Chisinau Sends a Signal to Russia

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Cristian RUSSU
This month, the authorities were supposed to present a draft of an updated national security strategy, but instead they shared only the general outlines at a specially organized forum. The event was most likely aimed not at informing the public, but rather at sending a political signal regarding Russia’s new foreign policy concept which, for the first time, says nothing about Moldova
Reforming the security sector and revising the main documents defining the state’s foreign and defense strategy has been the leitmotif of presidential advisor Dorin Recean since last summer. The same message eventually served to formally justify his entry into the premiership and the reset of power, masking the results of the internal struggle within the ruling majority. Meanwhile, six months have passed since they announced that they had started working on the new national security strategy. The draft document was supposed to be presented to the public in April, for further debate and discussion. However, it appears that the officials in charge have nothing tangible to report so far. So, on April 12, the authorities, together with a close circle of civil society experts, held a formal reporting event, a discussion forum, in which they pompously described the “ambitious preparatory work” and “a special methodology to analyze the current situation and assess risks”, all the while praising themselves for what was achieved in the past year. Outside observers assessed the whole action as a “group therapy session”, for there was nothing but the acknowledgement of how important that work was for the country’s interests. Moreover, the presentation of the draft document was tentatively put off for three months, since, as they assured, no hurry was needed and the competent authorities are already aware how to act in the current emergency situation. The latter point was demonstrated by SIS chief Alexandru Musteata who extended the powers of his agency without any real strategies. Logically, it was Dorin Recean who set the tone for the panel discussion titled “Strategic Vision in the Context of Developing a National Security Strategy”. He stated that Moldovans have been under conditions of limited resources for too long, which has led to “narrow thinking” in realizing Moldova’s role in international affairs and perceiving the country’s national interests. His next call to overcome fears and doubts and the impact of “imposed neutrality” not only marked the geopolitical Rubicon passed by Moldova, but also included obvious revanchist overtones. Recean made it clear that our country is destined to play an important role in a long-term confrontation with a common adversary. At the request of those present, the prime minister specified this adversary (the Russian Federation), while the collective West and its structures were named the allies. In fact, this discourse became the basis for further discussions by government officials. The North Atlantic Alliance, the European Union and the United States were repeatedly honored as strongholds of stability, sustainability and democratization of Moldova; Ukraine was praised for deterring Russian aggression and for its common Euro-Atlantic aspirations; and Romania was commended for recognizing historical unity. In addition, the officials noted the importance of Great Britain and Poland, which have been particularly attentive to our country in recent months. This, perhaps, is where the ideas ended. Nor was it a revelation to publicly acknowledge that the new security strategy and national interests of the country are being formulated with the full financial and expert support of the Marshall European Center for Security Studies (supervised by the U.S. Department of Defense). After all, almost all Moldovan officials and NGO staff who have any relation to security issues have been trained by this American institution for twenty-five years already, and all previous strategic documents in the field of security and defense of Moldova came into being with its participation either. Another thing is curious. Constant statements by state officials and civil society representatives about the West as an ally, almost ritualistic assertion of its role as Moldova’s defender, and the announcement of the revision of national interests with its support led to the strong feeling that the panel discussion was in fact convened on a special occasion. Most likely, it was the recent approval of the new concept of Russia’s foreign policy. In this “manual” for Russian diplomats (and not only), Moldovan politicians and experts could not identify the status of our country, the signs of which they immediately saw in several provisions in relation to the non-controlled Transdniestrian region. The bloc about cooperation with CIS mentions only those countries that maintain “good-neighborly” or “constructive relations” with Russia. Other cases point only to the “objects” of Russia’s interests, where it intends to promote or preserve the Russian language and to protect the rights of compatriots. Of course, the text of the concept contains articles on “good neighborliness with neighboring states” and “assistance in preventing and eliminating hotbeds of tension and conflict on their territories”. However, one should not expect that they will be applicable to our country, given the current regional context. Especially when looking at the unambiguous provisions (actually, threats) mentioned in the document about “countering the deployment or strengthening of military infrastructure of unfriendly states and other threats to security in the near abroad” and “prevention and countering of unfriendly actions of foreign states and their associations, provoking disintegration processes in this region”. It turns out that the authorities, either on their own initiative or, rather, on their partners’ instructions, decided to hold this forum under the pretext to brief on the progress in developing a national security strategy in order to respond to Russia’s new foreign policy guidelines. This explains the defiant tone of the officials’ speeches and statements, and the announcement of their participation in a series of events, which Russia is sure to interpret only as a sign of confrontation. First of all, this is the trilateral meeting of the defense ministers of Ukraine, Moldova and Romania in Bucharest and the meeting of the Crimean Platform. In general, if my assumption is correct and there was an intent to dot all the I’s, then the event probably succeeded. Though it’s still not very clear how this can benefit Moldova.