In the context of mutual distrust between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, the Sandu-Dodon government can become the main mediator in the gas negotiations.
Today, the President of Moldova Igor Dodon went on a visit to Russia, where he will meet with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. As reported, one of the main topics of Dodon’s communication with the special representative of Vladimir Putin will be the issue of Russian gas supplies to Moldova. Most likely, Dodon will try to keep up with the foreign policy successes of the government of Maia Sandu, who deblocked the macro-financial assistance of the EU, and made Moscow reduce the gas prices. President in interview to the Russian TASS rightly emphasized that an observer status in the Eurasian Economic Union may help Chisinau to obtain the desirable discounts on natural gas – since exactly Dodon was able to arrange it at the time.
However, the discount will not matter when the gas does not reach Moldova. It is obvious to all that at the moment the much more burning issue for Moldova is not even about reducing the gas price, but in principle about maintaining the previous supply chain. As you know, this is now a huge problem. The current contract for the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine expires at the end of this year. Negotiations in the trilateral Russia-Ukraine-EU format on its extension are still very slow and without significant progress.
It is incredibly difficult for Kyiv and Moscow to negotiate directly in the current conditions. The parties put each other too strict, often impossible preconditions, and each statement on the topic of gas from the representatives of Russia and Ukraine is examined at home literally under a microscope for “betrayal of national interests”. This almost eliminates the possibility for maneuver and compromise. In addition, the already sluggish gas negotiations are also complicated by the difficult pre-election context in Ukraine, where the series of elections does not stop.
Of course, both Moscow and Kyiv are trying to evade the blame for the stalled talks and from time to time put forward various initiatives. So, recently Gazprom offered to start negotiations from scratch, and Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his firm intention to solve the problem and as soon as possible to sit down at the negotiating table, as it is “the issue of energy security of the country”. However, in fact, the situation is not moving forward, and even the mediation of Brussels does not help much. As between Russia and the EU, and, of course, even more between Kyiv and Moscow, there is total distrust.
At this point, a coalition government of ‘geopolitical accord’, created by the pro-European ACUM bloc and pro-Russian socialists in Moldova, could not have appeared at a better time. Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon rationally divided the spheres of responsibility: the Prime Minister is absolutely handshakeable in Europe and enjoys the undisguised loyalty of EU leaders. Igor Dodon maintains a monopoly on contacts with Moscow and maintains constructive relations with Russian officials as the only Moldovan politician not ‘tainted’ by anti-Russian rhetoric and declarations of love for the West. Thus, the current leadership of Moldova in tandem can communicate in principle with anyone in Europe. In addition, Moldova maintains good relations with Ukraine, and, judging by Zelensky’s optimistic meeting with Sandu, can strengthen them further.
Thanks to this arrangement, Chisinau can become a universal mediator in the preparation of negotiations on gas: Moscow may not communicate with the administration Zelensky as a matter of principle, but it is able to convey to Kyiv certain messages through the chain Dodon-Sandu-Zelensky. The European Union cannot put too much pressure on Kyiv to maintain transit, but it can address its wishes through the same channels – via Chisinau. It is noteworthy that the Moldovan authorities have an ideal motive to be a mediator in the gas issue: if the transit stops, Moldova will not avoid problems, so the Moldovan leaders can continue to ‘legally’ participate in the negotiations on the gas issue.
Today Chisinau has a real and even a unique chance to become an independent actor in regional geopolitics. Being divided according to the geopolitical preferences, burdened by the Transdniestrian issue, Moldova since the collapse of the Soviet Union could not even claim the ambition to be an independent foreign policy player with its own weight and authority. Today, Chisinau has such a chance, and if the new government of the country can take advantage of it, the success in the gas negotiations can strengthen not only the current ruling coalition, but also the consensus that the three ‘big players’ managed to achieve on the example of Moldova. Well, at the end of the day, Chisinau’s contribution to the preservation of transit through Ukraine can be converted into a discount on gas – it is entirely justified and in the spirit of the official goals of Igor Dodon’s visits to Moscow.
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