REVIEW: Elections in Moldova and Ukraine Lead to a New Aggravation

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The country of political outrage – Ukraine – has become a classic example of the deformation of democratic elections in the context of geopolitical feudalism. The main competitors in the presidential race see the main advantage not in winning the hearts of the citizens of their own country, but in the favor of foreign overlords. Such an approach only aggravates tension in the Black Sea region, where hotbeds of conflict appeared back in the 1990s.

 Geopolitics is still a tool

Experts confidently speak about a direct link between the electoral processes in the country and the increase of political instability in this part of Southeast Europe. However, this statement refers not only to Ukraine. A similar situation is observed in neighboring Moldova, where parliamentary elections are expected to be held on February 24. In both post-Soviet republics, the struggle for power has acquired grotesque forms, and the closer the voting day, the more political heat is on. Candidates for parliamentary seats and presidency go the vole and sometimes truly play with fire, realizing that the make-or-break moment is upon them. Moldova and Ukraine are justly the neighbors – the politicians of both countries seem to simply learn from each other in pursuit of political points. Experts warn that the leadership of the Republic of Moldova is trying to reverse the negative trends of criticism from the traditional partners in Europe and the USA. Political analysts do not exclude that the dominant power group can play a so-called “Kerch scenario” adjusted for local realities. Through the words of Deputy Prime Minister Cristina Lesnik, the government of the Democrats of Vlad Plahotniuc has articulated a desire to revise the status quo in the zone of the frozen conflict on the Dniester. The statement by the chief negotiator from Moldova in the Transdniestrian settlement about the peace and, consequently, the war with Russia in 1992 marked a new stage of diplomatic dust-ups of Chisinau and Moscow. The geopolitical map remains the most understandable and attractive tool to retain power for politicians in Eastern Europe. Moldova and Ukraine are obviously leading in the ranking of abuse of geopolitics, and on the eve of the elections this trend is accelerating. In the middle of last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine announced that it would not accept applications from Russian observers for participation in the presidential elections in March. This decision was hardly unexpected for experts, but once again confirmed that Kyiv does not intend to reduce the degree of negativity in relations with the Kremlin. Over the past years, the Ukrainian government has deliberately broken contacts with Moscow in almost all areas, preventing the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation from fading. “The fight against Russian aggression” with the support of the current government is promoted as the “state ideology” of the country while completely ignoring domestic socio-economic problems.

Equations with several variables

The authorities of Kyiv and Chisinau have learned by heart a simple truth over the past five years: criticism of Russia and the struggle against Russian influence guarantees support from the European Union and the United States. However, in 2019 there are too many variables in this simple formula. The collectivism of the West is not the same as four years ago: Washington and Brussels have divergent views on the processes in Ukraine, and their interests in this region are opposed in many aspects. The EU cares about trade, economy and predictable security situation, while the US is interested in constant instability in the region as a reason to increase its presence in Moldova and Ukraine. Many EU countries are no longer willing to sacrifice their interests to support the unpredictable Kyiv’s policy. A coolness between Washington and the EU locomotive – Germany – in the Nord Stream 2 issue is a clear example of this. The Bundestag deputies openly talk about the aggravation of relations with the United States, whose Ambassador Richard Grenell circulated letters to German businessmen demanding them to withdraw from the construction project of the Russian gas pipeline under threat of sanctions. According to the Ambassador himself, because of Nord Stream 2 the security of Kyiv will be threatened, and the risk of Russian intervention will increase. The President of Ukraine is well aware of the attitude of Americans. If the main competitors promise peace in the Donbas, desired by the majority of citizens according to opinion polls, then Petro Poroshenko has taken the opposite position and equalizes peace with capitulation of Ukraine. Like his Moldovan alter-ego represented by the oligarch, the leader of the Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, Poroshenko bets on US interests. The general pre-election nervousness in Moldova and Ukraine leads to the fact that their leaders learn from each other: Vlad Plahotniuc may follow the example of Petro Poroshenko and close polling stations in Russia on the grounds of Russia’s interference in the elections. The popular theme in the West – “hand of the Kremlin” – is just in place: this way Chisinau and Kyiv will be in the trend of recent years, preventing inconvenient voters from influencing the result of the electoral race. At the same time, experts believe that as the elections approach, the anti-Russian rhetoric of politicians of both countries will only increase, as well as the risk of all sorts of provocations. This circumstance will be a challenge to security in Eastern Europe, as evidenced by the incident in the Kerch Strait and obsession of Kyiv and Chisinau with Russian ammunition depots in neighboring Transdniestria. The President of Ukraine, following the logic of confrontation with Russia, may add fuel to the resonant issue of the Russian military presence in Transdniestria, which Moldovan officials have long and stubbornly aggravated.