a certain impact on the situation, welcomed both the creation of the coalition and the pro-Western government of Maia Sandu. We can say that the new Moldovan authorities had an unlimited credit of trust from Brussels and Washington. And it was a fatal mistake: trusting politicians like Dodon, whose cunning can only compete with corruption, is simply inadmissible.

    Subsequent events marked one of the largest political failures of the West in the post-Soviet space. Perceiving that Sandu’s cabinet’s anti-corruption policy was starting to threaten him personally, Dodon provoked a government crisis. He compelled the resignation of the pro-European government and – with the help of Democratic Party deputies offended by Sandu, formed a minority cabinet of ministers. It included people loyal to him personally – his personal advisers and relatives. Thus, the pro-Russian president from a nominal political figure in a parliamentary republic turned into the sole ruler of Moldova.

    Today, he is in full swing negotiating with Pavel Filip, who continues to control most of the Democratic Party’s faction in parliament, to form a stable majority and coalition government.

    One of the paradoxes of Moldovan politics lies in the fact that many public figures here are ready to show extraordinary “flexibility” when it comes to the possibility of being in power. Recently, Filip participated in protests against Dodon and his policies, demanded the impeachment of the head of state, called his speech from the UN rostrum “a shameful act of betrayal of the national interests of Moldova”. And today, he is negotiating with this “traitor of national interests” on the formation of a parliamentary majority and a government together with pro-Moscow socialists.

    Naturally, Philip says that he is doing this to guarantee the continuation of the pro-European course of the Republic of Moldova. He is trying today to convince both Brussels and Washington in this. He says he’s ready for a reasonable compromise.

    Of course, the West may again manifest criminal naivety this time. Maia Sandu already spoke about a compromise when she entered into a coalition agreement with Dodon and his socialists, and this ended in a complete fiasco. Of course, this will be the case this time too. It should be understood that in the formation of a coalition between the democrats of Filip and the socialists of Dodon, no foreign policy reorientation of Moldova will occur. This will only lead to the final strengthening of Moscow’s position in the southeastern part of Europe.

    Yes, Igor Dodon has been demonstrating an amazing ability to practice the mimicry throughout his career. His rhetoric varies in a wide range – from boasting about dozens of meetings with Putin to assurances of the invariability of the pro-European course. But the political project “Igor Dodon”, from the beginning to the end, is a product of Russian financial injections and Kremlin propaganda.

    He sits so tightly on the Moscow hook that it can safely be said that he is an agent of Russian influence in Moldova. He will unconditionally execute any order received from the Kremlin. There is no doubt about that. There can be no “compromises” that the leader of the Democrats Pavel Filip is cunningly talking about today. If the negotiations between Filip and Dodon succeed, this will mean the final loss by Europe of Moldova and its transfer to the hands of the Kremlin masters.

    Of course, the West must take the most uncompromising position with respect to the “compromise” Filip. He must become an outcast throughout the western space. As a man who betrayed the interests of his own people, his European dream. He, along with other current leaders of the Democratic Party, should be included in the sanctions lists of people who are denied entry to the EU and North America. Romania, of which Philip is a citizen, will be required to institute criminal proceedings against him on the facts of the withdrawal of funds that went to the dubious privatization of facilities in Chisinau. Business is business.

    Of course, the possible power structure between the socialists and democrats in Moldova does not have a great future. Dodon already understands that he, quite possibly, is destined for Yanukovici’s fate. Therefore, according to some reports, he is already acquiring elite real estate in the suburbs and withdraws corruption funds to offshore companies. But Filip is unlikely to be accepted in Russia and to obtain the status of a political refugee.

    He still has a choice. Or to remain in history as a politician who managed to stop the pulling of his country into the Kremlin’s orbit, or to be cursed for contributing to this in every way – for the very “betrayal of national interests” in which he recently blamed his new ally Dodon.

    Yes, perhaps this speech is the speech of a “hawk”. But it is not the time for the “pigeons” now. “Pigeons” already missed the Crimea and the South-East of Ukraine. Will we wait until Moldova is added to this list?