Bucharest and Kiev are able to influence the course of events both in Moldova itself and around it: especially if the results of the upcoming elections do not correspond to their interests
Relations history of Kiev and Bucharest has a long and difficult fate, being mainly directly dependent on the global or regional conjuncture. Being in the Moscow’s orbit influence for a long time, Ukraine has been perceived in recent decades as not quite a friendly state within the Romanian public space. This was largely due to the 20th century historical heritage and especially to Romania’s territorial losses in favor of Kiev, losses that formed a negative image of Ukraine in the eyes of ordinary Romanians.
Despite a large baggage of unresolved problems, over the past 10 years, the countries have managed to smooth out tension in relations and take a different look at the prospects for cooperation. It all began with Romania’s accession to the European Union and NATO, in connection with which Bucharest made a difficult decision for itself and confirmed the absence of any territorial claims to neighboring Ukraine. Until that moment, with a certain degree of apprehension the Kiev elites perceived the periodically sounding statements of Bucharest politicians about the need to revive the “Greater Romania” project that would also include the western territories of the Ukrainian state.
Nevertheless, mistrust between neighbors persisted until the well-known 2014 events. However, the launched by Moscow active militarization of Crimea located 300 km off the coast of Romania, has become one of the main threats both for Bucharest and the entire southeastern NATO flank, radically changing the balance of power in the northern Black Sea region. The emergence of a common threat forced Ukraine and Romania, if not to forget long-standing claims and disputes then at least, to postpone them and revise the emphasis in the bilateral cooperation agenda.
Romania, whose ambitions previously did not go beyond the Moldovan direction, is now more and more confidently building up its strategic capabilities. Along with Poland, it has become one of Washington’s main allies in the Eastern European region and a key player in the Black Sea basin. According to experts, at the current stage the United States is making significant efforts to implement a long-term military-political project based on the Ukraine-Poland-Romania triangle. The latter should become a tight barrier for leveling any territorial, transit and infrastructure initiatives that could restart the process of rapprochement between the European Union and Russia.
Today, Romania is already one of the leading coordination centers, having on its territory the American air base in Deveselu entrusted with strategic tasks of strengthening the balance of regional security, primarily through the military containment of Moscow. Therefore, due to its geographical position Ukraine is perhaps one of the most demanded partners for Bucharest while implementing countermeasures against the Kremlin in the Black Sea.
It should be noted here that last week, military exercises “Riverine-2020” started in the Odessa region; exercises attended by naval forces and border departments of Romania and Ukraine. They practice coordination of actions on the Danube while repelling an attack of a conventional enemy. It is pertinent to recall that last year Bucharest (by an unspoken NATO leadership order) blocked the delivery of Russian military equipment and weapons planned to be transported along the Danube to Serbia.
Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba paid a working visit to Bucharest, where he met with Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu, parliamentarians and leaders of the Ukrainian community. In addition, the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was honored with the opportunity to act as an honored guest at the Romanian ambassadors annual meeting. The results of the minister’s trip confirmed the solid block of unresolved issues does exist; along with, particular irritation is associated with Kiev’s policy towards the Romanian-speaking population in Ukraine. It seems that Bucharest and Kiev are really determined expanding the range of interaction and launching new joint projects.
Bilateral relations between Romania and Ukraine are of great importance for Moldova who is literally sandwiched between these countries. Such a dependent position not only on Bucharest and Kiev, but also on the regional situation as a whole leaves its mark on the prospects or the situation in the republic development and the resolution of internal problems. This year’s striking example is the launch of the Romanian-Ukrainian ferry crossing “Isaccea-Orlovka” without looking back at the Moldovan side, which will ultimately lead to a significant decrease in the transit potential of the Republic of Moldova in the southern direction.
It is no secret that Bucharest and Kiev are closely following the internal political processes in Moldova and do not hide their expectations such as political forces advocating effective partnership with Russia removal from power. Thus, if Kiev broadcasts its discontent by demonstratively keeping President Igor Dodon at a distance with a visible minimization of bilateral contacts, then the Romanian leadership has completely overstepped the permissible boundaries publicly criticizing Chisinau and putting the label “temporary” on the current Moldovan government.
In these circumstances, one may notice that Bucharest and Kiev are coordinating their tactical efforts and this may become another additional factor of external influence on the Moldovan internal political processes. Thus, there is reason to expect the situational Romanian-Ukrainian tandem will soon reveal itself in the context of unfolding presidential race in Moldova.
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