Moldova Readies to Break Up with Russia

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Sergui CEBAN
A sudden U-turn in towards comprehensive support for Ukraine will most likely lead to a decline in relations between Moldova and Russia to almost zero
Brussels’ decision to upgrade the strategic status of Moldova and Ukraine in European integration ties the two countries together, because they have a lot to do together on their way to the EU. Remarkably, on the eve of the important event, Maia Sandu spoke on the phone with Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time in a long time, whereupon it became known about her trip to Kyiv. The balancing and cautious tactics that our authorities have followed in recent months will most likely have to be abandoned. From now on, we can expect a demonstration of greater courage in Kyiv’s direct support. The first steps in this direction have already been made: last week the countries signed a memorandum of understanding for resumption of traffic on the Byerazino-Basarabeasca railroad section by autumn. Restoration of this corridor will allow Moldova to export and import goods through the port of Ismail located on the Danube, and Ukraine will be able to use the railroad junction to deliver goods to the EU through our territory. Surely, given the hostilities in Ukraine and Russia’s assertiveness in taking out the railway bridge in Zatoka, we cannot rule out that Moscow will not like the idea of opening a new supply corridor to the Odessa region, and the railway line may also become a military target. The words of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that “Kyiv supports the people and government of friendly Moldova in the face of new threats from the Kremlin” are hardly reassuring in this case. And these threats continue to grow. The signing of the law to stop broadcasting Russian-made newscasts in Moldova was followed by unfriendly comments by Dmitry Peskov and Sergey Lavrov. And it is clearly no coincidence that anti-Moldovan materials began to appear in the Russian federal media more and more frequently. Our country is probably returning to Moscow’s radar. Moreover, if earlier the topic was discussed by ordinary deputies and Kremlin experts, now the level of “transmission” of political signals has increased dramatically. Potentially, the withdrawal of Moldova from the Commonwealth of Independent States will be much more painful for Moscow, which is practically inevitable in the conditions of the pro-European course. Doina Gherman, Head of the Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Policy and European Integration, confirmed this last week, calling the process of breaking with the CIS a formality. The presidency has taken a softer stance in this regard, stating that the commonwealth is a regional organization that does not conflict with participation in the EU and allows it to maintain important ties with other countries. This political caution is likely to be temporary. After all, every circumstance indicates there is not much for us to do in the CIS, and the exit procedure will be launched in the near future. The fact that the policy on the eastern direction will change is also confirmed by Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu. The other day, he recalled that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the EU had imposed six packages of sanctions on Russia, affecting various areas: from the financial sector to transportation and air traffic. According to him, Moldova stands ready to join the restrictions against Moscow, as after obtaining the status of candidate country, it must show greater solidarity with the EU and Ukraine. Foreign and European Integration Minister Nicu Popescu tried to counterbalance the “harshness” of Grosu’s remarks, noting that our country could not yet accept the full EU sanctions package due to the economy’s unsustainability. However, he did not rule out harsher gestures towards Moscow. In response, Moscow deployed heavy artillery in the person of the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, who tried on the role of Russia’s main “hawk” during the Ukrainian crisis. In his opinion, Moldova’s accession to the European Union will last for decades, and therefore our politicians allegedly want to get faster membership in the EU by creating a “new Great Romania” and absorbing the Moldovan state. “Trying to please their new masters, not being in the EU, they are ready to join the European sanctions against our country. Well, let them try. Then they can be 100% sure that they will not receive from us not only expensive energy and other resources, but no resources at all,” Medvedev posted in his Telegram channel. In addition, he threatened that if Moldova’s unification begins, it should be borne in mind that there are about 220 thousand Russian citizens in Transdniestria. However pathetic the answer of Medvedev may look, the hints from the Russian Security Council should be taken as seriously as possible and, at least, to reassure the population. Maia Sandu has already hastened to declare that she has no information about Russia’s possible attack on Moldova. The available information, according to the president, gives a certain degree of safety, but what exactly will happen in six months, in her opinion, it is difficult enough to predict. Observing the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape, our authorities are aware of the inevitability of rethinking their regional position. We can see attempts to reformat our foreign policy, but as cautiously as possible, given the high vulnerability both in terms of economics and energy, as well as in terms of security. One has to understand that our country has already unofficially followed most of the restrictions imposed by Western countries, supported financial sanctions, restrictions on trade with Russia, and determined a comfortable way to de facto close the skies to Russian aircraft. A sudden U-turn toward absolute and comprehensive support for Ukraine is likely to cause Moldova-Russia relations to plummet almost to zero. After that, the predictability of Moscow’s actions toward our country will almost completely disappear, and we will have to prepare for various possible developments. I would like to believe that our leadership has already calculated the possible risks of an actual break with Moscow and has the necessary resources in reserve to cushion any crises that the Kremlin may provoke.