Widely known in our region, Dereck Hogan, who is, in fact, the father and author of the current political regime, is paying a three-day blitz visit to Romania and Moldova. The American emissary should help Washington determine the tools to suppress protests, support the current pro-American authorities, and decide how to use our territory in confrontation with Moscow
The trip of the former American Ambassador Dereck Hogan to Bucharest and Chisinau is very eventful. The commander of the NATO Forward Presence Battlegroup in Romania has changed. Last weekend, Moldova was shaken by regular anti-government protest headlined by the SOR Party. Transdniestria announced the prevention of a terrorist act against senior officials and civilians, allegedly approved by the Ukrainian special services. Gagauzia launched a campaign to elect a new autonomy leader.
The newly minted official of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department with an extensive experience in successfully promoting American interests in Moldova obviously faces serious tasks that must be tackled by the hands of subordinate local elites. In particular, it is necessary to review the Romanian alert status, clarify the logistics and pacify any negative manifestations towards the support of Ukraine. After all, relations between Bucharest and Kyiv are not cloudless, at all. The main irritants are the status of the Romanian language and the Romanian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, uncoordinated Danube mouth dredging operation (the Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the Romanian Foreign Ministry in late February, the situation even required the engagement of the European Commission), routine challenges related to the Ukrainian refugees.
At the same time, Romania remains the most important transport corridor for Ukraine. It directly influences implementation of the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative and comprehensive supply of the warring country, including weapons, ammunition and even foreign mercenaries. The change in command of the NATO Forward Presence Battlegroup deployed in Romania indicates the emergence of additional strategic tasks that require further synchronization of the actions by Bucharest and Washington. This issue can become a priority during the visit of Dereck Hogan.
Meanwhile, the Americans seriously consider further scenarios for an accelerated unification of Romania with Moldova as a response to Russia’s hypothetical successes on the Ukrainian battlefield. Despite the negligible threat of blocking the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, especially if the Black Sea Grain Initiative is extended, the general unpredictable situation is forcing Washington to prepare various models for the guaranteed preservation of Bessarabia within its influence. The “Unirea” with Romania is a non-priority scenario, since it deprives our country of the Transdniestrian industrial potential and cements the Russian presence there. But this scenario cannot be completely ruled out.
Dereck Hogan’s dossier is even wider in Moldovan cases. It is unlikely that the United States is not worried about the ongoing protests fueled by the SHOR Party. Despite the statement from Washington that anti-government protests are linked with the Russia’s influence which is allegedly seeking to arrange a coup d'état in our country, the protests do not fizzle out and over and over again require more and more radical response from the police. Last Sunday, the picture turned out to be the most unpleasant for the proponents of democracy, while attempts to identify Russian saboteurs among aged residents from the north of the country or in Marina Tauber’s pocket failed.
By default, the United States supports opposition actions in other countries (Georgia), however, in our case, they demand the toughest possible deal with the opposition. Moreover, the transfer of the building held by the national library of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which is a strengthening of the Bessarabian metropolis and a prologue to the transition of the Moldovan church under its jurisdiction, was also negatively perceived by some opposition activists.
The protest is actually becoming widespread, albeit fragmented. If the communists and socialists fully enter into confrontation with the authorities, the country may be partially paralyzed. The incumbent authorities will need even more external funding and diplomatic support, and the non-functional and ungoverned territory will lose its important logistical significance in the framework of the war in Ukraine. Thus, Dereck Hogan is carrying an instruction to disperse protests already at this stage, to strengthen the police regime in the coming weeks and promise to influence Ilan Sor, who stays in Israel. In addition, the former US ambassador knows exactly what to say to Igor Dodon, Vladimir Voronin and the rest of the BECS tops in order “not to rock the boat.”
In addition, the American envoy is likely to pay attention to the election of the Bashkan in Gagauzia. The US could quickly establish permanent contact with the current leadership of the autonomy. Dereck Hogan was especially successful and used to hold regular meetings with Irina Vlah. The loyalty of the Gagauz elites to the United States and Turkey, and, therefore, indirectly to Chisinau, is a key factor in the stability and integrity of the country under the rule of PAS. For Maia Sandu and Washington, it is important that the election be won by a candidate who would uphold the regional Romanianization, the expansion of US and Turkish projects, and pragmatic subordinate relations with the center. Even if it requires some investment and work with electoral boards or illegal recall of a candidate supported by the PSRM.
Dereck Hogan’s visit is inter alia a gesture of support for Prime Minister Dorin Recean, newly appointed with the participation of the US Embassy. It is symbolic that Natalia Gavrilita was relieved of her post immediately after the successful (in the logic of the current authorities) summit in Brussels. Recean’s appointment is intended to show who runs the house. It is hardly the European Union.
As compensation for the high confidence shown, the prime minister may be required to do a lot, first, to increase pressure on Transdniestria. Among other things, he will be instructed to work out scenarios for a police operation (independently or jointly with Ukrainian units) in the region. The reason may be application of new articles on separatism from the Criminal Code followed by the detention of one or several Transdniestrian officials and the reaction from Tiraspol. There are quite a few Moldovan institutions on the Tiraspol-controlled territory, whose employees may fall under the “feedback”. Dorin Recean should become the very “hawk”, effectively dealing with the Transdniestrian issue, which his predecessor stubbornly ignored.
The situation in Transdniestria is also unstable. The visit of the State Department representative was obviously prepared in advance, before the regional authorities informed on the prevented terrorist attack. In contrast to last year’s spring, Tiraspol precised the culprits, i.e. the Ukrainian special services. Moldova and Ukraine deny the attack, and Dereck Hogan should help Washington decide on its interpretation (although it is obvious that the US will publicly support Kyiv’s position).
Summing up, we can expect that Dereck Hogan will discuss in Bucharest strengthening the rear and support for Ukraine, eliminating the current contradictions between the two countries, as well as plans for an accelerated unification of Romania and Moldova, if required by the military and diplomatic situation. The leadership of our country will be instructed:
- to strengthen the police regime, “break the backbone” of the left opposition and stop the protests;
- to achieve the victory of a pro-government candidate in the Gagauzian elections, including through manipulation and pressure on election boards;
- to prevent the restoration of Russia’s positions, including through pressure on its military presence in Transdniestria, as well as on the region itself, up to the threat of a military-police operation.
Of course, the State Department would eagerly and generously finance all these activities. If our authorities are not enough pliant on a sudden, Dereck Hogan could remind them of the upcoming local and parliamentary elections and of the possible challenges to the PAS due to the consolidation of the opposition right wing.