“While the threats formulated by the Russian Foreign Ministry are indeed designed to intimidate the Moldovan authorities, Russia’s obvious irritation is an indicator that the Putin regime has finally started to recognize the Republic of Moldova as a subject of international law…”
A bill of indictment
Ahead of Moldova’s Independence Day, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson published a comment “on the situation in Moldova”. Curiously, the Russian Foreign Ministry has made it a habit of issuing statements now and again on developments in our country. As if we weren’t a sovereign and independent nation able to solve our internal, external and security problems on our own. Also interestingly, the clearly exasperated comment by the Russian spokesperson is apparently based on media reports and pundit commentary. So here are the sins imputed to the Moldovan authorities:
• accepting Western military equipment – “demining equipment, small arms, various types of grenades, as well as reconnaissance equipment”;
• accepting to be “drawn by the Collective West” into “the conflict in Ukraine”,
“in violation” of the neutral status enshrined in the Moldovan Constitution;
• accepting the “transformation of Moldova into a logistical annex of Ukraine” for shipment of fuel, medicines, food and other goods;
• planning to improve the “critical” railway and road infrastructure, including by “considering the possibility of receiving high-capacity aircraft” at the Chisinau Airport;
• expanding the powers of the intelligence service to “use totalitarian practices against the political opponents of the regime”;
• “restricting freedom of expression” and “creating a legal instrument to suppress dissent in the public space”, where “freedom of expression” and “dissent” means Russian propaganda;
• “seriously violating all international” press freedom commitments, “completely purging the information space of Russian media”, and “openly and boundlessly promoting anti-Russian narratives”;
• cutting the number of Russian embassy staff;
Instead of Independence Day wishes...
Adding to its ridiculousness, the comment claims to express the opinion of “most Moldovans”, which “is ignored by the government”. In fact, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry admits that the report is indeed based on opinions formulated by Moldovan analysts and politicians. Perhaps the ones receiving $800,000 each month from Gazprom for their political activity. Do we need to even mention that, in Russia, those who express different opinions are stigmatized as “foreign agents” and face all kinds of persecution?
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s comment is, in fact, a threat and an attempt to intimidate Moldova on the eve of its Independence Day: “... We would like to warn Chisinau against a deeper involvement in the process of ‘supporting’ Ukraine, which will not only endanger stability and security in the region, but will actually turn Moldova into an accomplice to Kiev’s war crimes”. This is despite the fact that it was Russia who committed an act of unprovoked aggression and occupied large parts of the neighboring country, based on the wild theory that Ukraine was created by Lenin and the Bolsheviks on lands that had been gifted by the Russian people.
Russia’s parade through its own minefield of lies
The Russian MFA’s comment is fascinating in many ways. It looks like a parade through a minefield that the Putin regime itself set up, in the sense that every allegation in this comment can be refuted with no effort at all. For example, the argument about Moldova’s neutral status looks like a very bad joke. The thing is, for almost a quarter of a century after the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, all the annual OSCE ministerial councils have invariably ended with Russia being urged to act on its promise and withdraw its illegal military presence from the territory of neutral Moldova. Obviously, there is no other state in the world but Russia which constantly violates Moldova’s neutrality.
And Russia’s concerns about the effort to strengthen Moldova’s security through modern military equipment are puzzling as well. The point is that the whole world has been convinced, more than once, that Russia’s official commitments and guarantees are not even worth the paper they are written on. What good did all the bilateral and international treaties serve Ukraine? Take the famous Budapest Memorandum, for instance, which offered Ukraine international security assurances, including Russia’s, in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal. Today Ukraine is paying dearly for trusting Russia and letting it have all of its nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable aircraft after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Memorandum has been repeatedly violated by Russia, first when it weaponized its energy resources against Ukraine to influence its political life, then when it annexed Crimea and sponsored separatism in Donbas, and finally when it launched the all-out war that is continuing to the present day. All of Russia’s neighbors have little choice but to learn from Ukraine’s lessons. It is important to arm oneself adequately, at least to the point of being able to hold out until international institutions begin to react, and the help of potential partners becomes available to fend off the aggressor. Looks like Finland and Sweden, in deciding to join NATO, have learned the lesson. It is something that the Moldovan authorities and people should consider, too.
Russia’s dissatisfaction with Moldova’s plans to develop its railway and road infrastructure brings to mind the same Budapest Memorandum. In it, Russia vowed to refrain from any economic coercion that would undermine Ukraine’s rights and sovereignty. Instead, Russia went on to build the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II gas pipelines in one of its many energy blackmail acts against Ukraine, and later, from July 2021, against the European Union, too, months before the invasion of Ukraine. In such circumstances, the Moldovan authorities are obliged to take advantage of every opportunity to develop our energy and other types of infrastructure to avoid being dependent on Russia.
Then, Russia’s plea for press freedom in Moldova is outright embarrassing. True, the licenses of six television channels rebroadcasting Russian programs have suspended, but this is absolutely justified given that the Russian media is constantly fanning the war, calling for nuclear attacks against Ukraine and the West. By the way, Kazakhstan did the same, pulling the plug on 15 Russian TV channels. Meanwhile in Russia, tens of TV channels and radio stations, over 3,000 news websites, and thousands of other Internet outlets were closed in 2022 alone. And the Russian MFA has the nerve to accuse Moldova of violating the freedom of expression.
Finally, the allegation of political persecution in Moldova is, too, an invitation to have a discussion about the fate of political dissidents in Putin’s Russia, an occupation that can earn you a bullet in the street or some nerve agent on your underwear. Not to mention the hundreds and thousands of ordinary Russians sent to prison for displaying the words “peace” and “no war”, and the cultivation of a totalitarian, enemy-of-the-state atmosphere in general to discourage even the tiniest seeds of disagreement.
While the threats formulated by the Russian Foreign Ministry are indeed designed to intimidate the Moldovan authorities, Russia’s obvious irritation is an indicator that the Putin regime has finally started to recognize the Republic of Moldova as a subject of international law.
These threats have a potential that is hard to ignore, because no one can know when and how the war in Ukraine will end. But this serves to show the value of Moldova’s support to Ukraine. If we knew in advance how the war would end and what its impact would be, the support of the Moldovan authorities would lose much of its value. Therefore, Moldova’s open and unwavering support to Ukraine is, first of all, a moral choice in favor of the one being harmed over the aggressor. In the event of Ukraine’s success in defending its sovereignty, with the support of the international community, the Republic of Moldova would also get a real chance to solve some of its strategic problems, such as ensuring security and achieving integration into the European Union. Moldovans need to understand that the stakes are commensurate with the risks taken.