Predictable and inevitable deterioration in Moldovan-Russian relations? IPN analysis

“In both of the cases, the problem raised in the protest note of the official Chisinau cannot be solved as it is inexistent from the viewpoint of Russia. For now, the only visible result of this is the fact that a large part of the Moldovan officials suspended contacts with their Russian counterparts and this is partially true about the relations between the two states on the whole…”.

Last week, the political administration of the Republic of Moldova transmitted a note to the political administration of the Russian Federation, whereby a series of abuses committed against officials of Parliament, the Government, special services and parties of the government coalition of Moldova are signaled. The given gesture has the potential to modify the essence of the Moldovan-Russian relations, towards their worsening rather than vice versa. It can be presumed that the Moldovan authorities, before making it, thoroughly calculated the possible effects, but anyway made it. Why and what consequences can this have? Is such a move right or wrong? Is it an act of courage or an act of despair?

Declared, semi-declared and undeclared reasons

The reasons stated in the press release issued by the Moldovan authorities are sufficiently credible: the humiliation of Moldovan officials of particular political affiliation at the entrance to the Russia Federation is visible, long-lasting and systemic. The explanations according to which this attitude by the Russian special services is related to the advancing of the investigation into the laundering of US$22 billion from Russia through Moldovan banks and suing of persons involved in this case seem logical, convincing and verifiable. It is about the country’s image that should not be left unsupervised by the state bodies, in any conditions. In this regard, the government of Moldova didn’t have the option to formulate or not a particular type of attitude.

The arguments about the abusive way in which one of the Russian institutions, during the past few months, repeatedly tried to place Moldova politicians, including MPs, under international monitoring, using false and truncated data for the purpose, should also be taken into account as these abuses formed part of an evident attempt to harass Moldovan officials.

But all these arguments wouldn’t have generated such a categorical position if the persons who were attempted to be placed under international monitoring didn’t include high-ranking politicians or even politicians of the highest rank. It is probably true that these persons included namely the leader of the ruling Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc, who is the coordinator of the ruling alliance and for whom the Russian special services asked for international monitoring for 15 times, as it is rumored, even if the requests were every time rejected, as the Moldovan authorities asserted . But this modifies somehow the content of the problem: was it worth risking so much Moldova’s rather frail relations with an international player like Russia, with its potential and style of behavior in foreign policy, especially in the ex-Soviet area, for the sake of a person?

What does Russia want?

The things invoked in the note of the Moldovan authorities are credible, including because they correspond to the spirit of the Moldovan-Russian relations not only of the last seven years, since Moldova has a government that declares itself pro-European. Maybe the countdown starts in 2003, when the then President Vladimir Voronin rejected the so-called “Kozak Memorandum” and the Russian President Vladimir Putin returned from the airport after he wanted to go to Chisinau to sign the given Memorandum.

Since then, the Russian authorities showed sinfulness and firmness in exploiting the vulnerable points of the Moldovan administration and society in general, which not always and not fully comply with the wishes of the Kremlin. The quasi-total and long-lasting bans on the import of Moldovan products that contributed to budget formation, economic and political independence are the most relevant example in this regard. In this respect, the person who formed governments seems attractive as these, if he is removed from a particular place by particular methods, can produce the collapse of the government that at least declares itself pro-European, not pro-Eurasian or pro-Russian. Maybe this figure deserves to be removed from the given pro-European Moldovan pyramid, but the Moldovan authorities say the international police bodies rejected this request made by the Russian special services all the 15 time. The European countries whose ambassadors were informed about the case on the occasion of the protest note, didn’t either confirm or deny the information about the highest-ranked person in Moldova under international supervision. The question is if the Russian special services have imagination only for 15 identical approaches concerning one and the same person or the Moldovan officials are right when they speak about political harassment?

Maybe Russia wants to diminish the influence of the Moldovan government on the Moldovan society, confronting it in a way with the several hundred thousand Moldovan migrants who will be pardoned by Russia, as it was announced last week, and with another several hundred thousand Moldovans who continue to work in Russia without problems, meaning the good people encounter no problem when entering Russia, while a part of the Moldovan officials do not form part of this category and do not deserve the support of the ‘good people’… Now, but especially in elections…

By the selective attitude to Moldovan politicians, Russia could pursue the goal of inclining the scale of the bipolar political class and of the Moldovan authorities, established after the presidential elections of last December, to a particular side.

What does Chisinau want?

By the March 9 protest note, the official Chisinau can only fix a firmer position in the relations with Moscow, which brought success to the ex-Soviet Baltic State in the dispute with the former metropolis, but also a safe place under NATO and EU. Maybe it saw that it is yet possible to go to Brussels  with tears, requests and weaknesses, while to Moscow it is not?…

Possibly the government of Moldova convinced itself for good that Moscow will not restore or will even not initiate a constructive dialogue with the pro-European component of the Moldovan political class as well, especially after the same presidential elections of last yearend. This means that volens-nolens the pro-European government concedes this segment of political activity to President Igor Dodon, who in several days will have the second meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during only three months in office, while the pro-European leaders had practically no meeting during seven years.

It is evident that the government of Moldova will gain nothing directly if President Dodon strengthens his positions in the Eurasian direction. But it could bank on an indirect and long-term gain if their calculations are right. The possible further deterioration in the Moldovan-Russian relations could result in the consolidation of the government’s positions in the Western, European direction, especially in terms of foreign support, including financial one. With a particular dose of optimism, we could expect the European orientation of the country to also strengthen. A relevant example in this regard is the total reorientation of Moldova’s exports and of the economy on the whole to the European market, given the commercial sanctions imposed by Russia.

Also, the government would gain from the deterioration in the relations with Russia in electoral sense, counting on the confrontation of geopolitical courses in the future election campaign that is not very far. That’s why the fact that the given note emerged practically simultaneously with the Democratic Party’s intention to modify the electoral system is probably not accidental. This could be an element of the same strategy, but this is not mandatorily.

Divergent interests with predictable and inevitable result?

In the created situation, almost nothing of what Russia wants suits Chisinau and almost nothing of want Chisinau wants by transmitting the note suits Russia as Russia would never admit to harassing Moldovan officials based on political criteria and that its special services do want they want without asking the senior administration. The second variant would be even more offensive for the Kremlin. The Russian deputy minister of foreign affairs Grigori Karasin, who arrived in Chisinau yesterday, described the note as ‘related to diplomatic disputes’, even if the Moldovan officials who form the political administration of the state addressed the note to the ‘political administration’ of the Russian Federation. A reaction of a different king will probably not come from Moscow, but a harsh reaction is not yet excluded. In both of the cases, the problem raised in the protest note of the official Chisinau cannot be solved as it is inexistent from the viewpoint of Russia. For now, the only visible result of this is the fact that a large part of the Moldovan officials suspended contacts with their Russian counterparts and this is partially true about the relations between the two states on the whole.

Valeriu Vasilica, IPN

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