Moscow, apparently, accepted that Moldova is a zone of Bucharest’s exclusive interests, and there can be only one “world” on the territory between the Prut and the Dniester – the Romanian one
After the period of external isolation of Moldova ended with President Maia Sandu and her Action and Solidarity Party coming to power, the republic's international contacts are flourishing, particularly so in relations with Romania. The days when Bucharest had to act in Brussels not in the usual role of Moldova's lawyer, but its prosecutor, demanding tougher requirements for providing European assistance, are over. The current Moldovan authorities have full mutual understanding with their Romanian counterparts, effect the exceptional nature of relations between the two countries, reviving the traditions of holding joint meetings of parliaments and governments, regularly exchanging visits at different levels.
Most Moldovan and Romanian experts believe that the countries are entering a new historical phase in the relations development, which will be characterized by accelerated mutual integration in strategic areas. The roadmap signed on November 23 during Maia Sandu’s visit to Bucharest on priority areas of cooperation, which includes the provision of technical and financial assistance, regional and territorial cooperation, cooperation in the field of energy security and much more, can be considered a prerequisite.
“Romania is the most important strategic partner, without which the Republic of Moldova cannot develop into a sovereign and independent state with an effective democracy, a functional rule of law, a dynamic and stable economy, national security that corresponds to its ideal,” comments the new Moldovan Ambassador to Romania Victor Chirila.
The Ambassador also highlights the exceptional importance of Bucharest’s support for Moldova’s European integration. According to him, now in the presence of a stable “pro-European and pro-Romanian majority” there is a real chance to get closer to the European Union owing to the help of a neighboring state:
“Romania wants to help us integrate into the European Union as soon as possible, advance in the sphere of reforms and building a functioning rule of law state, create a common economic space with Romania and, thereby, with the European Union. Because it understands that this can contribute to political and economic stability and prosperity of citizens in the Republic of Moldova. It is a great fortune that we have such an ally state as Romania that does not attach its assistance to political ambitions.”
The Transnistrian issue remains one of the sensitive matters. This region, controlled by Moscow through a puppet separatist regime, for obvious reasons falls out of the described integration processes. Until now, both in Moldova itself and in Romania, there are different views on the place of this territory in the united Romanian space. Victor Chirila, for example, believes that the reintegration of the left bank into the legal, economic and social space of the Republic of Moldova is already actively underway and it needs to continue: “I think that over the past 15 years we have to admit that from an economic and social point of view, the Transnistrian region has become much more integrated than used to be. The most important economic market for the Transnistrian region is the Right Bank and Romania. We are a strategic market for the Transnistrian region.”
The main obstacle on this path, according to Chirila, is the illegal presence of Russian troops and the current peacekeeping mission that has failed to fulfilled its goal. The Ambassador pointed out that there are no armed clashes between the two banks, and Chisinau has repeatedly stressed its willingness to resolve the conflict peacefully. At the same time, the existing mission does not have a mandate to reconcile and deepen relations between the two banks, to expand contacts between their residents:
“That's why in the near future, of course, after negotiations with our important partners, such as the United States and the European Union, but also with the Russian Federation, another mission is needed to monitor and guarantee security in this area, a civilian international mission with a clear mandate, the purpose of which is to promote dialogue and interaction between us. I repeat, the peacekeeping mission does not have this mandate and therefore cannot contribute to the process of reintegration and rapprochement of the two banks of the Dniester.”
For a long time, Russia’s position has indeed been a sticking point on the way to the final settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Despite the official recognition of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, Moscow has supported the Tiraspol regime in many ways, including artificial methods like the mass distribution of Russian passports, it created reasons to strengthen influence in Transnistria, as well as energy ties to hold the whole of Moldova hostage. It is believed that the Kremlin’s policy has no special tendencies for transformation here – but not everyone shares this opinion.
Thus, Radu Ungureanu, a political scientist from Bucharest, sees significant changes both in Russia’s behavior and in settling the Transnistrian issue. “The settlement process is finally breaking out of the hopeless vortex where it has been led in the last decade. As time has shown, betraying the discussion of the reunification formula for solving minor household problems has proved to be in vain. No matter how much Chisinau concedes to Tiraspol, the authorities of the region come up with more and more “problems”, wedging them into negotiations, which in this mode can last indefinitely. Therefore, a completely different approach is needed,” the expert explains.
Ungureanu is encouraged by the recent events around Transnistria, which may indicate the approaching denouement of this long-standing conflict: “What the separatist regime calls a “blockade” is in fact a simple return to the common legal and economic space. This, by the way, is for the benefit of the region itself, creating new economic opportunities for it, as it already was the case with DCFTA. The proof that nothing special is happening is the recent quite calm statement of the OSCE Ministerial Council, agreed by Russia as well, which confirms the crisis-free course of the settlement.”
The Bucharest expert believes that Russia has accepted the fact that the settlement of the conflict is possible only on the terms of Chisinau and Bucharest, where Moldova itself is an exclusive zone of Romanian national interests: “I don't know if the idea of the so-called “Russian World” has finally gone into the past, but for sure it has not taken root in Moldova. Whatever politicians are at the helm in Chisinau, the zone between the Prut and the Dniester was and remains our natural “area of influence”, the united future of which is beyond doubt. There can only be a “Romanian World” here, if you want to call it that way.”
Sandu and her young promising team’s coming to power, according to the analyst, will finally help break the vicious circle and snatch Moldova from the Kremlin’s clutches: “Anchor number one is energy. The Moldovan government is determined to diversify energy sources in a few years so as not to experience Moscow’s blackmail again. The money has already been found, the political will is persists, so we can hope that everything planned will be implemented on time. Anchor number two is Transnistria. But here, again, as we can see, there is great progress. If in the next couple of years, we do not see a serious change in the status quo, it will be possible to fix that Moscow has tacitly agreed to leave the region, which after that will have nothing else but to return to back home.”