What Will Be Like the Relations between Moldova and Russia after Parliamentary Elections?

Home / Analytics / What Will Be Like the Relations between Moldova and Russia after Parliamentary Elections?
Sergiu CEBAN No matter what way the situation develops following the results of early parliamentary elections, Moscow does still have several key influence levers on Chisinau. Since Igor Dodon’s election to the presidency in 2016, the spirited Russian press has been replete with headlines for almost a year about a renaissance in relations between Moldova and Russia, which, as expected, will gradually level out. Serious tectonic shifts in the regional landscape space were apparently considered in Moscow as suitable conditions to successfully turn around on to the Moldavian direction and turn the situation in its favor. However, the increased Western partners’ attention and the complex geopolitical context, into which our country is sinking deeper and deeper from year to year, did not allow not only the omnipotent Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc to stay afloat, but also left no chance for Igor Dodon to be re-elected to a second presidential term. As a result, 2020 has become an instructive example of excessively high expectations that would as usually crumble when the desired collisions with the reality. As we remember, back in the early 90s, after the tragic events on the Dniester, Chisinau, not feeling any confidence in the Russian Federation, made a fundamental strategic decision for itself to keep a safe distance from the Russian capital and distance itself from any forms of integrational cooperation with Moscow. ... If we leave aside all the conciliatory rhetoric of both individual Russian and Moldovan politicians, then the entire 30-year period of Moldovan-Russian interaction passed in the mode of a protracted cascade fall, being currently at the point that objectively reflects the real state of affairs. Without going into the details of all the ups and downs of the past three decades, it could be noted that the unsatisfactory atmosphere of cooperation between the two countries appears to be the result of two key gaps. One of them is the Transdniestrian problem, which led to the first serious cooling between Chisinau and Moscow, which entailed the use of sanctions by Russia, among other things. As well known, this happened precisely after the failure of the Russian initiative to resolve the conflict on the Dniester (the so-called "Kozak plan"), after which bilateral relations rapidly went downhill. But if after 2003 there were still bursts of activity within, then the seemingly inevitable drop occurred in 2014, when, in response to the Agreement on Association and Deep Free Trade Zone signed with the European Union, Russia introduced tariff restrictions that practically blocked mutual trade. As a result, Moldovan producers were forced to adapt to new conditions and reorient themselves to the newly opened European markets, while Russia's economic influence in the republic has noticeably decreased. The second half of this year may become another milestone and a new frontier in the issue of relations between Russia and our country. There is no doubt that this relationship should be pragmatic and mutually beneficial. Everyone knows the beloved Moldovan tradition of turning literally every election into a competition of geopolitical priorities, each time conducting the "main" and "last" battle to save the country either from the threat of the notorious "hand of Moscow" or from the danger of getting "swarthy descendants of NATO soldiers." There is no doubt that after July 11, the new leadership of Moldova, if it really represents adequate and responsible politicians, will have to carry out a deep and meaningful reorganization in the form of clearing the political "husk" of the nature of the country's relations with both the West and the East. Otherwise, Moldova for the next decades will continue to make strange gestures on the world arena in a long-standing absurd position of a geopolitical "raspberry", which does not help us solve internal problems at all and does not add international authority to the country. It is important to understand that regardless political coloring of the future parliamentary majority, Russia will still retain a number of important factors of influence on the situation in the country. Summarizing, three main directions can be identified - the supply of basic energy resources to the Republic of Moldova, trade and provision of jobs for Moldovan labor migrants, participation in the settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict and in the related peacekeeping operation. Generating its international approaches, Chisinau will inevitably have to take into account these factors, and if they are underestimated, we may face further failures, scandals and problems. Whether it is worth repeating past mistakes is not a trivial question. According to most experts, after parliamentary elections, the Kremlin is unlikely to take any extraordinary steps on to the Moldovan direction, acting in line with its usual agenda, which presupposes preventing violations of republic's neutrality and maintaining a stable state within the framework of the Transdniestrian settlement. Maia Sandu and her political entourage, claiming dominant political positions in the early parliamentary elections, are trying to maintain a demonstratively conflict-free tone of statements regarding Moscow. Obviously, this position is dictated by political technology logic. What matters more is the approach that the new government will take after the July 11 elections. It is obvious that the establishment of a pragmatic dialogue with Moscow in the current difficult post-pandemic situation is useful for our state. It should not be ruled out that at first, Sandu will try to follow the recently voiced in Berlin paradigm about Moldova as an “oasis of regional stability”. This means, one can hope that the head of state will abandon the deliberate aggravation of the rivalry between Washington and Moscow according to the "Saakashvili model." Among the Moldovan president's entourage there should be experts who understand the fundamental importance of the factor of US-Russian relations, the negative fluctuations of which might not have the best effect on the internal political stability in the republic. The competition between the West and Russia on the post-Soviet space only partially affected Moldova, since interest in Chisinau was minimal for a long time. Nevertheless, as NATO and the EU get closely to the borders of the Russian Federation and whilst Washington and Brussels keep their subsequent active actions in this foreign policy sector, Moldova does gradually leave the peripheral zone and practically gets into the epicenter of complex regional intersections with various geopolitical projections. It is still difficult to say exactly how the relations between Chisinau and Moscow will develop in the coming years. It is obvious that attempts to completely exclude Russia from the equation of “a stable and developing Moldova” at the current stage are absolutely divorced from reality. Therefore, the new generation of Moldovan politicians faces a long-standing task, which for many years the predecessors have not been able to solve, namely, to establish predictable balanced relations with Russia in the context of the republic's growing Euro-Atlantic integration.