Does Moldova Have Any Post-Conflict Strategy?

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Both the West and the East have a growing demand for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict to end as soon as possible. Still, are our authorities ready for what is to follow after the war ends?  
Sergiu CEBAN, RTA: A relative stability on the front line and the latest phase of diplomatic efforts around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict can hardly be seen as proper signs of a quick end to the conflict. Last week Russia dealt another missile strike on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, calling it “retaliation” for the sabotage group’s raid in the Briansk region. All indications are that the sides are bracing for the spring campaign as they show their whole resolve to continue fighting. Kyiv appears to be willing to conduct a counter-offensive on one of the front sections, most likely on the so-called “land corridor to Crimea”. This would inspire victorious optimism both in the Ukrainian population and foreign audiences to convince allies of the effectiveness of the military approach towards a better position in post-conflict negotiations. Of course, there is no guarantee that this counter-attack will succeed, and if it fails it is very likely that the West will accelerate (if not demand) the transit from the military to the diplomatic phase. Nevertheless, the last few weeks have witnessed a definite shift in trends in war discourse in both Ukrainian and foreign media. Most notably, the “victory” rhetoric and the idea of a total military defeat for Russia are less and less common. The traditional language has been replaced by more moderate statements and attempts of individual experts to steer the public debate towards ending the war, the so-called “exit strategy”. The most recent example is the “peace plan of the West” remarks of the former head of the Munich Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger. There is no doubt that this renowned German expert expresses not only his own opinion but also the sentiments of the political elites in Europe’s leading capitals, especially Berlin. In his words, the time has come to start a peace process on Ukraine, for which a political-strategic contact group with a transatlantic core should be formed. This group could study what a ceasefire, future peace talks, options for a peaceful solution to the conflict, security guarantees and, in the end, a model of post-war order on the continent should look like. Among other things, there is an increasing recognition in the West that further escalation of the conflict is fraught with a direct clash between NATO and Russia. Yesterday’s incident, when a large American drone was shot down over the Black Sea, is clear evidence that a military escalation between Moscow and the North Atlantic alliance could happen at any moment, even due to someone’s negligence. This may be one of the reasons why the transfer of combat aircraft to Ukraine have so far been shelved. No less important, not only does the US face Russia when it comes to foreign policy but it also has to confront a large grouping of states, each of which is forcing Washington out of its traditional regions in its own way. A prime example is the recent China-brokered reconciliation of the two long-time Middle Eastern rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This leads not only to stronger Beijing and Moscow in the Middle East, but also to the loss of the US strategic initiative in this complex Islamic perimeter. After a year-long pause, with a feeling that Washington is driving itself into a strategic stalemate, China has now stepped out of its foreign policy shadow and is working hard to discredit the US role in inter-state affairs and in the global economy. Against this backdrop, Beijing will most probably step up its efforts in proposing an alternative model for international cooperation and guidelines for the future, including global trade and economic development, as well as the unique practice of reconciling even the most bitter rivals. In this context, it is far from coincidental that China appears on the horizon of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Experts expect Beijing to make a diplomatic push towards Kyiv and Moscow in the very near future in an attempt to advance its peace plan. According to some reports, Chinese leader Xi Jinping plans to visit the Russian capital as early as next week and also to chat online with Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since the outbreak of hostilities. Apparently, China in this way wants to enhance its reputation as a peacemaker and to serve as a support for developing countries that suffer the costs of war and advocate for a peaceful end to the conflict. Yet, Beijing’s capacities should not be overestimated. On the other hand, so many peace initiatives from both the West and the East could be a sign of a growing international peace consensus that is starting to take quite tangible shape. Slowing down such a large-scale war as the Russiaт-Ukrainian one will not be a quick and easy process. However, it would be wise for our politicians and their advisers to look to the future as early as now and think seriously about the post-conflict strategy and positions that Chisinau will adopt as part of a larger Ukrainian settlement. Virtually all experts are convinced that our country will be part of these complex regional processes, including discussions on the future security structure and politico-military architecture in the post-Soviet region. Today, Chisinau received both a high-level delegation from the US State Department and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. The officially announced agenda includes regional security issues and the “strategic dialogue development”. One can speculate much on the real motives of the visit of the high emissaries from Washington and London, but let’s just say that this is not merely for the record, and the talks will be serious indeed. We are, of course, waiting for protection and increased assistance to counter external threats. However, we have to proceed from one important notion: the world has changed a lot and will continue to change. And in the near future our elites will have to answer, once and for all, a series of existential questions that have long kept our statehood in limbo and disorientation. These include the status of neutrality, the future of relations with Romania, the country’s geopolitical and historical choices, the prospects for European integration and the Transdniestrian settlement.