Moldova’s crisis has regional and transatlantic implications, Bucharest expert

While Moldova is not new to political deadlock and infighting, what happened this weekend has regional and transatlantic implications, writes Alina Inayeh, director of the German Marshall Fund/Black Sea Trust in Bucharest, in an opinion piece. The expert suggests that Russia is now supporting the anti-oligarchic effort in Chisinau to gain a chip in a broader game with the EU and the US. But also that Russia can no longer be used as a bogeyman by oligarchs in the region.

Alina Inayeh starts out by briefly chronicling the recent events in Chisinau: the formation of “an otherwise unlikely coalition” between ACUM and PSRM, “united in their goal to rid the country of the influence of Plahotniuc, the man who captured Moldova’s institutions and practically controls the state”; followed by a series of precipitate rulings from the Constitutional Court.

“What is extraordinary about this weekend’s events is that the coalition between ACUM and the Socialists, and the consequent government, is supported by the EU, the United States, and Russia. Their respective ambassadors were present for the session of the parliament, and all have issued communiqués in support of the new government. This is highly unusual for a region where Russia and the transatlantic community compete for influence, and are at odds with each other,” says Alina Inayeh.

However, thinks the expert, Russia’s cooperation with the United States and the EU in this case should not be mistaken for realignment, or for the beginning of a new partnership.

“While it is true that Plahotniuc became uncomfortable for Russia, given his lately hostile attitude, it employs other, more creative methods to get rid of undesirables than a coalition with the EU and the United States. Russia cooperates now with them over Moldova only to ask for cooperation, or benevolence, elsewhere”.

Many fear Russia will push for a federalization of the country, notes the expert. However she suggests that Russia has many other problems to address now, and at a bigger scale. “Anyway, it is very likely that the good gesture is meant to warm relations so that a consequent conversation—whether on lifting sanctions, on the Middle East, or on Ukraine—meets less resistance. (...) Cooperation in Moldova hands Russia a chip it will eventually use in its interest”.

According to the expert, Russia’s support for the ACUM-Socialists government also signals to regimes in the region that playing the transatlantic community against Moscow is no longer an option. “As real, significant, and troublesome as it is, Russia’s meddling in internal politics has often been used by governments in the region as an excuse for their own lack of will to reform. Moldova is no exception. Russia’s aggressiveness and use of illegal means to interfere should not be an excuse to corruption or capture of state institutions in Moldova, Ukraine, or Georgia”, concludes Alina Inayeh, director of the German Marshall Fund/Black Sea Trust in Bucharest.

The German Marshall Fund is a prestigious American organization, and Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation is the organization’s grant-making initiative that supports civil society and democracy foundations in countries that include Romania, Ukraine and Moldova, among others. In 2017, Black Sea Trust was blacklisted as an undesirable organization in Russia.