“A Murky Trip”: What Did Maia Sandu Do in Oradea?

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The president’s hasty and anonymous trip to a small Romanian town amidst an electrified national and regional backdrop sparked many rumors and much speculation
Semyon ALBU, RTA: The longer the “yellow team” steers the Moldovan ship, the less desire it has to talk to the passengers and provide at least a minimum explanation as to its actions. My point is that the notorious transparency that we were promised during the 2020-2021 election campaigns is practically gone. And suddenly, on Christmas Day, the country’s leader goes to a tiny Romanian town in complete anonymity. Without any pre-trip announcements and any adequate post-trip official releases. Unfortunately for Maia Sandu, she failed to stay incognito, for Romanian media filmed her arrival at the airport and reported on her visit. After the secret was revealed, Sandu dropped a brief comment to local media upon her return saying that she had allegedly come for a short vacation to “see the town” and have some meetings. However, the Romanian media offered a more intriguing version which was disseminated across the information space. By the way, our pro-government outlets showed little interest in the head of state’s secret trip. Indeed, no big deal. What was it? Not tourism, that’s for sure. Oradea may be a pretty town, I will not argue, but to be frank, there are more interesting places in Romania. Personally I can hardly imagine that our president really decided to spend a rare free weekend to explore local beauty of Oradea. Meetings with local officials are also out of the question. First, the level is improper, and secondly – what on earth could the whole president of the country discuss with the municipal authorities of one of Moldova’s most distant Romanian cities? Construction of a city park in the suburbs of Chisinau, as Oradea mayor said? But it’s not Sandu’s competence, I guess. Anyway, all this “tourism” and lazy comments after the meetings are clearly just a smokescreen that hides the true motives of the visit. Thus, the same Romanian media, citing their sources, reported that Maia Sandu allegedly discussed the candidacy of the new Romanian president and support for Laura Kövesi. This version is curious for several reasons. Indeed, our Prut neighbors will be electing their head of state as early as next year. The incumbent leader, Klaus Iohannis, can no longer run and, as rumor has it, he is promised the post of NATO Secretary General. The EU would love Romania’s new president to be as “decent” as Iohannis, and Kövesi is the best option for the Brussels bureaucrats. She herself is already a European brand, a “prosecutor of steel” who waged an implacable fight against corruption in her homeland and eventually became attorney general of the entire Union. In this sense, Maia Sandu is similar to her, because she is also a well promoted brand, a leader steering the “barbaric little Moldova” towards a bright European future. Sandu and Kövesi are personally acquainted. In her current tenure alone, our president has met with the EU prosecutor general twice. As was officially stated, they talked about justice reform and the fight against corruption. But what if there was more than that? However, we can easily assume that Maia Sandu got involved in this whole messy story not of her own free will (after all, it would be meddling in internal affairs of another state) but at the insistent recommendation of her foreign advisers who are on the payroll of Brussels and various European foundations. It is hard to refuse because today our country is more than ever reliant on money of the European Union and the West as a whole, and there is no way to get rid of it yet. As they say, you have to pay your bills, and our debt which is growing by leaps and bounds has to be returned this way. The second most popular version spread by some popular Telegram channels is that Sandu was actually discussing plans for an ultimatum return of Transdniestria under control as early as next month. A softer version states that further cooperation with NATO was point at issue. Many took it as traditional alarmism, or even as another element of hybrid warfare against the ruling regime. However, this version is not groundless. After all, little Oradea is really famous, among other things, for being home to the NATO Humint Center of Excellence, and I highly doubt that this is just a coincidence. I do not rule out that the key meetings of Sandu’s “tourist trip” actually took place in this center. Although the situation in the Black Sea region is now somewhat stagnant, everyone understands that in the coming months everything will change. The two warring sides spent all this time preparing reserves, bringing in ammunition and equipment. Every day, a new major battle for the initiative is expected which could determine the future course of the war for at least another six months. It may well be assumed that a new upsurge in hostilities will also lead to a new level of overall conflict escalation. Certainly, all these factors force the Western coalition of Ukraine’s friends prepare and build new supply packages of equipment and ammunition, expand the range of supplied armaments, etc. In this sense, our president might well have been informed about some of the Alliance’s plans for the coming period in the Ukrainian war, including the role of Moldova therein. And here we can talk both about simply allocating resources to support Kyiv (you all remember their efforts to turn us into an additional logistic hub since the war began) and about the Transdniestrian conflict which will also have to “erupt” in due time once a new level of escalation occurs. Whichever of these versions is true, none of them is positive for Moldova. We are either being drawn into the electoral processes in a neighboring country to use such a “resource” as a million of our nationals with Romanian passports. Or they force us delve even deeper into the Ukrainian conflict with the prospect of unfreezing our internal, Transdniestrian, conflict, which many Western strategists have long been dreaming of. And even if the real purpose of Maia Sadu’s trip was absolutely different, it still does not bode well for us – after all, trips to the middle of nowhere under secrecy don’t happen just like that.