Why Are Changes in the U.S. Administration Dangerous for Moldova?

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Sergiu CEBAN
Donald Trump’s return to the White House is a big risk factor for the ruling regime in Moldova
The first debate of the main presidential contenders predictably exposed the obvious weakness of Joe Biden, who is now losing his re-election chances even faster. This failure prompted rumors that he would be persuaded to leave the race immediately. To curb the internal stirring, party sources made it clear that the Democrats would still formally nominate Biden, and fairly soon - before the August convention on July 21. Of course, this is just the first round, and the incumbent president may well improve the situation in further pre-election debates. All the more so because Trump’s convincing victory last week, as opinion polls say, did not radically affect the preferences of the American voter. Hence, the November vote will again be not so much for Biden as against Trump. A change in the U.S. administration always provokes an international impact, and the possible re-entry of Trump, a known troublemaker, into the White House multiplies the potential degree of impact. Therefore, everyone from China to Europe is wondering who will sit in the oval office. The return of a Republican could turn the world situation upside down. Although the actions of the current team over recent years have not significantly bolstered the image and international standing of the United States. The reason for this is a series of military and regional crises and deteriorating relations with strategic allies. As a result, in 2024 we see an unbalanced world order in which the U.S. is losing its stance as a global hegemon and is still unable to formulate a new model of leadership. By all appearances, Kyiv is also bracing itself for Trump’s new term, trying to get everything it can from Biden, who views Ukraine as a big international asset. For the current Ukrainian elites, the change of American leadership threatens to become a big and intractable problem that will inevitably affect the course of the conflict with Russia. Although Ukraine’s relationship with Donald Trump did not work out during his last presidency, Zelensky’s office is nevertheless trying to tune communication channels with his entourage. Yesterday’s visit to Kyiv by Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, who is the closest ideological associate of the Republican candidate, does not look accidental at all. The ambiguous statements following the visit suggest an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to conceive a plan of action for early next year, as soon as Trump can fully engage in international affairs. The removal of Joe Biden’s team is not the best scenario for the current ruling class in Moldova either. It is no secret that a large number of officials and politicians appointed by PAS are mainly representatives of the private and non-governmental sector, which is linked to the liberal-globalist establishment of the United States, which is behind the Democratic Party. Donald Trump, in turn, is known to position himself as a non-systemic player who has challenged this influential group of American elites. In fact, back in 2016, shortly after Donald Trump’s election, pessimistic moods about the prospects of Moldova-America relations grew among Moldovan analysts and even in the ruling circles. They were believed to be placed on the back burner of US foreign policy, while the programs and projects connected with the Democratic Party would be frozen. Experts voiced gloomy predictions that further cooperation with Chisinau would directly depend on the nature of U.S. relations with Russia, as well as the EU. On the other hand, it was Trump who proposed Dereck Hogan for the ambassador’s post, who almost completely reshaped the political field of Moldova. During Trump’s first term, Maia Sandu’s team tried to reach out to him. The then prime minister was eventually given an informal audience with Ivanka Trump, an advisor to the U.S. president. If we ignore the worn-out phrases about fighting corruption, attracting investments and democratic reforms, it is obvious that at that stage the ACUM bloc was trying to gain support to bolster its position in its dialog with Moscow. However, a few months later, the Kremlin, apparently with the tacit consent of the White House, was greenlit to wreck the Sandu-Dodon coalition, following which Dodon formed a new alliance with the PDM. The main factor for the ruling regime in Moldova is the deep conflict between George Soros, the “godfather” of the PAS team, and Donald Trump. According to the Republican leader, Soros invested hundreds of millions of dollars from 2016 to 2020 to undermine his ratings. In addition, Soros foundations are among the main sponsors of the current denunciation campaign against Donald Trump. Therefore, many in Chisinau are already wondering how the new U.S. administration will treat Soros’ political cronies in Moldova and how drastic the reduction in U.S. support will be. Most likely, towards the fall, when there will be more clarity around the U.S. presidential election, we will see the first “messengers” trying to reach influential Republicans in Trump’s entourage. It is hard to say how successful this will be, but the high risk of a rapid cooling with Washington, directly proportional to the probability of Trump’s election, will in any case inspire such activity. Meanwhile, the Western press is already making the first sketches about the foreign policy program of the potential U.S. leader, which is in stark contrast to the current course of the White House. It is argued that in case of winning the election, the Republican will stop NATO’s eastward expansion, including to Ukraine and Georgia, and will negotiate with Putin as to what part of Ukrainian territory will remain under Russian control. It is essentially important for our authorities to realize that all of his administration’s policy decisions will be made based on the Ukrainian context. Moreover, Trump’s propensity to make deals and to heed the Kremlin’s interests is hardly an encouraging prospect for Chisinau. It is worth recalling that it was Trump who, at the end of his mandate, imposed on Serbia and Kosovo an agreement on the implementation of a series of interrelated initiatives. With clenched teeth, they signed it with the mediation of the US president. In the long run, the document was supposed to allow the parties to take a step forward, expanding the zone of interaction and reducing the risks of escalation. However, these plans were not destined to materialize after Trump was defeated in the elections. Although this is just one example, it is very illustrative and should be taken into account by all Moldovan politicians, regardless of party affiliation. Trump himself and his entourage have a penchant for such decisive deals, which are very difficult to evade. The worst thing for Chisinau is that such “foreign policy deals” will be the result of a tacit compromise between Washington and Moscow.