Shall We Face “Moldovan Revolution of Dignity”?

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Sergiu CEBAN
In case of unfavorable developments, the ruling party and Maia Sandu may well get people out to protest under the pretext of defending the country’s European course
Yesterday, Ukraine celebrated the 10th anniversary of the start of the “Revolution of Dignity and Freedom”, popularly dubbed Euromaidan. The main events, as well known, started on 21 November 2013 in reaction to the decision of the then Ukrainian authorities to suspend preparations for signing the association agreement with the European Union. Large protests led not only to the change of government, but also to a series of tragic events, the loss of control over Crimea and the start of hostilities in the east of the country. In hindsight, it is hardly possible to say that Ukraine has achieved better conditions for its statehood. As a result of the violent conflict with Russia, Kyiv, of course, got as close to the West as possible and even received “expedited” status of an EU candidate country, but the price of these achievements was incredibly high. It is hard to say whether this is what the neighboring country’s residents expected, and how right the choice of the Ukrainian elites was. But, one way or another, it is still early to finalize the issue of Ukraine’s fate, as it will face many more trials. Just the day before, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia wanted to remove him from office by the end of 2023. For that purpose, Moscow is allegedly working on a destabilization plan under the provisional name “Maidan-3”. That is another revolution, but with a distinct Kremlin influence. To what extent this scenario is feasible now is a rhetorical question, but we should not categorically rule out this possibility. Especially considering that Western capitals are also interested in the rotation of Ukrainian political elites. The US and German defense ministers, the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, and our president, Maia Sandu, came to support Ukraine and participate in the commemoration to mark the events of ten years ago. In fact, the composition of the guests symbolically reflects what kind of assistance Kyiv needs now. It needs military supplies from Washington and Berlin, any possible support from its neighbors, and a clear integration perspective from the European Union. For obvious reasons, the trip and the program of our leadership’s visit were not announced. After arriving in Kyiv, Sandu visited the Alley of Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred together with Zelenskyy and honored the memory of street activists who died during the Revolution of Dignity. In her speech, the head of state said that she had arrived in the Ukrainian capital to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy and European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the next steps towards Moldova’s and Ukraine’s accession to the EU, measures to strengthen regional security, and further EU support for reforms in the two countries. At first glance, it seems like Maia Sandu is looking for a meeting with the head of the European Council somewhere, as if Brussels is not ready to receive her now. However, most likely, the reasons lie elsewhere, and her trip to Kyiv is a certain sign that something is going wrong with our European integration, and the intra-EU compromise on the opening of accession negotiations is not working out. Therefore, we must assume that in the difficult atmosphere of the Ukrainian capital and the continuing resistance to the Kremlin’s onslaught, Zelenskyy together with Sandu are hoping to “pressurize” Charles Michel. Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Popescu also went to save the situation, but to Brussels. He has already met with European Union Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Gert-Jan Koopman. In addition, the MFAEI head has visited the director for the Eastern Neighbourhood, the head of the department for Georgia and Moldova, as well as the department for regional policy and strategy in the Western Balkans. Despite the reassuring statements and glossy faces in the photos, there is some tension in the air ahead of the European Council meeting scheduled for mid-December. The post-Soviet period has actually linked Ukraine and Moldova much more strongly than it seems at first glance. Ever since the first Maidan in 2004 and Chisinau’s turn towards European integration, both countries have been considered in the West as one package and have always stood apart from the rest of the post-Soviet space. In fact, this explains why even today both states experience the most powerful gravitational influence of the West, which has always had a special interest in the neighboring territories and outskirts of the former Soviet Union, which eventually could not but lead to a clash with Moscow’s interests. The Ukrainian revolution of 2013 was in a sense a transition phase, when the western part of the post-Soviet space became the arena of a fierce struggle between the West and Russia. All these endless regime changes, the roundabout of pro-Western and pro-Russian politicians are nothing but manifestations of the perpetual uncompromising confrontation on this regional perimeter. The current war in Ukraine is a direct consequence of this protracted struggle. As it has happened many times before, the geopolitical pendulum is shifting for a while in the opposite direction from the West. As a result, Kyiv loses, first and foremost, sources of military and financial support, which reduces its ability to actively counter Moscow’s attempts to restore its influence in the region. This, in turn, means that attempts to weaken and eventually dislodge the political regime in Moldova will inevitably intensify. In fact, it does not really matter whether the European Council gives the green light to launch negotiations or refuses - it still will not be a hundred per cent guarantee that the ruling party will be able to retain power. At the same time, the current foreign policy course is, one way or another, non-alternative. It is obvious that nominally none of the modern political leaders in Moldova will openly oppose the pro-European vector in order, at least, not to fall into the “Dodon story”, when the “concept of a balanced foreign policy” eventually led him to international isolation. Therefore, the diverse opposition is ready to continue carrying the banner of European integration instead of the ruling party and Maia Sandu, even with redoubled efforts. The ruling party has practically exhausted all its opportunities to achieve “better times”, as well as the credit of trust granted to it by the population. At the same time, revanchist forces are striving for a consolidated push against the current government, which raises a logical question: how the current leadership of the country is going to defend its positions and the European choice. Some advisers among president’s cronies have repeatedly stated that they are ready to urge people to take to the streets to prevent a change of political course (but rather of regime). But even Maia Sandu, honoring the memory of the Heavenly Hundred, seems to share such an example of desperate resistance and does not rule out such a scenario in Moldova.