Has Moldova “Planned” Confrontation with Russia?

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Sergiu CEBAN
The government has adopted an Action Plan for 2021-2022 which envisages developing cooperation with Romania, the European Union, the United States and Ukraine. As for improving relations with Russia, there are apparently no such plans in Chisinau at all – quite the opposite is true.
The government, which is now in an unenviable position after a series of setbacks and major mistakes, appears to be trying to rectify a more or less predictable working pace. Perhaps, this is what has led to the approval of the Action Plan for 2021-2022, which somehow sheds light on what our officials will be dealing with for the next year or more. The main goals include increasing the public administration efficiency, promoting a “balanced” foreign policy, optimizing financial costs, modernizing health and education systems, further digital transformation of the state, improving competitiveness of Moldovan goods and services, maintaining law and order, security and the country’s reintegration. In foreign policy, the Cabinet of Ministers will mainly aim at drafting and implementing the updated agenda with the European Union for 2021-2027, as well as at further implementation of the provisions of the Association Agreement with the EU. At the same time, there are plans to focus on building up economic relations with the European Union and deepening bilateral cooperation with member states separately. Given the ongoing developments, special attention will certainly be paid to security issues, including in the energy sector. Further development of the strategic partnership with Romania stands apart and involves, in addition to formal aspects related to active bilateral exchanges, including high-level ones, the continued practice of holding joint meetings of the two governments. There are also plans to launch a number of joint infrastructure projects, including the interconnection of the electric power systems of the two states. Steps to proceed with strengthening relations with our eastern neighbor, Ukraine, are also envisaged, primarily in ensuring the appropriate control and security level on the joint section of the border, including the central Transdniestrian segment. In order to maintain high-level political contacts, there is also an intention to hold the first meeting of the Council of Presidents of Moldova and Ukraine. A separate important point concerns the approval by the government of the relevant decision to start negotiations on bilateral military-technical cooperation with Kiev. As for the United States of America, our government plans to promote a “consistent and effective strategic dialogue” with an eye to expanding areas of bilateral cooperation. One of these areas will be developing an agreement that will open the Moldovan air transportation market for the United States and the possibility of using the capital’s international airport. As regards Russia, there are few plans, to put it mildly. “Promoting a constructive and pragmatic dialogue” is apparently expected to be discussed only during the visit of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu to Moscow. Furthermore, the Cabinet of Ministers intends to hold the necessary consultations with Russia and other international partners to ensure transparency in the process of complete and final withdrawal of foreign troops and weapons from the territory of our state. The government’s Action Plan is outlined in a manner that demonstrates not only Chisinau’s dissatisfaction with the current level of Moldovan-Russian cooperation, but also, paradoxically, a demonstrative unwillingness to change it. On the contrary, the Cabinet of Ministers shortsightedly intends to increase pressure on the Kremlin, thereby expressing the absence of any interest in normalizing relations. Which, in general, is absolutely contrary to what the ruling party promised during the pre-election period. Either way, Chisinau has apparently decided on the vision of its foreign policy relations for the foreseeable future. The main priorities have been outlined, the main routes in the international arena have been laid, and the necessary priorities have been set. It remains only to understand our country’s standing in the very near future. US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland recently visited Moscow, as she is more than familiar with the state of affairs in the post-Soviet region. Of course, the main topic of negotiations on various “levels” in the Russian capital was Ukraine and the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas. Experts keep wondering what the official representatives of the United States and Russia talked about during the three-day visit and what exactly they could have agreed on at least in an interim, since both sides were willing to communicate. The other day, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Mihai Popsoi, mentioned that in the ongoing negotiations on gas supplies Chisinau intends to clarify the prospects for signing a new contract following the results of Dmitry Kozak’s next visit to Chisinau expected in the coming days. The fact that the announcement of this trip was entrusted to the deputy chairman of the Action and Solidarity Party looks like another awkward attempt by the authorities to shield from unwanted questions, such as “who invited Kozak this time?”. Still more unconvincing and even curious is the attempt to cover up the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia exclusively with the gas issue, as if this was a serious problem for Moscow, requiring an urgent flight to Chisinau. Most likely, after consultations with American diplomats, the expected arrival of the Kremlin emissary to Moldova this week has much broader reasons, and the “gas situation” can be considered as a means of diverting public attention. Recently, a lot of intrigue has accumulated around the contacts of our top-ranking officials with the Russian administration, primarily because of very limited information without any clear answers. The paramount question is what we are going to negotiate with Moscow, considering the undisguised anti-Russian intentions of the Moldovan government, and what so important are we planning to concede that Dmitry Kozak’s next visit to Chisinau was required.