Waning Solidarity Between the West and Ukraine. What Should Moldova Do?

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The decline in Western support for Ukraine, which is increasingly preoccupied with its own problems, is seen in many spheres: political, financial, trade and economic. Perhaps our authorities should also revisit some aspects in relations with Kyiv in order to protect Moldovan interests  
Semyon ALBU, RTA: While Western authorities, who turned into hawks, say at every turn that Putin will not be able to “wait out” support for Ukraine, the reality is rather different. We see how literally every month more and more new circumstances arise that make us doubt whether solidarity with Kyiv, so powerful in previous years, has really remained at the same level. In fact, the European bureaucracy is now almost single-handedly promoting the support for Kyiv, while national authorities increasingly prefer pragmatic solutions, even if their slogans remain the same. Let’s take France as an example. On the one hand, President Macron is almost the main breacher of red lines and the most tireless lobbyist of decisive action in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. On the other hand, Paris, together with several other partners, is simultaneously defending the restriction of Ukrainian agricultural import into the European Union, which may harm the neighboring country by more than a billion euros amidst a critical shortage of money in the Ukrainian treasury. Kyiv now faces a whole bunch of problems associated with the crisis in receiving aid from the West. Firstly, the process of European integration is stalled. It was morally more or less painless for Brussels and the EU member states to make decisions on granting candidate status and opening accession negotiations, which themselves did not carry any additional burden and were essentially political declarations. And let us remember how difficult it was to reach consensus last autumn, when they had to exert massive pressure on Hungary and almost force its leader out of the room during the vote. Now, when it is time to get down to practical work and launch membership negotiations, it turns out that there is no agreement on this topic, while the issue itself is “controversial”, as diplomatic sources describe it. And it is not certain that at the EU summit starting today it will be possible to lobby for it as before. After all, it’s no longer about symbolic moves, it’s time for concrete things. Which, as we predicted, will be much more difficult to implement. Secondly, there are obvious financial problems. The EU has been able to allocate a $50 billion package for a few years, but only by using persuasion, blackmail and, eventually, bribing Budapest. However, the second key donor, the US, as we know, is still unable to agree on its aid programme and, apparently, will not be able to do so in its current form. There are already creative proposals from Washington that all further funding should be provided in the form of loans, which the Ukrainians found offensive, and they can be understood. I would like to add that they cannot afford this. It’s scary to imagine how they will force this war-torn and depopulated country to pay for it. At the same time, Brussels is not going to compensate for the loss of American support. Thirdly, trade and economic solidarity has evaporated. Calls to limit or stop imports of Ukrainian agricultural goods have become mainstream in the socio-political life of many EU countries. Moreover, they have been integrated into the programmes of demands of protesting European farmers. It seems that these protests won’t subside. Only yesterday they swept across Poland, where tens of thousands of farmers blocked roads, entrances to populated areas and, of course, the Ukrainian-Polish border. The Brussels bureaucracy, despite its reluctance, cannot ignore such a strong discontent. Although the EU has tentatively agreed to extend duty-free exports of Ukrainian products, rumored to be the last time, it has left open the possibility of promptly imposing import duties on certain categories of goods if their import volumes exceed the 2022-2023 average. Also, while initial plans were to extend this protective mechanism only to poultry meat, eggs and sugar, the national authorities insisted that oats, corn, barley and honey be added to the list. However, this is not a cure-all either, because some countries impose their own restrictions even against the will and anger of the EU. As recently as last year, almost all of Ukraine’s neighbors, one way or another, were reducing Ukrainian imports: Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and, of course, Hungary. The day is saved only by unblocking the Black Sea corridors, but it is still a big challenge, especially as the situation worsens. For instance, Poland, despite the coming to power of the “pro-Ukrainian” prime minister and the Cabinet, still made concessions to its agrarians and, moreover, pledged to terminate both the import and the transit of Ukrainian grain. In addition, Polish protesters regularly block the border with Ukraine and do not allow cargo and sometimes even passenger transport to pass. Kyiv’s total losses have exceeded one billion euros. Ukraine, which is economically completely dependent on the West, is trying to act with its usual emotional diplomacy, but this no longer works. As a result, it has to put up with the restrictions and admit to them for the sake of decency. Ukraine is well aware of the scale of the current “Western solidarity”, which is so great that the issue of Ukraine’s European integration in the run-up to the European Parliament elections has to be glossed over so as not to irritate voters once again. Unfortunately, our neighbor is being exploited more and more blatantly as a tool of global confrontation with Russia, while evidently having no desire to spend much. Curiously, even the profits from Russian assets in Europe, which were originally planned for rebuilding the country, are now used to buy ammunition. Arriving U.S. senators are also advising Kyiv to mobilize young people at an accelerated pace to make up for losses and form new units. And European countries are even ready to deploy their troops in non-dangerous zones, so that the released AFU units could go in the war zone. As you see, Ukrainians are offered to fight to the bitter end and to think less about the future. Our slow-witted authorities are naturally incapable of engaging in active thought processes and quickly recognizing the changing reality. They seem to have no feel for current trends and continue to remain in the vein of total and blind “pro-Ukrainianism”. As if it is difficult to understand that the situation has changed dramatically over the past two years: if earlier a Ukrainian locomotive used to take a Moldovan wagon on a trailer, now things are completely different. And now Ukraine, whose maintenance in the EU is estimated at hundreds of billions of euros and which can unbalance the Union’s economy, especially the agricultural sector, is more likely to reduce the chances of further integration of our country, which, due to its small size, is ща little concern to the EU countries. Moreover, the authorities are stubbornly reluctant to meet the needs of Moldovan farmers and introduce protectionist measures to stop the ruination of the country’s agricultural sector. Every day, our agrarians have more and more questions when they see how their colleagues in Poland, Slovakia and even Romania seek effective solutions from their national governments to protect their interests, even if they are not approved by Brussels. Whereas in our country, ruined farmers are almost stigmatized, being accused of lacking the infamous “solidarity” and failure to understand the state of affairs. Of course, Moldova and Ukraine are geographically linked for eternity, but in big politics there are no friends and allies. There can be a partnership based on a situational coincidence of interests. However, now we and Kyiv are increasingly diverging from each other, and the time has come for the “yellow gang” to remember which country they are running, and to act accordingly. Good thing they have plenty of examples among the EU states.