2. HOW THE WEST LOST MOLDOVA
Today Moldova is not on the top of international political agenda, but it is important both for the West and Russia in the context of their geopolitical competition. At the same time it is a competition of two integrative projects, which propose two different models of development – the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.
For a long time it seemed that parliamentary “Alliance for European Integration” will be able to make Moldova a successful example of Europeanization, but finally it discredited European idea and Moldovan people after massive social protests elected pro-Russian Igor Dodon president of the country.
Now it seems that he will eventually integrate Moldova to the Eurasian Economic Union, but to do this he has to solve the problem of parliament, which is controlled by his political opponents. Referendum is supposed to become a solution. Finally, potential additional advantage of I. Dodon is that the challenge of Transnistria can also be overcome in connection to the Eurasian integration of Moldova, because Chisinau with the help of Kremlin will get unified state and Tiraspol – formal affiliation with Russia it dreams of. The story is not over yet, but Vladimir Putin’s chances to win are good as never.
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One billion, which changed everything In 2003 there was a big chance that so-called “Kozak plan” will help to unite Moldova, but at the very last minute its president V. Voronin changed his mind. Later Dmitry Kozak told, that V. Voronin called him and said:
“Foreign diplomat came and told me such things, wrote me such things (…)”, – and after that president of Moldova refused to sign the document7 . Important thing is that V. Putin had to participate in the ceremony, because V. Voronin asked him. Finally, he lost Putin’s respect and support, and eventually he and his Communist party lost the power to the pro-European coalition.
It is not a mistake to say that Moldova used to live in “stable instability”, but still its Western course was purposeful and consistent. And then the episode of Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who was sentenced to nine years in prison on corruption charges in a billion-dollar (huge sum for poor Moldova) bank fraud case, happened8 . This corruption scandal provoked massive street protests, in which two camps united – pro-Russian (Socialist party with I. Dodon ahead and “Our Party” with Renato Usatii ahead) and pro-European one (movement “DA” with Andrei Nastase ahead)9 .
The threat of “colourful revolution” in Moldova became very real (Parliament of the country was almost seized), but political system managed to find a compromise – organize direct presidential elections. What is behind the scene in all these events? As A. Nastase said in 2015: “I see no reason to call the current Moldovan governance “pro-European”, as all they have done during the last five years is profoundly anti-European.
Please do not confound their demagogy with their deeds. If there is a real force, which pushes pro-Russian parties to power and associates the EU with the disaster in Moldova, it is surely the current governance which calls themselves »pro-Europeans«” .
In other words, after some time it became clear that pro-EU coalition in Moldova can critically discredit European idea in Moldova, and possibly the West (both Brussels and Washington) decided to “reload” the government of the country and bring to power new pro-European forces and faces (like A. Nastase and his movement “DA”).
But suddenly one thing went wrong… President of Russia V. Putin, being a fan of the Eastern martial arts, knows how to be patient. During “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine he could strongly support Viktor Yanukovych, but he decided to wait. And he was right, because “Orange” forces lost their popularity very fast, and finally V. Yanukovych became a president. During “Revolution of Dignity” V. Putin had to act (respond) because of geopolitical reasons (as he sees them), but then he stopped and froze the conflict in Donbas region.
And again, new Ukrainian government is unable to rule the country successfully, gradually loosing the support of the West. Since demarche of V. Voronin in 2003 V. Putin had been patient until the case of V. Filat, and then Russia’s “agents” took an initiative from the hands of competitioners. The most interesting thing is that Kremlin used against his opponents their own – “colourful” – technology, and they were visibly not ready for such scenario. First Victoria Nuland from the US State Department tried to support a bit reformed government of Moldova with Pavel Filip ahead .
But this tactical move could not stop social protest. Therefore, the decision to legalize direct presidential elections was taken, expecting that “reserve project” (A. Nastase) can succeed. When it became evident that A. Nastase is not popular enough to defeat I. Dodon, he was forced to support another Western candidate Maia Sandu13 . Russia accepted the idea of direct presidential elections, because violent overturn of the pro-European government would inevitably face the problem of legitimation. At the same time, Moscow was sure that its protégé will win and he won. But the game is not over…