The visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova Nicu Popescu to the capital of Ukraine resulted in a series of anti-Russian statements
Vladimir Rotar, RTA:
Foreign Minister of Moldova Nicu Popescu has recently paid an official visit to Kyiv to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Vadym Prystaiko. The diplomats discussed traditional topics of Moldovan-Ukrainian relations: border security, joint border control, ecology of the Dniester. Apparently, especially for this visit the MFAEI prepared a ‘gift’ for Kyiv: a press release on “non-recognition of local elections in annexed Crimea” on the ministry’s website. Popescu himself said the same at the meeting and even more. The Minister complained about the “illegal stay of Russian troops in Moldova”, which remains a ‘priority’ problem for Moldova, and expressed strong support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
It must be said that from its first days the new government has the motto “no more geopolitics”. Maia Sandu said that unlike the previous regime, her government would take a “balanced and pragmatic” approach to international relations. However, actions do not correspond with her words obviously. Popescu’s statements differed little from the speeches of his predecessors during the time of Plahotniuc.
It is important that Moldova could do without comments about local Russian elections: Chisinau is not an international player who is expected to make such statements. It turns out that the anti-Russian relapse of the Foreign Minister was a purposeful move, and, therefore, ‘something is rotten again in the state of Denmark’ of ACUM and the PSRM. It’s unlikely to be just envy of the success of Igor Dodon, who alone and autonomously from the government decides with Moscow the issue of gas discounts. Probably, things in the ruling alliance as a whole are not so great: there is still no new agreement on which the socialists have long insisted, and representatives of the ACUM bloc openly shy away from it. Local elections are approaching, which without a gentleman’s agreement threaten to turn into a real electoral slaughter, and not into a “competitive competition of ideas and programs”, as the socialists wanted. In the absence of success in the domestic political arena, everything will certainly slide back to the geopolitics already familiar to Moldova – and this is already happening.
Another thing is that the external environment for the actors in Moldova has changed. If earlier Dodon could ‘skim the cream off’ only in Moscow, now he is well received in the European Union and the United States, slowly getting rid of the label ‘pro-Russian President’. Successes on gas have already ensured such a head start of the President over his competitors, so Sandu’s desire to take ‘foreign policy revenge’ is understandable. Ukraine is best suited for this, as it remains almost the only exclusive territory for the government of the Republic of Moldova, where Dodon is denied access.
From this point of view, the anti-Russian ‘relapse’ of Popescu in Kyiv makes sense. Of course, it will somewhat damage Sandu’s planned visit to Moscow in September. But this is, perhaps, a calculated loss – in the end, the President has already received all possible bonuses from Russia (trade, gas discount, etc.). In any case Sandu could only make banal and non-binding declarations about ‘strengthening of relations’.
The Ukrainian direction for the government looks much more promising. Not only that it can be worked alone, but it can bring no less dividends. For example, the population of Moldova will surely appreciate a solution to the problem with the construction of a hydroelectric station on the Dniester river, or substantial facilitation of cross-border movement. In addition, through Kyiv, the government will be able to influence the problem of unrecognized Transdniestria, which is crucial just for Dodon. And most importantly is that Sandu gets a real chance to join in with a ‘delicious’ gas conversation, only this time with the Ukrainian side.
It should be recognized that the coalition of socialists and pro-Europeans has not yet passed the first challenging sustainability test. The country’s political forces once again plunge into adventure, building ‘foreign policy bastions’ ahead of electoral battles on the ground and for the presidency. Apparently, a bad example in the Moldovan environment is very contagious.
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