Is Moldova Ready for Peace?

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Anton ŠVEC
The Western world is growing tired and irritated with wars, already one of the key factors in election campaigns in the EU and the USA. However, the incumbent Moldovan authorities seem to build their future plans based only on the continued and further expanding Russian-Ukrainian conflict
Sponsorship of military conflicts has become a crucial topic in election campaigns in the United States and the European Union. United Europe is confused by its own inability to formulate realistic goals for the war in Ukraine and the uncertain prospects for NATO in the event of a domestic political transformation in the United States. Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the election race, made another series of high-profile statements over the weekend, openly declaring his reluctance to pay for Europe’s security at the expense of American taxpayers. Brussels finds it increasingly difficult to counteract the internal front that does not support Ukraine’s financing, and to balance the need to maintain high living standards and social guarantees with the constant growth of defense and security expenditures. Fifty billion euros over four years is not sufficient for drastic successes of the AFU, which lacks mobilization resources and modern weapons. The inability to explain to voters the current political course, which is obviously inertial and futile and cannot change the situation in the Ukrainian theatre of military operations, combined with another wave of the migration crisis, is likely to strengthen the positions of right-wing conservative and nationalist parties in the European Parliament and certain countries of the Union. By the middle of this year, the EU may already be operating in a fundamentally different reality, which will require populist steps and concessions to Eurosceptics from Brussels. The delayed effects on industry as a result of the problems with Russian energy supplies and instability at the borders will bring some troubles and become a factor of increased conflict and revenge of national projects within the EU. Under such conditions, the next politicized enlargement (including Moldova’s hypothetical membership) will either be postponed or will require further reduction of living standards in the key countries of the community and a respective reinforcement of coercive institutions. The issue of military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan is the main stumbling block in the confrontation between the US republicans and democrats, i.e. between Donald Trump and Joseph Biden. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives blocks the bill passed in the Senate to allocate funding to Kyiv in a package with Tel Aviv and Taipei ($50.5 billion for Ukraine for military spending and $9.5 for economic security and humanitarian aid). In political science, especially in the Western tradition, conflict is perceived as a precondition for transformation and development, i.e. as a perfectly acceptable element of the socio-political process that ensures progress. Yet, even the Western world demonstrates war fatigue. Israel’s brutal military actions in the Gaza Strip are raising more and more questions, even among the mainstream. Monday’s strike on the town of Rafah near the border with Egypt killed more than 100 people (230 wounded). The humanitarian crisis and the numerous casualties are provoking criticism not only from Middle Eastern states but also from the United Nations. De facto support of the USA, Great Britain and Germany for a war, with all the signs of genocide amidst UN resolutions and decisions of the international criminal court, gives rise to contradictions within the establishment, an extremely dangerous trend given the deepening gap between the elites and the rest of the population. By the way, our leadership persistently supports Israel’s policy and praises Azerbaijan’s military solution in Nagorno-Karabakh, hinting at the use of similar tactics in Transnistria and, if necessary, in Gagauzia. However, Western society starts to demand alternative viewpoints, including on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The objective interest of the American public in Vladimir Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson is a vivid indicator of this shift. Sensing transformations in public opinion, Volodymyr Zelensky is acting decisively to escalate the conflict and bring it out of the phase of positional warfare with the Russian initiative. The appointment of Oleksandr Syrskyi as commander-in-chief and a number of other reshuffles in the AFU should be perceived precisely in terms of the political goals of the presidential office. Valerii Zaluzhnyi was characterized as a military commander focused on preserving personnel and the combat effectiveness of units, sometimes to the detriment of successes on the front with high political cost. Under Syrskyi, the fighting for Avdiivka will predictably intensify, and a new Ukrainian offensive will be organized in the southern (Kherson) direction. Losses, “cauldrons” and the long-term prospects of the AFU will be sidelined. Moldova’s current regime benefits from Kyiv’s new strategy, as it potentially moves the southern theatre of military operations away from the country’s territory. This allows it to solve its domestic political tasks, including the reintegration of Transnistria, which has accelerated over the past two years, without considering the military risks. Chisinau, through Maia Sandu, Igor Grosu and Mihai Popsoi, is increasingly promoting the withdrawal of Russian troops and armaments from the left bank of the Dniester. In the current circumstances, given the political ambitions, the risks of military provocations in the region, for example, against Russian peacekeepers, are significantly increasing. Especially since the wreckage of a Russian drone (presumably a “shahed”) designed to attack Ukrainian port infrastructure rather “timely” fell on our territory, this time in Gagauzia. The reaction of the country’s leadership in the form of anti-Russian hysteria was predictable and aimed at the external audience – for convenience, everyone commented in English. The current authorities will use the role of victim to the maximum to demonstrate solidarity, attract funding and political support, including for plans to eliminate the Russian presence on the Dniester. Especially given the electoral campaign already launched, in which Maia Sandu’s position and rating are, to put it mildly, fragile. Official Chisinau has a plan that takes into account the continuation of the war and its geographical expansion. Maia Sandu’s regime has benefitted much from the conflict in Ukraine, first of all the tangibility of the goals of European integration and the possibility to destroy the opposition. But does it have a plan for peace, i.e. in case Moscow and Kyiv enter political negotiations? It seems that it will be difficult for the current authorities to explain to the international community its measures to destroy the autonomy of Gagauzia and wipe out the local budget, as well as the economic war against Tiraspol. Apparently, Maia Sandu has no such plans.