Moldova in the British Geopolitical Game

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Sergiu CEBAN
The northern Black Sea region, of which Moldova is a part, seems to have become an area of special attention for Great Britain
The MFAEI recently hosted its second meeting with the British delegation in the so-called high-level political and strategic dialogue format, which was launched at the end of 2020. Short- and medium-term priorities in the framework of mutual political, trade and economic and social cooperation were discussed. Such “hot” topics as regional security and the Transdniestrian settlement were not ignored either. Basically, over the past year one could observe a consistent increase in London’s interest in Moldova, which is, of course, due to the events in neighboring Ukraine. The immediate proximity of our country to the Black Sea and Moscow’s continued focus on the Northern Black Sea region forces British diplomacy to become more and more active in the Moldovan area. Let’s try to figure out how exactly Moldovan-British cooperation has developed, and how beneficial it is for us to seek a deeper partnership with the Foggy Albion. The first milestone in the history of relations between the two countries was the working visit of President Mircea Snegur to Great Britain in October 1996. The next milestone was the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Iurie Leancă in 2011. It included a meeting with his British colleague William Hague, negotiations with the Minister of Europe and with a group of British MPs, members of the Parliamentary Group of Friendship with the Republic of Moldova. At that time, the Moldovan diplomacy was focused on promoting a new democratic image of Moldova among the European elite and was actively seeking a reciprocal opening, the first step being liberalization of the visa regime not only with the European Union, but also with the United Kingdom. It must be acknowledged that Leanca’s visit played its role in terms of re-cultivating Moldova for British foreign policy and London’s Black Sea strategy, which has deep historical roots. During the entire period of independence, Moldova and Great Britain signed about two dozen agreements in various fields: political, economic, legislative, security, etc. According to the State Registration Chamber there are more than two hundred enterprises with British capital operating in Moldova, and Great Britain is in the top ten countries by the indicator of investments in share capital. After leaving the European Union, London preferred to maintain trade and economic relations not only with the EU member states, but also with a group of states that have an associated relationship with Brussels. That is why Moldova and the United Kingdom signed a Strategic Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement at the end of 2020. It was this agreement that provided for the creation of the already mentioned platform of high-level political and strategic dialogue with our country – emphasizing the special regional importance of Moldova. The fact that our republic is in the focus of London’s attention is also shown by the fact that since the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, top British officials have repeatedly called for providing Chisinau with weapons to NATO standards to enable the National Army to withstand a potential Russian attack. Leo Doсherty, the British minister for European Affairs, who visited the capital in the fall, said that London has great enthusiasm for deepening defense cooperation. It is logical that at the beginning of February, James Heappey, the Minister of Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, arrived to discuss specific points on strengthening the defense potential of the Moldovan Armed Forces. According to unconfirmed reports, the head of British foreign intelligence, Richard Moore, also paid a secret visit to Chisinau. Among other things, the British Embassy has been providing assistance and expertise to our authorities on the Transdniestrian settlement for many years. Over the past few years, the British Ambassador has been perhaps one of the most frequent visitors to the left bank of the Dniester, where he has held meetings with the Transdniestrian administration with enviable regularity. Basically, the region, which is within the direct influence of the Kremlin, cannot but be of interest to London, which does not hide its desire not only to oust Russia from the Northern Black Sea region, but also to keep it as far away from the Danube delta as possible. The results of the Crimean War in the nineteenth century and London’s tough position on the inadmissibility of the transfer of Southern Bessarabia to Moscow’s control indicate that today we are experiencing, in fact, a new round of an already familiar historical episode. The Northern Black Sea region, of which historic Bessarabia and, consequently, modern Moldova are an inseparable part, is one of the important nodes for Great Britain. This explains why London is so focused on Ukraine and Moldova, since it is the Black Sea corridor that provides Foggy Albion with connections and flows to the Transcaucasia, the Middle East and Central Asia. Moreover, it is extremely important for the British to prevent alternative Russian logistics routes in the Black Sea, including the notorious grain deal, which is a legitimized form of maritime blockade of Ukraine. It has long been obvious to experts that Britain is not ready to be an ordinary European power and is actively fighting for its interests not only in different regions of the world, but also in the remotest corners of the European continent. Over its long history, London has been able to defeat the most diverse European powers and become one of the recognized world leaders. Nevertheless, today Britain is searching for its place and role in future geopolitical arrangements, so one of the applications of British diplomacy is the weakening of the European Union and the downgrading of its longstanding historical continental opponents, Germany and France. It is still difficult to see exactly how the fate of the EU will shape up in the post-conflict period, but the fact that there will be less unity in it is almost certain. London will most likely find opportunities to create its own regional integration grouping of countries to put a reliable barrier between Russia and old Europe. Therefore, our authorities will sooner or later face the choice: to join the new Baltic-Black Sea geopolitical project of Great Britain or to be patient and painstakingly pursue the cherished European goal in partnership with Berlin and Paris.