Opinion: Will Russia Refuse Providing the Loan to Moldova?

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Sergiu CEBAN The ongoing scandals surrounding the Russian loan to Moldova discredit and may finally nullify the positive effect of the financial assistance provision. Fighting against pandemic has made serious adjustments to the political life of the country. One of the supporting agenda elements of the ruling coalition and personally of President Igor Dodon was the highly demanded and long-awaited Russian loan; its approval process lasted for six months. The topic for the country to obtain the large loan gradually became one of the main informational issues that was systematically gaining momentum as provided by the classical principles of the political-technological genre. The unexpected decisions of the Constitutional Court further fueled the “credit history”, bringing a fair share of drama into it, giving rise to a new wave of expert comments and conspiracy theories. As you know, immediately after the country's parliament approved the bill on credit, a meeting of the Constitutional Court took place and most members voted to the remove Vladimir Tsurkan the head of the Constitutional Court from office (he being close to the socialists) and to appoint instead Domnica Manole, who previously was nominated by the “Truth and Dignity Platform” and who represents the opposition today. At the same meeting, the Constitutional Court decided to block the bill on obtaining the loan from Russia, decision based on Sergiu Sarbu’s application, the deputy of the «Pro Moldova» group. Meanwhile, opposition political groups - the Pro Moldova group and Maia Sandu's Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) - appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office requesting to initiate a criminal investigation against those officials and deputies who participated in the negotiations and approved the agreement between the Russian and Moldova governments on credit provision. A judicial review of the loan bill is expected in the near future. However, today this political “string” is stretched to the limit, since the consequences of the final credit resolution issue can be of decisive importance for Moldova’s political future for many years to come. RTA experts predicted the Western geopolitical actors’ expected reaction to Russia's current efforts as to credit “reprofiling” Moldova, aimed at reducing the republic’s chronic dependence on financial injections from the European Union and the IMF along with regular pumping from Romania. As one can see, the answer came quickly. Relying on loyal Moldova’s socio-political resources, Western development partners subjected the yet-to-be-held Russian financial assistance to constitutional “freezing”. In these circumstances, Russia is to bear significant costs in the project of credit support. Loan blocking is designed to nullify the positive reputation effects of timely friendly Russian assistance to Moldovan citizens during the difficult period, for which the Moldovan president publicly thanked Moscow. “Image killers” successfully completed their task and a well-heated scandal aims to make the Russian credit line so toxic that transferring funds only worsens Moscow’s reputation within Moldova and the international scene. The important preliminary conclusion to be drawn from this story is that the ruling coalition and Igor Dodon, for some reason, did not fully calculate all the options and failed to provide a guaranteed political “corridor” passage for the Russian financial support that Moldova really needs today. Here, one involuntarily recalls the well-known plots with ingenious chess combinations and local grandmasters. Another important conclusion that is always useful to keep in mind: even a visibly weakened and fragmented opposition, if skillfully working with constitutional and legal “bookmarks” inherited from the Plahotniuc era, is very capable of all kinds of unpleasant surprises. The third useful conclusion: The Western partners work tirelessly even being in quarantine. Under these conditions, the time has come for Washington to enter the game. Igor Dodon and US Ambassador Derek Hogan meeting a few days ago left behind a lot of questions. The embassy’s press release gives reason to believe that the conversation contained a number of signal theses like, for example, the phrase “any international assistance should be consistent with the Republic of Moldova sovereignty’s protection”. It seems that it was due to American diplomacy that IMF funds were credited to the National Bank of Moldova’s accounts even before the ratification procedure in parliament completed and the World Bank also decided to allocate about $ 50 million to support the fight against COVID-19. It is possible that in the near future other Western funds, provided by the USA will express an irresistible mass desire to support Moldova during the crisis. If compared to the financial scale it turned out a mediocre alternative to the Russian aid, but adopted by an amazing consensus of all political parties in the country without scandals, litigation and a common toxic plume. Russia again received quite an unexpected but thereby more useful work experience in the Moldovan direction. This is a good opportunity to analyze the practice and interaction strategy with the current Moldovan leadership. It is clear that the financial assistance project will not be curtailed by Moscow. If, as a result of political and legal battles the government and the president manage to defend the Russian “helping hand”, then they will be obliged to create all the conditions so that in the end Moldovan citizens could actually feel the eastern partner’s real support. And this task, as our Moldavian sad experience shows, will be much complicated than achieving the Constitutional Court’s positive decision.