Moldova Ventures to Completely Sever Relations with Russia and the Post-Soviet Space

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Sergiu CEBAN
The country’s leadership is dealing a cumulative blow to Moscow’s interests by detaining the country’s number-one “pro-Russian” politician and preparing to sanction Moldova’s exit from the CIS
After announcing a short vacation last week, Maia Sandu dropped everything and left for the U.S. to speak at the Harvard Kennedy School, which she graduated from in 2010. Since the visit is a markedly private one, the presidential press office is not reporting on any official meetings. We will not speculate about the real purpose of this trip, but there is no doubt that it is clearly not just academic. Meanwhile, the PAS national congress followed by the final regrouping of the party’s internal forces and the official election of Igor Grosu as its leader seems to have brought the disputes and rivalries between individual party functionaries to a close. Experts claim that the radical wing of the party has significantly strengthened its grip and influence, primarily on the president, and is showing determination and readiness to take action. No coincidence that, in response to recent statements by the head of the British Foreign Office and U.S. congressmen, the speaker of parliament has become quite involved in the issue of military supplies to the country, leaving no doubt that the issue is actually a done deal. Remarkably, Maia Sandu’s trip to the United States coincided with yesterday’s searches in the case of ex-president Igor Dodon which was opened on the already legendary black package video. The criminal case investigates the facts of passive corruption, illicit enrichment, high treason and sponsorship of a political party by a criminal organization. As a result, prosecutors detained Dodon for 72 hours and seized money, documents confirming real estate transactions, and other items indicating illicit enrichment. Such developments were hardly a surprise to the “honorable socialist”, because the signs of the clouds gathering over the ex-president were quite clear. Putting the trigger mechanism into action was just a matter of time and the right moment. Moreover, Dodon himself, in his comments on the prosecutor’s decision last week to initiate proceedings, also mentioned the possibility of his arrest. The Socialist Party predictably stood up for its de facto leader and promised to hold daily protests to ensure his protection and release. Yesterday’s rally in front of the parliamentary building, to be honest, was not impressive in its scale. A poorly organized protest can, of course, be blamed on its urgency, but if the PSRM fails to gather a large mass of supporters under its banner, it will only strengthen the authorities’ conviction that their actions are justified and secure. The situation around Igor Dodon also alerted the Kremlin who saw in the actions of our law enforcers the common practice of prosecuting politicians advocating the development of friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation. The ex-president’s case is perceived as an internal affair of our country, but at the same time, Russia hopes that all the legal rights of the PSRM honorary leader will be respected. Judging by Moscow’s reaction, the order to detain Dodon was a serious blow to Russian interests in Moldova and personally to some Kremlin residents closely affiliated with the former president and socialists. Admittedly, yesterday’s events were another resounding slap in the face to all the state institutions in charge of Russia’s foreign policy in the post-Soviet space. Whatever the end of the story with Dodon’s arrest and the possible neutralization of the party of socialists, it will all look like a blatantly humiliating withdrawal of Moscow from internal political processes in Moldova. The Kremlin’s strategy with regard to Moldova has essentially failed, which is why, given the current events in the region, we can safely expect a voluntaristic decision by our government to reformat the entire political landscape of the republic similar to Ukraine, up to and including the banning of certain political formations. If in the very near future the PSRM fails to mobilize resources and demonstrate sufficient protest activity to signal any kind of resistance, starting a harsh scenario will be almost inevitable. A slightly broader perspective on the situation will show that Dodon’s arrest is one more proof of our deviation from a neutral course, with a gradual increase of tensions in relations with Moscow. It is not difficult to notice that during the eighteen months since he lost the presidency and after giving up his parliamentary mandate, Igor Dodon still enjoyed the patronage of the Kremlin and had a tacit status of untouchable. However, for some reason, the ruling party decided to upset this balance of interests and withdraw from this unspoken arrangement with Moscow. The next symbolic and quite logical step will most likely be Moldova’s exit from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Not by chance our politicians and experts have been active on this topic for the second week already. The further membership in the organization which tried to build something else in the post-Soviet space and at the same time to keep the dominating position of Moscow makes no sense for our country from the point of view of the country’s leadership. Therefore, one can confidently say that Moldova will sooner or later sever ties with the CIS in order to finally declare its intention to join the club of developed European countries. Of course, the Russian Foreign Ministry may continue to be “concerned” about the Moldovan leadership’s deflection from the “obvious prospects” of Russian-Moldovan relations, but this can hardly dissuade our elites and voters that the path of Moldova’s development is with the European Union. Moreover, the willingness of Western partners to provide military aid is a sign that Moscow’s attempts to forcibly keep Chisinau in the orbit of its influence will be duly opposed. The fate of Igor Dodon and the motives for his arrest will become clear later. On the one hand, the cumulative blow to Moscow’s interests (Dodon + CIS) creates a conducive setting for the president’s trip to Washington, where, most probably, words are less and less trusted, and concrete moves and decisions are more and more expected. At the same time, we should not rule out that the Dodon card, which still has a certain value for the Kremlin, could be played to solve primarily our energy-related problems in which Moscow could make a deal.