Moldova Is Being Pushed to Break off Relations with Russia

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Vladimir ROTARI
The neutral position in the Ukrainian conflict, which was initially announced by the country’s leadership, is over
Yesterday was one of those rare days for the recent time when events inside the country definitely attracted much more public attention than what is happening outside of it. With insane frequency the parliament approved the bills put forward by the ruling party, however, the two biggest of them had a direct connection with the Ukrainian conflict. The first law, which very quickly gained notoriety, on the so-called “information security”, de facto introduces state censorship and total dictate of the media space in the country. With its help, it is planned to smear all opposition media, create a system of “one correct opinion”, and, in addition, legalize the permanent blocking of the broadcast of Russian media. The second set of amendments adopted in the second reading (that is, ultimately) imposed a ban on the use of symbols and paraphernalia “promoting military aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity”. These were considered, for example, the letters Z and V, which are applied to the uniforms of Russian soldiers and their military equipment involved in the conflict in Ukraine. This taboo was quite expected after Maia Sandu’s emotional reaction to the events in the Ukrainian Butch. But along with them, the St. George ribbon also fell under the “sanctions”, which is much more difficult to explain. Yes, Russian armed forces now also often use them as an element of equipment, but actually this symbol is not monopolistically Russian, it belongs to all former Soviet republics and for their residents is primarily associated with the victory over Nazi Germany. Moldova is no exception in this regard, and St. George ribbons are also widely used, especially on the eve of Victory Day (the celebration of which they also seem to want to limit). This, by the way, is not the first action against this symbol – the liberals repeatedly tried to veto the ribbons in the mid-2010s, but even then, during the darkest period of European integration, the government was smart enough not to take this step and even explain that such a ban would be a violation of human rights. However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem at all for the “good people”– so people with St. George ribbons on their clothes now risk getting a fine of thousands of lei. It hard to ignore that both of yesterday’s, to put it mildly, contradictory bills, cheerfully voted by the ruling party, carried a distinct anti-Russian trace. One can even regard it as a kind of glove thrown in the face of the Kremlin, for which the historical memory of the Great Patriotic War is sacred. In these circumstances, a logical conclusion suggests itself that the neutral position in the Ukrainian conflict, which was initially announced by the country's leadership, is now over. Recently it has been such rather conditionally, considering Moldova’s actions in the WTO and joining the anti-Russian sanctions in the banking sector. But now Chisinau seems ready to come out against Russia openly and play really big. And it’s not even about yesterday’s vote at the UN, where Moldova warmly supported the exclusion of the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council. The main step towards the beginning of a complete break in relations with Moscow may be the rejection of Russian gas. It is noticeable that until recently, the Cabinet of Ministers did not seriously consider such a scenario, expressing confidence that problems with the audit of the right-bank debt would not cause a stop in supplies. Still, we see that the rhetoric has changed dramatically. And yesterday, Andrei Spinu said quite bluntly that Moldova no longer wants to depend on Russian natural gas and may switch to gas from other suppliers from May: “The market price is obviously high, but if it comes to the point where we have to buy gas and electricity at the market price, it will be the price of Moldova’s independence. We can no longer be in Russia’s grip, I hope that our society is mature enough to overcome this situation.” Naturally, no one is asking the population whether they want to pay more under accelerated inflation and impoverishment. The situation in the Transdniestrian region will certainly become another challenge to Moscow. They reiterated the economic blockade, that the central authorities block the import of goods and medicines, disrupt the sowing campaign and almost want to induce famine. I am not an expert in this field and I cannot judge how difficult it is to solve these problems that have obviously arisen after Ukraine closed the border in the Transdniestrian section. But it is hardly so impossible to establish some kind of temporary order and give a positive signal to our citizens on the left bank. Or does the government no longer consider them ours? In general, I wonder if at least someone in the cabinet tried to put the whole picture together? It turns out that: the country bans one of the main symbols of victory in the Great Patriotic War, Soviet films about the Second World War, threatens to limit the celebration on May 9; takes a string of hostile steps; refuses Russian energy resources for geopolitical reasons; oppresses Transdniestria with its tens of thousands of Russian citizens. Don’t we think that everything is being done to make us a candidate for another “special operation”? Or is it a plan of foreign players controlling our political puppets? What could be the reason for such a drastic change in our tactics in the Ukrainian conflict? It is clear that the intensity of the confrontation between the West and Russia is growing exponentially, leading to new mutual sanctions. Events like the Bucha massacre (regardless of who is really to blame for this terrible tragedy) only intensify the escalation. And what seemed impossible yesterday (e.g. the rapid rejection of Russian energy resources by the European Union) is now quite considered as a working option, as hinted at by yesterday’s resolution of the European Parliament. In this regard, Moldova found itself in a very delicate position, clearly sympathizing with Ukraine and supporting the actions of the West, but at the same time fearing because of the risks, at least economic, from active involvement in a confrontation with Russia. However, it can be assumed that, given the unsuccessful first stage of the invasion of Ukraine for the Russian Federation, the country’s leadership considered itself safe and no longer feels the need to cling to its neutrality as in the first weeks of the conflict. Perhaps Chisinau, seeing a historic chance to get closer to the cherished European dream, decided to stand on a par with Western countries in the hope that solidarity will be taken into account and rewarded. Another option is that our country, with the leadership of which Western representatives are in a non-stop dialogue since February 24, is gradually being pushed through and forced to join the camp of the “forces of good”. It can be noted that the opinions of officials are increasingly being heard in the European Union that not only all members of the Union, but also those states that wish to join it, should join the deterrence of Russia. And yesterday, the head of the EU delegation frankly said that although Brussels understands Moldova’s position on sanctions, it would like our country to join them “more expressly”. Anyway, the fact is that the leadership of the republic is no longer trying to maneuver, but has more or less clearly taken a course to break off relations with Russia – either under external pressure, or in an attempt to “score points” with European bureaucrats, who will soon consider the Moldovan application for “candidate” status in the EU. In fact, we are going all in, hoping that the direct military threat from Russia has passed. However, it is worth remembering that Moldova, unlike other European states, is neither a member of NATO, nor even a member of the EU, and may be left one-on-one with Moscow. Is this a wise choice? I don’t think so, but I couldn’t expect anything else from the ruling party.