Any Chance Moldova Can Defend Its Interests in Relations with Ukraine?

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Semyon ALBU, RTA:
In relations with its eastern neighbor, the ruling party pursues a policy of maximum solidarity, despite the collateral damage to Moldova’s national interests
Relations between Moldova and Ukraine, beginning in 2019, have never been easy. Petro Poroshenko’s defeat in the presidential election and the expulsion of the all-powerful Vlad Plahotniuc by the embassy triad naturally destroyed the pragmatic ties between the two oligarchs helping the two countries to resolve many issues. The “pro-Kremlin” socialists’ coming to power in Moldova and Igor Dodon’s presidency, who had once recklessly called Crimea Russian, had a very negative impact on relations between the neighboring states. It especially “sagged” after the surgical removal of the ACUM bloc from the ruling coalition. After only a few years, our political landscape has changed dramatically. Dodon is under investigation and the PSRM is in silent opposition. The new government, represented both by Maia Sandu and her PAS party, was initially set to rehabilitate the Ukrainian foreign policy direction, which they called a major task during the election period. And so it turned out – Sandu’s first international visit was to Kyiv, marking the beginning of a “new era” in relations between the two countries. However, it turned out rather quickly that Moldova and Ukraine have fundamentally different views not only on certain problems, but in general on how our relations should develop in the coming years and what the main front of joint efforts should be. Our neighbor had very peculiar plans for us. Firstly, Moldova was instantly included in the “anti-Russian league” being created by Kyiv and the so-called “Crimean platform” was its crowning achievement. As we recall, our president attended its first meeting. The results of this and many other steps of such a plan can be easily assessed by looking at the current gas price for Moldova. Secondly, there was interest in Moldova in terms of infrastructure development. It was announced with much pomp that there would be a modern transport corridor between the two countries and a new bridge over the Dniester, which was to be economically beneficial not only to Moldova and Ukraine, but almost to the entire EU. And it was Kyiv that took care of most of the expenses. But such generosity had a simple explanation: the obvious desire to cash in on the kickbacks. Fortunately, all these construction projects were built within Zelensky’s notorious “Big Build” program, the corruption scope of which has become truly legendary. Perhaps the only place where the objective interests of our countries more or less converged was European integration, the process of which had noticeably “waned” and needed life-giving impulses. They tried to do it by creating the Association Trio, but it was not very successful. However, the events after February 2022, especially the “status race”, have clearly shown that there was no partnership from the beginning, and Ukraine (as well as other members of the trio) was ready to kick out its “allies” just to increase its own chances for candidacy. What about our leaders? Well, they gingerly tried to raise the subject of Dniester’s ecological state. But apart from nice words, they got exactly nothing. Ukraine continued the construction of the Dniester HPP, despite all the possible catastrophic consequences up to drying up the river in principle. In August 2021 Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal solemnly announced the launch of the next, fourth turbine at the power plant. The fact that the Dniester hydropower complex is already having a devastating effect on the biological diversity of the river, its fullness, water quality, in the end doesn’t really concern Kyiv. All the more so because it now sells the very energy it produces to us. After the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the issue has completely dropped off the radar, and now we have to admit bitterly that our leadership “swallowed” these, to put it mildly, unfriendly actions of our neighbour and shelved the topic. Similarly, we tolerated an outright humiliation of our sovereignty when in broad daylight Ukrainian special services kidnapped Nikolai Chaus who was in Moldova and took him to Ukraine. Pretending to be outraged, just for show, our authorities eventually covered up the issue, and never mentioned it again as if it had never happened. There is now a very strong imbalance in the relations between the two countries. Our authorities act in maximum solidarity with Kyiv, sometimes even surpassing their Western allies in zeal. At least, in accusing Russia of war crimes and genocide, even in cases where there is no clarity or evidence yet. But if it were only a matter of verbal escapades. We have repeatedly listed all PAS’s anti-Russian moves, and I see no point in doing that again. The only thing is that their number is growing every day. As I think, the only period when our leaders acted adequately was when they were focused on helping tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, leaving geopolitical issues to the “big guys”. Today, however, we are fully siding with Kyiv, helping with military transit, giving our TV airtime to various Ukrainian figures, participating in the anti-Russian sanctions regime where we can, and in fact blackmailing Moscow that it can cut off supplies to the left bank. But for what? The only thing this has brought us is a pat on the back from our Western partners as a sign of approval. But we are slowly making an enemy, and a pretty powerful one indeed. With each passing day, Russia is becoming less and less friendly towards us and responds to our antics accordingly. The situation with gas and electricity deliveries in the coming winter is totally unclear. The export of our agricultural products is suffering. There is unrest in Gagauzia and Transdniestria, and perhaps, indeed, not without Moscow’s help. But what else did our rulers expect? Meanwhile, we continue to move in the wake of Ukraine. And to such an extent that our authorities are even afraid to express condolences to the relatives of two of our citizens who died as a result of a Ukrainian drone attack. Yes, one of them was from Transdniestria and the other from Gagauzia, but these are still considered to be our territories, right, PAS? Or take the recent revelations of the new Minister of Agriculture who unveiled the truth about the sudden spike in diesel prices before the harvesting campaign. It turned out that all of our fuel transporting companies had been simply outbid by Ukrainian oil traders. But during the crisis no one dared to blame the neighboring state – all officials kept mum. Yet, the only thing Kyiv is now ready to “help” us with is reclaiming the left-bank territories. That is, it is ready to help us to become embroiled in the conflict and end up in a war with Russia. Great proposal, wouldn’t you say. Looking at all the actions and statements, it becomes clear that the neighboring country sees us exclusively as a state loyal and indebted to Ukraine, especially after we were granted EU candidate country status “at their expense”.  Well, it would be fine if it were so. The main problem is that our authorities are totally pliant to Ukraine, apparently wishing to earn Brussels’ special favour through maximum solidarity. The only thing is that the Moldovan-Ukrainian “friendship” is losing in terms of equality, and if continued in its current vein, it might put at stake our objective national interests.