Expert: West Plans Summer 2020 Counteroffensive in Moldova

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Sergiu CEBAN Apparently, the Russian loan to Moldova tends to become a trigger for the next domestic political changes in the country The current stalemate caused by opposition’s unexpectedly tough decision to block the Russian financial support receival, exposed confrontation degree and the real situation in the republic’s political field. Along with, a certain coalition managerial structure weakness got revealed and that does not allow the current country leadership to administer strategic issues of national importance. Against this background, the activation of Western partners bearing financial resources alternative (to the Russian) does not seem accidental. Only this week was marked by two high visits to Moldova at once - the ministers of foreign affairs of Hungary and Romania, who arrived to assist in the fight against Covid-19. As you know, Chisinau has signed strategic partnership agreements with these states defining a special level of interstate relations. Hungary, in particular, transferred personal protective equipment humanitarian aid and also opened access to previously agreed assistance in the amount of 100 million euros to support the business environment in Moldova. Bucharest, in turn, sent a group of qualified medical workers in addition to protective equipment to professionally strengthen the Moldovan healthcare system and a batch of medicines. As you know, over the past six months, Western diplomacy has been mainly monitoring the situation not hesitating to make recommendations but at the same time keeping the new leadership of Moldova sacrificing the pro-European ACUM bloc in the name of a new alliance. However, this week has shown a certain position softening. This is especially evident in the example of the Romanian Minister Bogdan Aurescu. Earlier, he spoke quite sharply on the situation in the neighboring country and called on the EU to tighten its approach to the Moldovan authorities, including freezing any assistance. Now, due to some circumstances, and possibly requests from senior partners, the head of the Romanian Foreign Ministry is forced to personally arrive in Chisinau and transfer a batch of medical care. One way or another, the foreign ministers’ humanitarian theme of visits is a reason in some way, especially for Aurescu. An equally important task, it seems, will be encouraging all pro-European forces to take more decisive action in the given period when the current Moldovan leadership is distracted fighting against pandemic. In this regard, despite the official Romanian diplomat’s meetings schedule we should expect his contacts with the opposition and other political forces integrated into the public administration system. In this sense, one cannot fail to notice the growing attention of the West to the methodically “deoligarchizing” Democratic Party throughout the year. For example, Pavel Filip’s public conversation with US Ambassador Derek Hogan gets openly presented. During this very conversation the issue of post-crisis government and various sectors of the economy support were discussed. In addition, Maia Sandu’s rhetoric occurred noticeable adjustments as to a greater interest towards cooperation that may create the prerequisites for dialogue with the Democrats restarting. Apparently, the PDM reorganization from Vlad Plahotniuc’s influence was recognized as finally completed because the other day the PAS leader suggested that the Democrats faction rethink their positions in a coalition alliance with the socialists. Thus, she hinted at the need to unite efforts against Igor Dodon both in the context of the upcoming presidential race and in terms of minimizing its impact on political processes in the country. Sandu’s calls for unification are not only directly meant for PDM, but also for its “left fragment” of the Candu group: “Andrian Candu has sins that he accumulated over time but it’s never too late to do something good for the country.” What lies behind Western colleagues activation and the new tone of the opposition rhetoric? At a minimum, a simple mathematical calculation shows that the PDM, ACUM, Pro Moldova and “Shor” votes will be enough to send the socialists to opposition. The likelihood of a coalition bond between PDM and PAS would have been a fantasy last year, marked by violent political battles and the expulsion of the “puppeteer” but at this point, after all the political transformations such an alliance is unlikely to become something impossible. Moreover, the socialists themselves and international partners have long and openly recognized that the Democrats not only consciously embarked on the correction path but were able to almost instantly clear themselves of their previous "sins." In this situation, one can confidently expect that the experienced leaders of the Democratic Party are unlikely to agree to become a temporary backup for another fast-growing partner with ambitions for the presidency. They will require for themselves not only guarantees and a new redistribution of spheres of influence but also tangible competencies and powers that will ensure a stable political "present" for years to come. Therefore, the political equation that would provide for a pro-European coalition in parliament creating, PSRM from power removing, a pro-European government led by Pavel Filip forming and the guaranteed victory of Maia Sandu in the presidential election does not look so improbable. Last fall, it was considered in the West that the socialists with the obvious support of their eastern partner played, to put it mildly, not obeying the rules when hardly pushing from the managerial orbit Maia Sandu, the promising prime minister that many capitals have high hopes from. The story, unfolding today around the Russian loan blocking and other international partners’ unexpected desire to help Moldova may well be considered as an “artillery preparation” for a major political counter-offensive.