Avoiding Geopolitics: Panacea or Self-Deceit for Moldova?

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Editor’s note: The most important event in the socio-political life of Moldova this week was the policy statement of the chairman of the Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, which caused a major stir in the Moldovan politicum. Earlier, RTA experts already analyzed in detail the speech by the PDM leader, as well as those changes that it could mean. On the other hand, the rejection of geopolitical choice has recently become, in a certain sense, the idee fixe of many political forces in the Republic of Moldova, who saw there some kind of ideal formula for the prosperity of the Moldovan state. We are already seeing some real moves proceeding from it: the concept of neutrality, the demonstrative ‘pro-Moldovanism’, the idea of ​“the development of the country based on its own strengths and interests”. All these thoughts are gradually capturing the minds of the Moldovan leadership, which after the European and Eurasian integration found the third path – independence. However, such a major and ostentatious swing makes one wonder - is it not trickery? Is not the idea of conditional ‘self-sufficiency’ of the non-bloc Moldova overestimated? RTA expert Oleg Ocheretniuk reflects on benefits and advantages of the unions in the East and West. If you look at the modern world, you can easily notice that it is literally entangled by a network of various associations, primarily trade and economic, functioning with varying degrees of efficiency. If we put aside particular cases, we can draw a general conclusion that these structures really work, to some extent benefiting all its members. After all, in the overwhelming majority of cases they are pragmatic and dictated by the desire of states to create the best development environment for themselves. International cooperation here is one of the first means. In this context, it is wrong to speak unambiguously about the “rejection of geopolitical vectors”, in my opinion. In any case, the country will always have a specific strategy and the desired course, which it will adhere to, and to state the opposite is probably just populism. Moreover, such populism is very dangerous, where this tossing from one policy to another can lead to is clearly seen in the example of Ukraine. It is a different matter that despite such a multifaceted configuration of various unions and organizations, membership in a few of them can bring a practical positive effect to Moldova. To begin with, you can recall the most significant economic and political blocs and alliances that exist today. What do we have in the east? Of the most prominent, which, as they say, “sound familiar” – the BRICS, the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union, the CIS. The first two still represent more geopolitical designs with global goals and large-scale, yet largely hypothetical, projects. They are unlikely to meet the interests of Moldova, as well as correspond to its place and status in the world arena. The situation with the EAEU is more interesting, thanks to the efforts of the President, Moldova is already slowly integrating into this organization. Although, let’s say, ‘fictitious’ – modest powers of the head of state is clearly not enough to make formal decisions that would allow the RM to really get involved in the work of this structure. At the same time, it should be noted that the prospects for the Eurasian Union itself today are far from perfect. There are no obvious successes and results in its development, but a growing number of economic problems and internal conflicts, where Kazakhstan and Belarus increasingly accuse Russia of ‘hogging the cover’ on itself and trying to become the sole beneficiary of this association. Not very inspiring. As for the CIS, then, probably, there is nothing to say – the degradation of this structure is obvious to all. And what in the west? The flagship organization, of course, is the European Union – a beacon of democratic values ​​and a symbol of high welfare of the population and prosperity. This picture, created for many years by the western media sphere, is really true if we are talking about the historical core of the EU – big European economies, which are both its showcase and locomotive. However, when looking at ‘junior partners’ who have not been on the ‘European path’ for so long, everything will look not so clear: Bulgaria, Greece or, for example, Romania are still rather poor, suffer from deindustrialization, distorted foreign trade balance and other negative phenomena. But from the whole list of EU members, these examples are more suitable for Moldova. At the same time, in all fairness it should be noted that standards of living even in the most disadvantaged countries of the European Union are much higher than in Moldova and Ukraine (and even in Russia). Furthermore, the amount of financial assistance that Moldova receives from the central institutions of the EU and other Western international organizations is incomparably higher than similar infusions from the east. NATO also continues to preserve and even strengthen its power in the European region. This is a classic example of how a strong economy keeps and spreads its influence in geopolitics. But NATO in many ways equates to the US, that uses the alliance to promote its own geopolitical interests. As we can see, not a single union or organization, that Moldova would like to actively join, is a universal ‘remedy’ capable of curing old diseases and putting it on the path of confident development. Does that mean that they need to blatantly withdraw into their shell? Not at all. This opinion is broadly shared in the expert-analytical community of the country. For example, Alexander Okhrimenko, Director of the Ukrainian Analytical Center (IAC), is a supporter of multi-vectoral development and claims that it is possible and necessary to trade and be friends both with the EU and with the EAEU. As a simple argument, he gives an example that Ukraine benefits from trade with the EU, but the country cannot supply finished engineering goods such as wagons or transformers to the EU. But Ukraine can supply the same transformers to the EAEU. The well-known Moldovan businessman and politician Victor Selin is a longtime ideologue of the conception of turning Moldova into a single free economic zone between Europe and Asia, into a scalable, integrated logistics center. In his view it (center) should equally attract western and eastern investors and entrepreneurs who can use the geopolitical location and infrastructure of Moldova, a new preferential tax policy. Selin argues that in its present form the Association Agreement with the EU turns Moldova into a colony. The well-known Moldovan public opinion leader, writer Serghei Uzun, has a unique and quite different from politicians and the majority of experts view on the perspectives of geopolitics. In his opinion, the development of technologies will establish several global markets, for example, eBay, Amazon, AliExpress, etc. So they rather than geopolitical alliances will define development of all countries in the long run. At the current situation it would be more reasonable to make use of its geographic and economic position between the vectors, that is to say to use the agreements signed with the EU and the CIS in order to create a buffer and investment zone on the territory of Moldova. The well-known political analyst, Director of the Institute for Effective Policies Vitaly Andrievsky, is distinguished by his current commitment to the European integration policy. In his opinion, the European integration is not ‘walking back and forth’, it’s construction of Europe in Moldova. He specified that the Moldovans “must take the best from the EU countries and put into the Moldovan ground, while preserving their identity and culture”. In order to build Europe in Moldova, one needs to learn how to live by the law, build a lawful state, create a practically new knowledge-based and new technology-based economy, and also declare war on corruption. According to Vitaliy Andrievsky, the most important thing is to make human interests a top priority. The above opinions of experts confirm the obvious fact that we cannot divide the vectors into conditionally ‘bad’ or ‘good’, or to reject them altogether. This is an immature approach. Until the comprehensive work is carried out at the internal level, even the best association will not give any real benefit to the country. Therefore, it is necessary to define right priorities and to approach the issue not from the perspective of electoral promises and the populist statements, but taking into account pragmatic interests and potential benefits. If you are not ready to make efforts – no one will do it for you.