Moldova: Between Russia and the West

While Moscow is supporting European nationalism, the United States continues to embrace the process of globalization, multiculturalism and internationalism. A war for the hearts and minds of Europe is already ongoing. The new Trump administration will have to act very wisely if Washington is to retain its position in Europe. Resetting relations with Putin will not do it.

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By Nicholas Dima l March 8, 2017

Moldova

The Republic of Moldova is a small and poor country that has existed since the 1991 dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The country is of limited importance to the world, but it is a battleground between the expanding Russian ambitions and the apparently shrinking interests of America in Europe.

In spite of its pro-European manifestations, last November Moldova elected Igor Dodon, a strongly pro-Russian president. Moscow’s choice in Moldova reflects Russia’s traditional geopolitics and intelligence operations. While Putin rides on a wave of nationalism at home and encourages Western European nationalists, Russia promotes pliable leaders around its periphery. Moldova is the latest case.

Shortly after his election, Mr. Dodon went to Moscow and was received by Vladimir Putin.

The visit should not have rung alarm bells, but in the new international situation it did. The two leaders discussed issues of bilateral interest and addressed Moldova’s plan of joining the Moscow-led Eurasian Union. President Putin stated that Moldova is an important partner of Russia and stressed the ‘historic’ relations between old Russia and the medieval Principality of Moldova. The less informed reader should know that Moldova together with Wallachia and Transylvania, inhabited largely by Romanians, united to make modern Romania.

However, Russia occupied the eastern part of Moldova and later made it into a Soviet republic. Ever since, Moscow has used this province for its political purpose. President Putin did not miss this opportunity, either. He offered Dodon a framed map of historic Moldova including the larger part that is in Romania. It was a veiled territorial threat against Bucharest. Then, according to the TASS news agency, Mr. Dodon showed the map to the Russian journalists stressing that Moldova’s relations with Russia are crucial.

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There were immediate reactions against Dodon’s statements and some of them were from elected Moldovan officials. According to Moldova.org of January 22, even before his departure for Moscow the Liberal members of the Moldovan Parliament initiated the procedure to suspend him. Then, several organizations and notably Tinerii Moldovei (The Youth of Moldova) began to protest against their president and vowed to keep denouncing him. They affirmed, ironically, that Moldova is not ‘Dodonia’ and rejected Dodon’s opinion that Moldovans are different than Romanians. The official Soviet position was for decades that Moldovans are a separate nationality. Tinerii Moldovei reject any such distinction and adopted the slogan… I speak Romanian I do not care for Dodon!

Another issue that was discussed in Moscow was the future of pro-Western Chisinau that prevailed prior to Dodon’s election. Over the last several years Moldova received substantial financial aid from the European Union, but during his visit to Moscow Dodon played down the importance of the association with the EU. Instead, he proposed trilateral negotiations between Moldova, EU and Russia. According to Moldova.org, Brussels rejected the idea and made it clear that the Association Agreement is only between EU and the Republic of Moldova.

Romania is recently overwhelmed by a series of anti-corruption protests, but its leaders are worried by Putin’s attitude and actions in Eastern Europe. The chief of the PSD governing party Liviu Dragnea and Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu rushed to America and on January 19 they met Donald Trump. During the meeting, they expressed their fear for the future of the Strategic Partnership of Romania and the United States. However, President Trump answered promptly: ‘We will make it [the partnership] happen.’ A photo showing Mr. Dragnea shaking hands with President-elect Trump was later released. For Romania, this reassurance is important in light of a possible rapprochement between the new Trump administration and the old Putin team.

In the larger European scene, the election of Donald Trump, just after the exit of Great Britain from the EU, has encouraged the nationalist movements and anti-EU trends. However, a rapprochement between the new Trump administration and Putin, as reported by the press, could be tricky for the West and dangerous for the East. Such a move would offer Moscow new opportunities to increase its influence over the European continent. Moldova may be of little importance to America, but Western Europe is a different story. And there are reasons to worry because Europe is approaching a series of significant national elections.

On March 15 there will be elections for the Dutch Parliament and the conservative Party of Freedom could win more seats than expected. In April and May there will be presidential elections in France and the National Front of Marine Le Pen is making big inroads. Later this year there will be elections in Italy and Germany, and in both countries nationalists are increasingly vocal. And in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel may lose the election because of her open pro-immigration policy.

Of all these countries, France is of particular interest because many citizens are tired of terrorist acts and may decide to vote for Marine Le Pen. And it is risky because Le Pen and Putin are friends and France may tilt the European political balance of power toward Russia.

While Moscow is supporting European nationalism, the United States continues to embrace the process of globalization, multiculturalism and internationalism. A war for the hearts and minds of Europe is already ongoing. The new Trump administration will have to act very wisely if Washington is to retain its position in Europe. Resetting relations with Putin will not do it.


Nicholas Dima, Ph.D, is a former professor and author of numerous books and articles including the autobiographical memoir, Journey to Freedom, a description of the effects of communist dictatorship on a nation, a family and an individual. He currently lectures and is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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