Ion Marandici: the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova: a centre-outskirts kind of relationship. Info-Prim Neo Commentary

If to consider the quality of the Moldovan-Russian relationships depending on the number of the Moldovan officials’ trips to Moscow, then one should conclude that the Moldovan foreign policy vis-à-vis the Russian Federation “is recording positive dynamics” as traditionally we’ve been announced by the authorities since later 2006. However, it seems these trips practically do not resolve Moldova’s interests, the political analyst Ion Marandici asserts in a commentary for Info-Prim Neo. [Lots of trips…] During the 2007-2008 period, president Voronin has visited the Russian Federation several times, and later last week he participated in the informal Summit of the Community of Independent States. On the eve, the Moldovan premier, Vasile Tarlev, was on another official visit to the capital of the Russian Federation. The premier met the Russian premier Viktor Zubkov and mayor Yury Luzhkov, whilst president Voronin was having a new meeting with the Russian president. Even though the presence at that informal summit was not necessary, still all those twelve CIS presidents, including the Georgian and the Ukrainian leaders sat at the same table, to be introduced Putin’s successor - Dmitry Medvedev. As the presidential elections were not yet held, Medvedev’s participation shows the Kremlin has no doubts about the results of the approaching elections. The reunion was rather an occasion for bilateral meetings and less for discussing on the CIS’s future, Marandici says. […into a dead organisation…] This organisation copes with the same problem as Moldova does: many accords signed, but more than 2/3 of them remaining dead letter, as is the case of many Moldovan laws. Initially the CIS did not have a clearly defined purpose, however later, according to some Russian ideologists, the organisation was supposed to become a model of integration alternative to the European one. The accords signed within the CIS should have led to strengthening the four fundamental economic freedoms the European Union banks on. Even the Russian officials draw this parallel and believe the CIS’s biggest drawback, as compared to the European Union, is not implementing the signed accords, what makes impossible the creation of a free-trade zone and, subsequently, of a single market, the expert says. Paradoxically, it’s namely the Russian Federation the one not respecting the agreements signed within the community, what shows how wrongly the Russian Federation has understood the essence of the European integration model. Despite the CIS’s failure, Russia does not give up this project completely, but comes up with Action Plans to invigorate the Community. Creating a single info-space is one of the most recent steps, which, alongside the projects and the accords on economic, cultural-humanitarian, migration infrastructure matters, will try and create closer relationships among the former Soviet republics through the agency of the „Mir” inter-state company. In addition to the CIS space, Russia attempts to create alternative and complementary spaces of integrating into Central Asia, Marandici opines. At the last CIS informal summit, it was evident how Russia orchestrates the power transfer not only domestically, but also outside. Russia spares no effort to show the West (USA and EU) how efficient its levers in what it calls „the close neighbourhood,” in Caucasus and Central Asia are. The large number of visits to Moscow made by the Moldovan officials demonstrates that the Russian Federation’s influence over the tiny Moldovan democracy, albeit unconsolidated and at NATO’s border is still mighty. For about one year, the relationships with the Russian Federation have been shadowing the relationships Moldova builds with the EU. […and no result, too] If to judge the situation practically, then it’s not clear which have been the concrete objectives Voronin has attained at those visits. Their periodicity is fishy. Of course the gas price, Russia’s influence on the Transnistrian elites, the withdrawal of the Russian military, changing the peace-keeping format, the Moldovan exports, the situation of the Moldovan citizens, the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest are crucial issues on the Moldovan-Russian agenda, but still there is no proof Moldova would have advantageously negotiated in at least one of these areas with the Russian Federation. The gas price is the most persuasive in this respect. Even though premier Tarlev announced earlier they had signed a 5-year contract, we find the provisions of this accord allow for the yearly increase of the gas price. Moreover, the Government might have already established the prices for the coming years, yet it does not make this public, the analyst believes. [The Russian Federation plays double…] As for the separatists, the Russian Federation plays a double game. On the one hand, it promises Moldova it observes the territorial integrity, while on the other -- it undermines, through its actions in the Transnistrian area, Moldova’s sovereignty. The latest developments in the Transnistrian area have led to the emergence of two major interest groups: one around the „Obnovlenie” Movement, led by Yevgeny Shevchuk, probably supported by „Proryv” and Putin, and the other around Smirnov, who banks on the backup of „Spravedlivaya Rossia”. The latter grouping is apparently losing from Moscow’s support. These political movements in the Transnistrian area seem little relevant, if we remember that Russia unrestrictedly organised elections in the Transnistrian area on December 2 , 2007, and on March 2, 2008, it’s obvious that the Russian Federation will feel no embarrassment with the communiques and informative notifications on behalf of the Moldovan government and will illegally organise its presidential elections on Moldovan soil. Unfortunately, the Moldovan authorities make little ado of these abuses on behalf of Russia. And then, what is the sense of the Moldovan officials’ trips to Moscow and what is their efficiency? Without any exaggeration, one can assert that the public money wasted to join those meetings would have been sufficient to insure the annual salary for a couple of hundreds of village teachers. The Moldovan officials also offer another reason for Moscow to perceive Moldova as a simple Russian suburb. The Moldovan Prosecutor’s Office’s reaction, only after there had been echoes in the Russian media as to the debates in the Opera and Ballet Square, was a signal for Moscow that the best defender of the Russian minority’s interests in Moldova remained the Communists Party, Ion Marandici asserts. From another viewpoint, those Moldovan-Russian reunions take place a month before the Bucharest NATO Summit to be joined by president Putin. We expect that Vladimir Putin will come to Bucharest not to enjoy himself listening speeches about NATO’s doubtful successes in Afghanistan or South-Eastern Europe, but, probably, he will try to slow down NATO’s impetus with a somewhat tougher discourse, especially as it is not clear what his status will be at that time. Putin could prepare a surprise for the Summit participants, yet it is not known when he is going to release it. […meanwhile Moldova’s future is uncertain] “Is Putin going to sign anything with Voronin before the elections, or will he leave this to the future Russian president, who’ll need to have some “starting successes” first?” Marandici asks. Implementing the customs regime by Ukraine since March 2006, only several days before the Ukrainian parliamentary elections demonstrates that sometimes it is in the pre-electoral moments that important papers can be signed. If nothing is signed, then the Moldovan officials will have to launch another range of trips to Moscow in order to talk over with the new Russian president. In this respect, the visit of a Moldovan expert in international law to the Russian Federation can’t help showing the documents are being drafted. It’s possible the texts of the documents likely to be signed will not be made public or could contain certain secret clauses to be learnt only when the archives are opened, but because of lack of transparency in negotiations, the documents to be signed will have no popular support. Those several non-governmental organisations consulted do not represent the whole Moldovan civil society, and signing accords with Moscow before the parliamentary elections of 2009 will do nothing but enhance the dissatisfaction of the opposition parties and of some segments of the population, the political analyst Ion Marandici predicts.

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