“Moldova in the New Geopolitical Reality”

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Vladimir ROTAR
Yesterday’s events made it clear that it will be even more difficult to maneuver between the interests of geopolitical sharks, if not impossible
Our troubled authorities were indeed lucky again. The recent opinion polls data published yesterday, with new rating failures and numerous hardball questions, remained in the shadows against the background of historical events unfolding to the east of our borders. So, the escalation around Ukraine, or at least its first phase, ended with Russia’s recognition of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass. This marks tectonic shifts on a global scale, but first of all, of course, in our regional space. I think yesterday many of our citizens were also glued to TV screens to watch Vladimir Putin’s fateful message to the Russians. It was really candid and quite firm, in fact, a program statement which draws a line under Russia’s attempts to build bridges both with the West and Ukraine, which marked the beginning of a new geopolitical reality. In general, Putin’s speech sounded as if the LDPR’s recognition can be regarded only as a prologue to the further revision of the Eastern European zone of the former USSR. One can identify the following fundamental points in it: - modern Ukraine was created by the Bolsheviks, both geographically and ideologically. Many of its territories are “originally Russian lands”; - the whole Ukrainian project, which lacked stable traditions of statehood, is a historical mistake; - Ukraine is a failed state, which has been plundered by oligarchic groups and which has squandered the Soviet legacy; - Ukraine was built on the “anti-Russia” principle, it has lost its state sovereignty and is now a puppet of Western powers; - Ukraine is being used as a springboard for an offensive against Russia. Thus, de facto Putin not only declared Ukrainian statehood within its current borders “unlawful”, but also designated it as one of the existential threats to Russia’s being per se. Against this background, some phrases sounded very ominous - about the intention to show “real decommunization” and promises to punish all those responsible for the tragic events in Odessa in May 2014. It is still difficult to predict further developments, since all sides have a fairly wide room for maneuver. Much will depend on the magnitude of the Western sanctions package, as well as the reaction and actions of Ukraine when Russian troops appear on the contact line in the Donbas. Contradictory comments by Russian parliamentarians and Donbass representatives (for example, whether the LDPR will remain within its actual borders or try to somehow expand to legal ones) also offer plenty of scope for interpretations and next steps. One thing is for sure – what happened yesterday definitely leaves us little hope for an early detente in Russian-Western relations. The conflict, which some hoped would be defused by the talks that began earlier this year, will now continue with inevitable manifestations in other areas, not only in Ukraine. Perhaps only the transition to a direct armed conflict can be ruled out for now, as the level of confrontation is still not so high. The situation will also worsen for Moldova. It will be even more difficult to maneuver between the interests of geopolitical sharks, if at all possible. The level of influence of both the West and Russia in Moldova is high enough to provoke new rounds of confrontation on our territory. On the other hand, even sporadic endeavor for bilateral cooperation, as it was in 2019, is practically excluded. I think many of us have mentally estimated that a significant part of what Putin said yesterday could easily be projected onto our country. We have our historical roots of statehood definitely stronger than the Ukrainian ones, but in all other respects we have repeated the fate of our neighbors. Also, the potential accumulated during the Soviet period was quite incompetently wasted, nationalism was allowed to run rampant and as a result part of the territory was lost. They allowed the country to be plundered, bringing the population to a poor and for the most part oppressed state. Hence the question: what is the probability that the same Putin’s speech can ever be addressed to Moldova? The current events have once again shown what dangerous tiger our authorities, both past and present, are trying to ride. We have not been afraid to build our own “miniature anti-Russia” for a long time – de-russification of the population, the fight against “Russian propaganda”, constant hints or even open accusations of Russia’s aggression in 1992, hostile foreign policy actions (the Crimean platform, denouncing resolutions in the UN), etc. We even have our own “Donbass” (also, by the way, inherited from Soviet times), with which we have not been able to reach an agreement for 30 years. And here is what’s interesting. Yesterday, the Russian president said that Russia had done everything to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but Kiev did not want to return the eastern territories or implement the “Minsk Agreements” (supported by the West). As a result, this led to the recognition of the “LDPR”. In our case it was Russia that at one time almost helped to reunite the country – but Vladimir Voronin, as we remember, at the last moment refused to sign the “Kozak Memorandum” and extended the conflict indefinitely. Now we see quite persistent attempts by Moscow to finally resolve the Transdniestrian issue. This can be seen at least by the signals that came from the left bank at the end of last year, when the Transdniestrian leader proposed to start political negotiations (which Tiraspol usually refused in every way). Such an “initiative concession” could not have happened otherwise than at Moscow’s suggestion. However, Sandu, as Zelensky, refuses to communicate with the left bank, preferring to keep the conflict in a frozen state, around which “progress” is only imitated in the form of an unending “negotiation process”. Now we see that such tactics are fraught with huge risks. The regional situation right now is so volatile and unpredictable that making any forecasts is completely useless. We can only say one thing for sure – the space around us is changing, and we will probably have to change. Moldova, at least, will have to find a new balance in relations with the West and the East, as well as think about revising its strategy for the Transdniestrian settlement. What matters is that one should act considering not only Western embassies, but also to our own interests and the interests of Russia, with which, no matter how much we like it, we will have to reckon. After the events of recent months, it is simply naive to hope that Western support will save us from the saddest scenarios. At the same time, constantly tempting a “bear” is risky, because at a critical moment we will most likely have to deal with it one-on-one.