The “European Moldova National Assembly” will take place on May 21, only ten days before the European Political Community Summit that is hosted by the Republic of Moldova on June 1. The Summit that is expected to be attended by most of the European leaders is regarded by the Moldovan authorities as a manifestation of major international political support for Moldova and also as an occasion for advancing towards the opening of accession negotiations with the EU. The pro-European forces’ event programmed to take place in Chisinau on May 21 comes to anticipate the meeting of the European leaders, symbolizing the attachment of most of the Moldovans to the values of European civilization.
Mobilization against destabilization
At the same time, the Moldovan authorities, being concerned about the avalanche of street protests mounted by the Shor Party, which are evidently synchronized with the Kremlin’s plan to destabilize the Republic of Moldova, are preoccupied with the necessity of mobilizing the supporters of the European course. After the evolving document “Strategic objectives of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Moldova”, which stipulates a plan to replace the pro-European government in Chisinau, became known, the official Chisinau is forced to act more decisively. The pro-European rally of May 21 forms part of these efforts made by the government to counteract Moscow’s destabilizing actions in Moldova by mobilizing the majority pro-European segment of Moldovan society.
The Russian aggression against Ukraine turns the support for the European integration and the wish to be emancipated from Moscow’s control into a broader consent in Moldovan society. In this regard, parties and political leaders from the Republic of Moldova, which until recently openly declared their pro-Russian leanings, started to embrace the European course. Even if the sincerity of this amazing metamorphosis of some of the Moldovan politicians is challenged by many, the explanation however resides in the fact that the direct military threat faced by Moldova passed away when the Russian army failed to cross a corridor to Odessa with the aim of ensuring a connection with the separatist Transnistria. This way, the stake on Moscow was compromised and some of the pro-Russian politicians in Moldova had to distance themselves from the detrimental political association with the aggressor state.
The developments on the theater of war in Ukraine enabled Chisinau to switch over to more decisive measures in the fight against Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Moldova. All together, the stepping up of the distancing from Putin’s Moscow does not meet with significant opposition in Moldova society. Despite the powerful pro-Russian historical feelings, now most of the Moldovans agree that the close cooperation with Moscow can cause mayor risks and dangers, while the advantages of the European integration, such as the visa-free regime and the opportunity to work in the EU, are too tempting to be rejected for the sake of the “Russian world”.
Security as national priority
Moldova’s relations with Russia saw a new deterioration when the Cabinet was taken over by Dorin Recean, who earlier served as adviser to the President on national security and defense issues and also as head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs before this. The appointment of a person with such an administrative background was a signal that the security problems against the war in Ukraine moved to the forefront for Chisinau.
At the beginning of this year, President Maia Sandu spoke about the Kremlin’s plan, which was wiretapped by the Ukrainian secret services, to stage a coup in Moldova. The plan envisioned that it will be implemented not by military ways, but through the opposition’s protests and with the involvement of foreign mercenaries. The reliability of this information is also based on the fact that Russia traditionally has always had a broad network of influence in Moldova and traditionally enjoyed the support of about half of the population. Even now, polls show that while most of the Moldovans condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, almost each third citizen still sympathizes with Putin.
Such a state of the collective mentality in Moldovan society is primarily due to the excessive influence of the Russia mass media over the information space of Moldova. The attempt to remedy the situation led to the stopping of the broadcast of the main Russian propaganda TV channels, while the new government became much more active in transmitting to the citizens the denial of the Russian propaganda product. Concomitantly, the duties of the Security and Intelligence Service were widened, while a number of Russian officials, including President Putin, were banned from entering the Republic of Moldova.
Interests and instruments of the Kremlin
The interests of the Kremlin in Moldova were traditionally promoted not only by TV channels, but also by the pro-Russian parties. The Bloc of Communists and Socialists was considered the main pro-Kremlin force in Moldova. But after criminal cases over corruption were started against the leader of the PSRM Igor Dodon, ex-President of Moldova, the Socialists’ popularity declined. But the party of the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor, who became the new favorite of the Kremlin, hurried to take the Socialists’ place. Even if in the past this didn’t position itself promptly as a pro-Russian party, the publicly assumed orientation of the party changed after Shor was sentenced to 15 years in jail for involvement in the bank fraud. Now Shor hides from punishment in Israel and the replacement of the power in Moldova with a pro-Russian one would enable him to avoid persecution and to return to Chisinau. Apparently, the Kremlin is ready to give Shor such guarantees if a pro-Russian government appears in Moldova.
The Russian propaganda presents the protest animated by the Shor Party as anti-European and calls Shor the leader of the Moldovan opposition. In reality, only several thousand people are taking part in these protests and the participants do not hide the fact that they are stimulated with money for taking to the streets. Even if the Moldovan authorities expressed their concern about the protests, they didn’t dare to take harsh measures against the protesters. The pro-European government cannot ignore the fact that the Shor Party holds seats of MP and the freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Constitution. In such circumstances, the Government only went to the Constitutional Court with a request to recognize the Shor Party as illegitimate because it promotes the interests of another state in Moldova. For now, in counterposition to the Shorist protests, President Sandu called on the citizens to come to the central square of Chisinau on May 21 to support the European integration given that polls show about 60% of the Moldovan citizens support the European development course.
Other measures to diminish dependence on “Russian world”
Other important decisions of the pro-European authorities are related to the promotion of identity policies meant to diminish the Russian influence in Moldova. The effort to rename the official language “Romanian” in official use became conspicuous in this regard. The move didn’t shock the largest part of society because the language in public practice has been named so for many years. It is noteworthy that the pro-Russian opposition, which insists on the official use of the name “Moldovan language”, was unable to visibly oppose the renaming of the official language “Romanian”.
The measures to get rid of Moscow’s influence include the Moldovan government’s intention to abandon the CIS, which is an organization of post-Soviet states dominated by Russia. Moldova’s withdrawal from the CIS is a decisive and principled step towards the separation from the “Russian world” and the return to the Romanian space of the European world.
Perpetual scarecrows and lesson of war from the neighborhood
Surely, Chisinau’s course towards more resolute opposition to the Kremlin does not mean that the country will be able to get rid of dependence on Russia swiftly and painlessly. Moscow will also not renounce its influence in the Republic of Moldova so easily. Most probably, the Kremlin will continue to interfere in the Moldovan political life: to finance pro-Russian parties; to scare the Moldovans with the NATO threat; to accuse Sandu of attempting to engage Moldova in war, etc. However, such a scenario should not lead to the abandonment of the policy of European integration of the Republic of Moldova, which must show in practice that it learned the lesson of the Ukraine war sufficiently well. And this is to be proven at the “European Moldova National Assembly” that, by its scale, comes to confirm the determination of most of the Moldovan citizens to detach themselves from the “Russian world” and to join the Romanian world and European civilization. In only ten days after the National Assembly, the European Political Community will pronounce on the Republic of Moldova’s Europeanization aspirations and the related evidence.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.