What Ukraine Seeks from Moldova

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Sergiu CEBAN
The Moldovan government’s delegation that visited Kyiv must have received an impressive list of requests from our Ukrainian partners, and it is unlikely to be willing to fulfill them all.
This week the capital was “deserted” after the president and the prime minister left the country at the same time. The former went to the U.S., most likely to deal with financial problems. This largely forced step was inevitable because of the failure of European development partners at the Platform to Support Moldova last meeting in Paris. The unenviable socio-economic situation was an additional reason for our authorities to abandon the idea of purchasing expensive European electricity and return to the contract with the Moldavskaya GRES. The indiscriminate floundering of government officials, making poorly thought-out decisions over and over again, is reflected correspondingly negatively in public opinion polls. A fresh sociological survey showed the continuing decline in the ratings of the ruling party and Maia Sandu personally, who is becoming more and more difficult to shield from people’s anger. It became difficult to separate her personal responsibility with the difficult situation in the country. As a result, the citizens’ desire for early parliamentary and presidential elections is growing by leaps and bounds. In the meantime, a government delegation led by Natalia Gavrilita headed for Kyiv. This was preceded by a not entirely pleasant episode with another missile crash on our territory. And if last time the incident was hushed up somehow due to the impossibility of identifying the remains, this time the experts had almost no doubts that the fallen missile debris in one of the northern regions was of Ukrainian origin. Looking ahead, it is still difficult to imagine what exactly we have agreed with Ukraine on air defence, given our modest capabilities in this area, to put it mildly, so we will assume that in this way the parties have agreed that the missile slip-up is settled. According to official comments, Natalia Gavrilita and Denis Shmyhal discussed cooperation in the energy and economic sectors, the continuity of joint projects in transport and infrastructure, as well as European integration. The veil of promising public statements, of course, hides the deeper and more complex part of the Moldovan-Ukrainian agenda involving the making of decisions of principle which are very difficult for politicians in Chisinau. Therefore, Kyiv did not miss the opportunity to make another load of complaints about our leadership through the mouths of its propagandists. One of the central topics was undoubtedly the energy sector. Despite Ukraine’s relatively loyal reaction in response to Gazprom’s claims about insufficient gas supplies to Moldova, in reality, what was done in Andrei Spinu’s office could very well damage the image of Kyiv, which in difficult military conditions tries to show itself as a reliable transit of energy resources. Therefore, it would certainly not be without claims from Ukraine. In addition, amid neighboring country’s problems with energy supply due to constant missile attacks on critical infrastructure, Chisinau somehow not very sympathetically decided to secure itself with cheap Transdniestrian electricity produced from Russian gas as much as possible. It is clear that for the next few months Moldova will again be firmly tied to Russian energy resources and the generating capacity of the Moldavskaya GRES, so for all the awkwardness of the situation, Natalia Gavrilita still had to make a request to ensure the stable functioning of the power plant in order to exclude any risks of military and technogenic nature. It is unlikely that our delegation has dared to make counter-claims to our Ukrainian partners, although, admittedly, there are reasons, and not a few of them. A clear example of the fact that Kyiv is guided primarily by its own interests and does not bother to coordinate much with our authorities was the recent situation with the risk of flooding of several Moldovan villages after the discharge of water at the Novodnestrovskaya HPP had increased. Obviously, the release was done in order to generate additional amounts of electricity, a shortage of which Ukraine has been acutely experiencing recently, but it still does not cancel out the partnership and mutual respect. Judging by the statistics of transit and re-export of Ukrainian goods, in less than a year Ukrainian business has tasted the trade and logistical opportunities of our country. This largely explains Kyiv’s persistence in wanting to continue joint projects to expand the network of transport connections. In fact, in the current difficult conditions, it is Moldova and Romania that provide their transport corridors and access to the Black Sea for Ukraine, with all the practical benefits this brings to Kyiv. Perhaps in order to strengthen this cooperation and provide additional trade and economic opportunities, Gavrilita and Shmyhal announced the creation of a trilateral Romania-Moldova-Ukraine format, which will be held at the level of Prime Ministers. Against the background of the European Union summit held yesterday in Tirana, which is a clear signal of Brussels’ commitment to seriously engage in the integration of the Western Balkans, the European prospects of Moldova and Ukraine have sagged significantly. That is why the joint efforts of Chisinau and Kyiv, including the intention expressed by the two Prime Ministers to create a working group to coordinate efforts on European integration, was not unexpected, and even quite logical. The agreement between Gavrilita and Shmyhal to improve border control, as well as cooperation in the field of peace and security in the Transdniestrian region, is also noteworthy. By the way, we cannot exclude that the assumption of energy as the main topic of the visit is absolutely wrong, because it was not Andrei Spinu who accompanied the Prime Minister on the trip, but another specialized Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Serebrian. Last week, the Ukrainian ambassador Marko Shevchenko said that after Ukraine's victory, favorable conditions would be created for the settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict according to the scenario that our government considers optimal. Let's leave far-reaching settlement plans out of the equation for now, since this process is long-term and complex, and the war in Ukraine is far from over. However, Kyiv, as this year’ experience shows, is interested in the quickest and most effective solutions. Its assertiveness, ambition and sometimes even arrogance, which it demonstrates against much more serious international players, is paying off. That is why it is hard to believe that our leadership can resist Ukraine’s pressure and tenacity if it has a specific goal in mind.