Moldova — a tiny but pivotal country in Eastern Europe — is the latest front in Russia’s quest to reestablish the Soviet Union. The encroachment world saw with the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine is taking place once again, now on Europe’s doorstep.
The international community must not abandon Moldova at this critical moment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s operation has established a beachhead in Moldova by thwarting the rule of law. He has attempted to create an illegal, Kremlin-backed government in the midst of confusion following recent national elections, where no single party secured a majority.
Putin’s ally in the capital of Chisinau, Moldova’s Socialist President Igor Dodon, attempted to form a government with the purportedly pro-European ACUM party. But these parties missed the country’s constitutional deadline for forming their axis of convenience, and the Constitutional Court ruled this week that a new election be held to decide Moldova’s future.
Dodon has long been close to Putin, writes Politico. He is frequently photographed with the Russian strongman and travels often to Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the world was stunned to learn the depths of Dodon’s reliance on Moscow in the final days of negotiations between the Democratic Party and the Socialists.
Dodon boasted that the Russians are funding his Socialists Party to the tune of €800,000 per month — a sum that puts the party completely at the mercy of Putin and his henchmen. And what Putin wants for Moldova — and what Dodon demanded of his coalition partner — was the federalization and subjugation of Moldova to Russian authority.
What does Russia’s federalization plan for Moldova mean? In the early 2000s, when the Russians first pushed the plan, it meant that Moldova would become a divided “Federal Republic” formed by three states — Moldova, Transdniestria and Găgăuzia. Russian would be the official language in this Federal Republic, symbolically marking the country’s power hold over the three states.
This is Putin’s Crimean playbook: 1,500 Russian soldiers are already occupying Transdniestria with heavy weapons and carrying out covert operations.
The Democratic Party initially tried to extend a coalition offer to the ACUM; it would have been the obvious and natural alliance between two pro-Western parties. Unfortunately, the ACUM leadership refused to even negotiate and instead tried to embrace the Socialists Party of Dodon and Putin.
Would Moldova’s citizens still vote for ACUM or encourage its coalition with the Socialists once they realize that the price for Dodon’s hand was the country’s federalization and control from Moscow? Would Moldova’s foreign partners and corporations work with a Moldovan administration that is blatantly on Moscow’s payroll? The Democratic Party refused to make a deal with the devil. Regrettably the ACUM, in its quest for power, was willing to accept Russia’s conditions and hand Moldova to the Kremlin in what amounts to an attempted administrative coup.
ACUM and the Socialists warn about the dangers of state capture and need to preserve rule of law. So it is ironic that they did not respect the law and build a left-right coalition transparently, within the bounds of the Moldovan constitution.
Russia has been working feverishly to destabilize Moldova, as it did in Ukraine, Georgia and the Balkans. It has been orchestrating an administrative coup by breaching the constitution, ignoring the Constitutional Court and attempting to close down the Moldovan security services.
All this in just one weekend, while the international community was watching idly.
The ACUM and the Socialists are seemingly now Putin’s functionaries, willing to jeopardize our emerging democracy’s future and further subjugate the Moldovan people to Moscow’s will.
But the parliamentary blackout on Saturday should not be followed by a blackout of reason in the Western capitals, nor by a blackout and dismissal of democracy in Moldova.
Now the country is stuck, and the only way forward is to hold snap elections. Moldova cannot afford months of paralysis in the streets, with different camps sending out their supporters to protest.
Dodon has made a dangerous move in calling for direct Russian intervention. Moldova should continue with its reforms and its western orientation, rather than a return to the dark days of the Soviet Union. The Moldovan people deserve to vote again, especially now that they have seen the cost of ACUM’s compromise.