Expert: Moldovan Authorities Intend to Tighten a Gas Loop

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In order to reverse the unsuccessful course of negotiations on Russian gas supplies to Moldova, the authorities are prepared to make even high-risk moves with poorly predictable consequences
Vladimir ROTAR, RTA: There are less than two weeks left until the moment when a long-term contract on gas supplies to our country is supposed to be concluded. As before, in the current situation it is only clear that nothing is clear. The government still tends to avoid clear reports on the progress of negotiations with Gazprom, sharing only vague formulations that clarify a little more than nothing. Therefore, only some indirect signs can tell us what’s really going on. Thus, it is quite obvious that the false optimism of our officials on the gas issue has almost faded. As a result, speaking to the press today, the prime minister finally admitted that tariffs for the population will increase and that the ongoing negotiations are “not that easy.” Against this background, panic moods are growing in the society being fueled by regular news stories, for example, about the need to economize on gas and even about gas cut-offs in relation to those who will not reduce consumption. So far, the country’s leadership refrains from direct harsh attacks on Moscow, but it is clear that the foundation to justify the probable failure of the negotiations or their completion not in Chisinau’s favor is already being prepared. The authorities are already using civil society and loyal experts to convey passages about Russia’s “gas blackmail”, about the alleged deliberate avoidance of negotiations with our officials, or about some unbearable political conditions. Meanwhile, Moldovan representatives continue to pretend that it is possible to solve the current problems with gas not only with Moscow. And while Nicu Popescu for some reason went to Bulgaria instead of the Russian capital, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu, who is in charge of gas in the government, went to Poland to discuss the supply of a strategic energy resource to Moldova. Warsaw is known to abandon Russian gas starting from 2023 in favor of Norwegian gas, which will be delivered via a new gas pipeline. Moreover, it consumes liquefied natural gas from the USA. None of these options obviously suites our republic which lacks the necessary infrastructure. Therefore, it’s not clear what exactly the authorities want to achieve from this visit. All this looks like attempts to imitate possibilities for diversification, which I wrote earlier are actually non-existent yet. No matter how much we wouldn’t like to admit it, there are no viable alternatives to Russian natural gas right now. And, in fact, nothing has been done over the past years to make them appear. The only thing that was possible was to create other than Ukrainian routes of receipt. But only gas from the Russian Federation can flow in all these new pipes - either directly through an agreement with Moscow or through intermediaries but with appropriate margins. There are attempts right now to make us believe that the latter is a backup option, although economically this is absolutely unprofitable because the cost of gas in this case will exceed even today’s already high 790 dollars per thousand cubic meters. At the same time, with this scenario in mind, they look primarily at neighboring Romania, although Bucharest seems to be unable to supply gas without Basically we return to the notorious dead end again. The head of state has finally deigned to help find a way out of it. It was the presidency that sent an invitation to Moscow to Dmitry Kozak to visit Chisinau again. However, refusal followed in response. So, interestingly, this time the Moldovan representative Vlad Kulminski will have to go, for whom, as deputy Prime Minister for reintegration, the gas issue, to put it mildly, is not entirely relevant. On the other hand, it fits into the outline of recent events, where the Transdniestrian issue suddenly began to cross paths with the gas one. Judging by the comments from the other bank, Chisinau allegedly offered Tiraspol to approach Russia about gas, in return promising to help solve the transport crisis in the region. Of course, the left-bank administration did not like this arrangement at all. At the same time, Natalia Gavrilita said that she plans to arrange a call with Transdniestrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky, officially in order to talk about gas supplies to the region. Many experts and politicians are now openly advising the authorities to start using the Transdniestrian issue in negotiations as a lever of pressure on Moscow. Indeed, at first glance, this is a logical step, especially since the Kremlin is unlikely to allow the termination of gas supply to the loyal separatist enclave, as well as further deterioration of its socio-economic situation. And, therefore, they might be ready to make concessions. But this is only in theory. In practice, this is rather a desperate measure that can further damage Russian-Moldovan relations. Moscow is unlikely to forget such blackmail from Chisinau, and for its part may respond by increasing assistance to the left bank, including in the Transdniestrian settlement process, as well as by vetoing any dialogue on the withdrawal of its troops in Moldova and the disposal of ammunition. The only thing that can calm the leadership of the republic in this situation is numerous signs of support from the EU and Romania. However, there are no specifics yet, and it is not at all clear what Brussels and Bucharest can do if the purchase gas prices for Moldova increase five or more times. It is logical to assume that special subsidies may be provided to Chisinau, but so far this is purely hypothetical reasoning, because there are no similar cases in European practice. The moment of “gas clarity” for Moldova is already very close. It is almost impossible to say for sure now what the denouement of this intriguing plot will be. But one cannot but admit that for the most part the authorities are to blame for their own current problems. My colleagues and I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the quixotic anti-Russian foreign policy, that the ruling party vigorously pursued immediately after winning the elections, is bad luck and the consequences will show up very quickly. And the unfortunate global trends in the energy market have also aggravated the situation, which is now being solved at an emergency pace and sometimes in a very risky manner. In this sense, the involvement of the Transdniestrian element is certainly a long shot that can turn against Chisinau to an even greater extent than previous foreign policy actions.