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The Moldovan leadership’s strategy in the Ukrainian crisis grows more risky
Semyon ALBU, RTA: This week marked more than a non-descript anniversary of the ‘good times’ coming to our country. The party which promised us those good times has had its first anniversary in power with low approval ratings – a natural evaluation of its efforts to govern Moldova. However, as Mr. Grosu reiterates, it is not worth paying attention to the polls clearly showing the depth of the fall in PAS popularity: the main thing is to hold on to the ‘political agenda’. And their agenda is well known – European integration. There really is no retreat in terms of our endless movement towards a bright European future. The power authorities are clutching at this one of the few fertile subjects, promoting it as much as they can. Especially after obtaining the status of candidate for EU membership, which they will now speculate until the next election cycle. Brussels, in turn, doesn’t leave its political foundlings behind either, tossing in small financial handouts and very big promises of all sorts of aid and access to fancy European funds. But it is not only European integration that the ruling party breathes today. The second, now indispensable component of the PAS ‘political agenda’ is unexpectedly military, and it arose, as can be easily guessed, from the conflict in Ukraine. Not right away, one must say. Let’s remember how it went. The first stage of the invasion – Russian troops are snatching away big chunks of Ukrainian territory, approaching Kyiv in huge columns. Many observers are confident that Ukraine is crumbling. At the same time there is serious talk about what will happen next. Here, as if by chance, there are maps with curious arrows, one of which leads exactly to Moldova – and not anywhere, but at the meeting of the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Our authorities, obviously frightened by the first rush of the Russian army and such eloquent signals, react sensibly at the first one – firmly declare neutrality and policy of non-adherence to anti-Russian sanctions. And for a while, our country almost drops out of the Ukrainian story, except for the refugee issue. After that comes the second stage of the war: the Russian invasion fails, the immediate threat to Odesa is removed, and all of our politicians, who are attached to the strings of the country's government, breathe a sigh of relief. From that moment on, an endless series of high-level visits to Chisinau begins, during which our ruling elite was no doubt groomed to change their position on the Ukrainian conflict. And the motive was to get an external candidate status for admission to the European Union. After which the PAS leaders abruptly changed the course of the country. The neutral status is more like a relic of the past, which does not get along well with today’s realities. We try to join the anti-Russian sanctions as much as possible, where possible. There is a complete solidarity with Ukraine - Russian news sources are blocked in our country, while Ukrainian sources are encouraged. Maia Sandu goes to Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and launches accusations against Russia. All contacts with Moscow are frozen, and Ukraine begins to receive all possible assistance, in transit, and not only in civilian matters. Moreover, the government begins to live in a militarized regime. One of the government’s most important tasks is to quickly upgrade the army. The other day, Maia Sandu explained the need for this by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This is a well-known deception – the National Army has long been transformed according to NATO standards in terms of both doctrine and compliance with the legal framework. This was also before the ‘good times’, although since then the cooperation got a ‘new breath’. Let me remind you about the signing of the new Moldova-NATO Individual Partnership Plan, where one can find a lot of interesting things – my colleagues have written about it more than once. The war in Ukraine – or, more broadly, the confrontation between Russia and the West – has naturally accelerated all these processes. We could say that it has created a wider window of opportunity, which is already filled with modern arms supplies and targeted military loans with grants. Now they are openly pumping tens of millions of Euros into our country, and, unfortunately, not to improve difficult socio-economic conditions, but to modernize the army. They are preparing a massive purchase of artillery forces, mobile platforms, helicopters. Given our small needs, all this can be done very quickly. Actively arming the country, and even more so at a time when the population is living in worse and worse conditions, one has to explain it somehow: first of all, one has to come up with an enemy. This, of course, is the Russian Federation. Look how much we have ‘evolved’ from full support for neutrality in February and March, to Mrs. President’s open reasoning about how we should go to war with Russia. This now seems like utter fiction. But the tendencies are alarming. We are severing all ties with Russia. Ground is being prepared for taking off the burden of energy dependence on Russia and getting it from the West, but at a higher price. Meanwhile, our European partners are advising us on diversification. But, obviously, they don’t make firm promises about financially helping us to buy more expensive energy resources. So Prime Minister Gavrilita even went to the United States to inquire about this. Apparently it is easier than to talk with Moscow about a gas discount. To tell the truth, Maia Sandu set the record straight by saying she was not going to “sell part of the country for cheaper gas”. How can an armed and independent of Russian gas and electricity Moldova play a role in Western strategies? Options are countless. Right now, everyone may respect our neutrality and say that the Transdniestrian settlement must be peaceful. But for how long? The West systematically raises the stakes in its confrontation with Russia, acting on the notorious Overton Window principle. Until recently, strikes on Russian territory with Western weapons were considered absolutely unacceptable. Insiders wrote touchingly about how Washington almost had controllers attached to each of its HIMARS, so that the Ukrainians, would not strike where they shouldn’t. And now the Pentagon says openly that it sees nothing wrong if targets in Russia are bombed with American HIMARS. And it’s only been a month. And since everything is changing so dynamically, can we be sure that our place in the deep rear will be untouchable, and at some point we will not be pushed to the front line? It is time for the ruling party to think hard about where it is leading our country. There is still time, because Moscow – the aggressor according to Sandu – does not want to quarrel with Moldova seriously. Yes, it is a bit irritated, which is why yesterday it played the role of ‘good and bad cop’ by drawing attention to the risks associated with ‘uncritical adherence to the recommendations of Western partners’ and then, through Putin’s press secretary, stating that it poses no threat to Moldova. It’s funny that our former partner in the Association Trio, Georgia, at some point decided its national interests are more important than the opinion of the West and did not fight with Moscow, getting a flick on the nose instead of candidate status. Perhaps that was an acceptable sacrifice for its own security. But we decided to get the status, and the risks of spreading the conflict on our territory with it. Right now they are minimal, that’s true. But the war with our neighbors is likely to be protracted and who can guarantee that at some point the situation for us will not become much more dramatic than it is now?