How Will the Geopolitical Battle for Moldova End

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Sergiu CEBAN Presidential elections in Moldova attracted leading international players’ attention: the EU and the US are pressing on Chisinau and preparing the ground for voting results non-recognition; at the same time, Russia publicly accuses the West of interfering in republic’s internal affairs and even of intending to organize another color revolution. Moldova's international partners have long and closely watched the pre-election situation development in the republic. At the same time, after the de-oligarchization of Moldovan politics procedure (implemented last year by joint efforts), during the first half of this year, key external players tried to maintain a certain equidistance from what was happening in Chisinau. However, as autumn political season was approaching, the representatives of the United States and the European Union began commenting without hesitation on presidential elections preparations, focusing the authorities’ attention on the need to ensure an open and fair electoral process. Over time, Western diplomats’ public statements began to take on more and more pronounced forms of political pressure, as evidenced by the US Deputy State Secretary call to Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu bearing the warning-appeal to do everything possible so that fair elections are held in the country. In the opinion of Brussels, the forthcoming vote does not arouse much confidence; in the EU's opinion, Moldovan authorities have not yet created a solid regulatory foundation to ensure truly democratic reforms in the country. The European Parliament even elevated the upcoming presidential elections to the status of a decisive moment for the republic and a test for democracy and the rule of law for Moldova. Experts regard such politically overstated demands on Chisinau as a preliminary shaping of the EU's position for non-recognizing voting results if the current president wins in. Moldova’s “Western friends” assign a special place to Romania, which as well known, is deeply immersed in Moldovan affairs and can have a significant practical impact on the internal situation in the neighboring state. In this sense, discussing Bucharest’s further actions in the Moldovan direction that Romanian Foreign Minister, Bogdan Aurescu apparently agreed upon during his recent visit to his American counterpart Mike Pompeo, looks completely not casual. However, the West pressure seems to yield results, as Igor Dodon and his entourage are doing everything possible to avoid accusations. To date, some electoral tricks have been eliminated: in particular, the situation around polling stations abroad, as well as the “paid voting” of Pridnestrovians, to which American and European diplomats drew special attention. Recall, on October 20, the CEC of Moldova banned vehicles movement with a capacity of more than 8 people on November 1 from 7.00 to 21.00 to prevent organized voters’ transportation. Such an onslaught from Washington and the EU did not remain unnoticed by Moscow and last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov first accused the United States of interfering in Moldova's affairs in the interests of securing its dominant position and preventing the formation of another coalition between right-wing and left-wing parties. Moreover, according to the Russian diplomat, Americans do not have any long-term goal and are planning to create another hotbed of instability in the post-Soviet space - in Moldova. In response to this, a material compromising the Kremlin and Igor Dodon was injected; that was a journalistic investigation revealing some juicy details of Moldovan president with Russian officials’ interaction (retired and current employees of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service), who as follows from the publication, provide support for his political career over the years. For several days, journalists, experts and Telegram channels were actively discussing the next information leak, attributing the authorship to various special services and made conspiracy theories about how exactly unauthorized persons got access to the phone and personal Igor Dodon’s data. The answer seems to be out in the open. One has only to rewind the July this year events, when facts became public and showed that Vladimir Plahotniuc created an internal telephone network and issued all telephone devices with a closed corporate mobile application whilst ruling Moldova, to ensure total control over his entourage. The current head of state, most likely owned such a terminal as well. At the level of Foreign Intelligence Service Director, the Kremlin reacted quite harshly and unequivocally to such an attack. When speaking about the US interference in the internal affairs of Moldova and when accusing it of intending to organize another “color revolution”, the Russian side called things by their proper names revealing the geopolitical confrontation between the United States and Russia in the Moldovan direction. Judging by events’ dynamics, Washington and Moscow have not yet managed to find in Moldova a balanced model of relations based on spheres of influence delimitation and mutual agreement not to cross the red lines. Therefore, our long-suffering republic will face another large-scale political crisis in the near future, a crisis that has every reason to become protracted due to external actors’ noticeable involvement.