Despite constant contacts with the American Ambassador to Moldova, Igor Dodon seems to have failed to secure Washington’s support
In June 2019, after the acute crisis in Moldova, there was a complete reset of the political system. The power changed with the tacit consensus of influential international players, including the United States. Particularly after a brief conversation with US Ambassador Dereck Hogan Vlad Plahotniuc decided to leave Moldova immediately (and according to media reports, he is currently in Miami).
A ruling coalition was formed in Moldova, which included ideological opponents – the Party of Socialists and the ACUM bloc. Russia, the EU and the US had high hopes for it. But the artificially created political entity was not viable. In November 2019, contradictions between socialists and pro-Europeans led to the resignation of Maia Sandu’s government. And the PSRM, supported by the Democratic Party, formed a so-called ‘technocratic government’.
The resignation of Maia Sandu was unexpected for international partners and was not welcomed in the European Union and the United States. The American Ambassador to Moldova did not hide his disappointment. “We were disappointed with what had happened because we felt that the coalition between the PSRM and the ACUM bloc had great potential for carrying out the necessary reforms. Unfortunately, this coalition fell apart,” said Dereck Hogan.
The new Moldovan authorities sought to smooth over the displeasure of the Western partners, demonstrating full readiness to continue the previous course. Igor Dodon’s rhetoric has changed dramatically. Despite the pro-Russian slogans, the President and the government actually controlled by him proclaimed a balanced foreign policy, which, in fact, is not much different from its predecessors’. Thus, the new leadership of Moldova immediately stressed that relations with the European Union and implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU remain the main priorities for Moldova. And no one intends to curtail cooperation with NATO anymore.
Dereck Hogan regularly meets with Igor Dodon and other senior Moldovan officials, who convince the American Ambassador that relations with the United States remain strategic for Moldova. But Washington does not seem satisfied with the current balance of power in Moldova, and it decided to regain the initiative in Moldova by playing a new political solitaire.
On December 6, George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, arrived in Chisinau. In the presence of the US Ambassador, he held meetings with representatives of the highest Moldovan leadership – Parliament Speaker Zinaida Greceanii and Prime Minister Ion Chicu. Officially, during these contacts they touched upon the current situation in Moldova, the activities of the Parliament and the government, the reforms of justice as well as the Transdniestrian settlement. Chicu and Greceanii again assured the representative of the State Department that European integration reforms will continue, and obligations to development partners will be fulfilled. According to the Speaker of the Parliament, Moldova needs the support of the United States in this process.
More interestingly, on the day of his visit to Moldova, George Kent also received the leaders of the Democratic Party and the ACUM bloc – Pavel Filip, Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase. According to the US Embassy, the parties talked about “ways to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Moldova”. At the same time, it is telling that the meeting of the American envoy with President Igor Dodon never took place, and this is an alarming signal for the latter.
Apparently, the efforts of Igor Dodon to please the West, first of all, have not been reciprocated by the United States. The President’s hopes that his mediation will be needed to establish relations between the United States and Russia were dashed. George Kent said bluntly that Washington did not need it: “For us, Moldova is not a bridge of access anywhere, Moldova is a country with which we have good and strong partnerships and citizens whom we want to support”.
It is not surprising that many experts regard the visit of Kent as one of the touches (perhaps even the finishing touch) in shaping a new strategy of US actions in the Moldovan direction. It is already obvious that Washington saw the resignation of the Sandu’s government a breakup of the tacit international consensus that led to the elimination of Plahotniuc’s power in June this year, and a shift in the balance of power in Moldova towards Russia. And the United States is unlikely to forgive even a nominal victory for Moscow in a country that has long been considered a fiefdom of the West.
Washington currently has enough space for political maneuver. The most obvious option will be making up of the new ruling majority of the remediated Democrats and the pro-European bloc. However, the latter needs to overcome the disintegration processes – possibly, it was touched upon at the Kent’s meeting with Sandu and Nastase.
In addition to the PDM-ACUM coalition, there may be other, more unexpected scenarios, but Dodon and the PSRM are unlikely to play a part there. In all likelihood, the Moldovan leader, with his well-established reputation as a ‘Kremlin’s friend’, has not been able to convince Western partners of his loyalty. In any case, we can definitely say that next election year we will follow implementation of the new American strategy in Moldova.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.