Moldova in the Post-Soviet Instability Zone

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Anton SVET
The post-Soviet space is entering another transformation, not at all in an evolutionary way. Moldova will not be able to stay away, especially with such a government at the helm, which has made a clear choice in favor of one of the geopolitical poles
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its aftermath is the key global challenge of the year, leaving no nation in Europe (and many beyond) indifferent. Every NATO country is confronting Russia with sanctions, diplomatic and information warfare, and the supply of lethal weapons and other assistance to Ukraine. This balance of power leaves room for a wide range of future scenarios. Hints of the start of mobilization measures in Russia, coupled with the rapid holding of “referenda”, not only in the “LDPR”, but also in the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, indicate that the stakes will once again be raised. This confirms the fact that the conflict is taking on a protracted character. A complete seizure of Donbass territory by either side, hypothetically opening the way to an interim cease-fire, would require enormous efforts, including external intervention. It is reasonable to expect the concentration of most influential players in the Ukrainian theater of hostilities. But this is not happening. On the contrary, in September, after the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the situation in many parts of the former Soviet Union deteriorated sharply. For example, the Baltic states took the opportunity to permanently distance themselves from Russia by banning all Russian passport holders from entering the country. Given the large number of Russian speakers, including so-called “non-citizens”, in the former Soviet republics of the Baltics, there has been a serious accumulation of conflict potential, combined with the destruction of monuments and the rapid removal of any symbols of Soviet heritage. A new outbreak of armed conflict with mass military casualties occurred in the border regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The previous round of confrontation in 2020 led to a slight increase in Russian influence thanks to the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and the expanded presence of Russian FSB border guards. Thus, the positions that had been shaken after pro-Western Nikol Pashinyan had come to power as a result of the protests were restored. However, security guarantees for Armenia, which remains a member state of the CSTO, turned out to be largely fictitious. Yerevan risks losing territories, not even related to Karabakh, and is facing an almost existential threat. Washington is successfully taking advantage of the changed circumstances by dispatching recently world-famous Nancy Pelosi to give Armenians some encouraging words of support. It should be remembered that the U.S. is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, which mediates in the Karabakh peace process. Yerevan cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. Congress (unlike its Russian allies) recognizes the genocide of the Armenian people in the early 20th century, and has influence over Turkey and Georgia, Armenia’s key neighbors, whose cooperation is the guarantee of its ties with the outside world and its survival. Last week saw escalation between Russia’s other two CSTO allies, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The simmering territorial-border conflict entered a hot phase again, with mutual firing at border outposts. On September 16, prior to the SCO summit in Samarkand, fighting occurred along virtually the entire length of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Although the exchanges of fire were halted, no definitive resolution to the conflict is in sight. Russia, focused on conducting the so-called “special military operation,” offers no effective solutions. The situation in Moldova is also far from stable. The autumn mass protests organized by the Sor party began in Chisinau. Protesters demand the resignation of Maia Sandu and the Gavrilita government, and seek the dissolution of parliament and early elections. The first tent camp appeared in the capital, and the Socialist Party and its informal leader, Igor Dodon, openly support the protests. The second center of confrontation with the authorities is in Gagauzia, where a week ago a meeting of the President with the National Assembly was virtually disrupted. The autonomy’s deputies demanded to restore the communication with Russia in order to solve the social and energy problems of the population. In Gagauzia mayoral elections are expected in six months, so this card will be played as actively as possible in the traditionally Russian-speaking pro-Russian region. Russia doesn’t keep away either, trying by all means to regain some influence over Moldovan politics. The State Duma receives representatives of the Sor opposition party, negotiating with them even on gas issues. Besides, Moscow keeps trying to put pressure on Maia Sandu through the Tiraspol administration, which is still pushing the idea of launching a political settlement and a meeting of the “top leaders” of the two banks of the Dniester. The protests in Moldova could in the long term be joined by farmers who have been practically deprived of access to the Russian market. As the citizens’ position grows darker during the winter months, popular unrest threatens to take on a dangerous, unpredictable character. Clearly, without external support, the ultimate success of protest activity is unlikely. However, major problems for the authorities and conditions for the destabilization of the whole country are obviously taking shape. This is not to mention the possible unfreezing of the Transdniestrian conflict, about which there are also unambiguous signals from outside. The post-Soviet space is entering another transformation, not in an evolutionary way. The entire situation is orchestrated by the confrontation between Russia and the West, which has reached its peak and is associated with enormous security risks, up to large man-made disasters or the export of direct armed clashes outside of Ukraine. The shelling of Russia's border population centers has been going on for a long time and cannot be ignored forever. In addition, Ukrainian officials and opinion leaders continue to threaten Transdniestria. Altogether, the changes in the post-Soviet space will be painful and radical. Moldova will not be able to stay away, especially with such a government at the helm, which has made an unambiguous, even defiant choice in favor of one of the geopolitical poles. Time will tell whether this choice is right and reasonable.