June 17, 2019

Political Crisis in Moldova

Reasons and Consequences for Ukraine

 

Due to both, internal problems in that country and external influence on it, since 1991 Moldova has been the permanent source of instability on the southwestern border of Ukraine. The reason for such problems is the profound differences within the Moldovan society on the political and national grounds, which are used for their own purposes by political and economic forces of the country and other states having their interests in the region.

Since Moldova's becoming an independent country and to date, its society has been divided into a number of groups, antagonistic included. Among them, we can point out supporters of Moldova's European choice and their opponents from the pro-Russian and left-wing camps; apologists of the idea of ​​uniting the country with Romania and its opponents; Moldovan nationalists and all sorts of separatists.

Accordingly, the spectrum of Moldovan political forces was formed. At this, in many cases, they are connected with business circles of the country, which exploit those or other political ideas and preferences of citizens in their favour. Some Moldovan parties receive foreign support, first of all from Russia and Romania, as well as from Western countries.

All this causes a constant tension in the country, which is accompanied by systematic crises and conflicts. In particular, in 1991, in order to create obstacles to Moldova's state development and preserve Russian positions in the region, separatist forces in Trans-Dniester were supported by Moscow. That is what caused the armed conflict in that region of Moldova, and the emergence of the Trans- Dniester Moldavian Republic (TMR) as a self-proclaimed state formation in the Moldovan territory.

In 2001, with Moscow's assistance, the leader of Moldovan Communists V. Voronin came to power in Moldova, and largely subordinated the country's policy to Russian interests. However, he still did not make concessions to Russia on those fundamental issues that were of vital importance to Moldova. For example, he did not allow the implementation of Russian plans to disintegrate Moldova under the guise of its federalization as the basis for settling the Trans-Dniester conflict.

In 2009, the situation in Moldova changed dramatically. As a result of mass protests that began after the parliamentary elections in the country, the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) together with V. Voronin lost their power. Instead of them, to power in Moldova came the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), which began pursuing the course of consistent pro-Western policy. At this, the Moldovan Constitution of that time allowed the AEI to appoint a government of the country and elect a President by voting in the Parliament. Romania and, not least, the United States played a significant role in changing the leadership of Moldova and, accordingly, its reorientation from Russia to Europe.

In response, Russia launched measures to restore its influence in Moldova by supporting pro-Russian, left-wing and separatist forces of the country, as well as discrediting the leaders of the Alliance for European Integration. As part of such a policy, Moscow focused its efforts on realizing its interests through the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) led by I. Dodon, as the PSRM lost its popularity and, as it turned out, was not under the Kremlin's full control. In view of this, it was the PSRM that was receiving major financial and economic assistance from Russia.

 

Leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova V. PlakhotnyukAt the same time, the main direction of Moscow's actions against the AEI became undermining the positions of the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM, forming the basis of the Alliance). V. Plakhotnyuk, the greatest Moldovan oligarch, who managed to establish control over all branches of the country and was involved in a number of high-profile corruption scandals. All these facts were widely used by Russia and its supporters in Moldova to discredit both, the entire AEI and personally V. Plakhotnyuk.

Besides, in order to exert pressure on Moldova's leadership and destabilize the situation in the country, Moscow actively used the factor of separatism in some Moldovan regions. Thus, through the leadership of the Trans-Dniester MR Russia completely stopped the process of settling the Trans-Dniester conflict. Along with this, Moscow attempted to provoke similar conflicts in Gagauzia and Taraklia (areas densely populated by ethnic Gagauz and Bulgarians in Moldova), but they did not succeed.

 

Leader of the Moldavian socialists I. DodonAs a result of these Russia's steps, there was a series of political crises in Moldova, which resulted in the election of the leader of the Moldavian socialists I. Dodon as President in 2016. Immediately after coming to power, he began pro-Russian policy, among other things, he tried to limit Moldova's cooperation with the EU and NATO, took a course towards rapprochement with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, and did not rule out the possibility of federalization of the country. At the same time, such I. Dodon's activity was curtailed by the Alliance for European Integration in the Moldovan Parliament and the Constitutional Court of the country which is controlled by V. Plakhotnyuk.

However, according to the results of the parliamentary elections in Moldova in February this year, AEI has actually lost these opportunities. For example, the Alliance for European Integration failed to form a ruling coalition in the Parliament. Instead, such a coalition was created by the PSRM and the new political force - pro-Western bloc ACUM (”Now”), consisting of the right-wing parties “Platform” Dignity and Law” and” Action and Solidarity”.

According to the official version, the reason for the association of PSRM and ACUM, which have fundamentally different political positions, was their common goal - to remove V. Plakhotnyuk and his associates from the leadership of the country as a corrupt and anti-people regime. At the same time, quite obviously, behind this association stands Russia, trying to remove from the political arena the AEI, as its main enemy in Moldova.

Despite this, neither V. Plakhotnyuk nor the Alliance for European Integration, are going to retreat in Moldova at all. That is the reason for the dual power in the country in the form of two governments, namely, the old one, which was formed by the AEI and the new one created by the current ruling coalition in the Moldovan Parliament.

Then, on June 15, 2019, the AEI, and in fact, the Democratic Party of Moldova and personally V. Plakhotnyuk, refused to openly confront their political opponents and went into opposition. At the same time, the government formed by them resigned. The reason for this was the pressure on them from the world community. At this, from both, the EU and Russia, which have different goals in Moldova, however, took a common position on the need to resolve the political crisis in a peaceful way.

However, this did not create conditions for long-term stability in Moldova. Thus, the uniting of the PSRM and ACUM is exclusively situational. At this, the fundamental differences between them, and even more so, their disagreements with the AEI, will not let either the Padrliament or the government of the country work normally. In this regard, the issues of Moldova's foreign policy, federalization of the country and redistribution of property may cause another political crisis.

 

Given the critical importance of the above-mentioned issues for Moldova and its society, another crisis in the country can become even larger and more acute and turn into a civil conflict. Taking into consideration the previous experience of revolutionary events in Moldova, all this will be accompanied by mass disorder, attempts to seize government buildings, and intensification of separatists' actions. In addition, we should not rule out the split of the country's power structures.

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances create a danger to the development of the situation in Moldova according to the Yugoslav scenario of the first half of the 1900s. In this case, this will lead to the emergence of a new centre of tension in the Black Sea region (Southeastern Europe), which will need a response of the international community.

For example, if the situation in Moldova becomes critical, the issue of conducting an international peacekeeping operation in the country may be raised in the UN Security Council. At this, Russia will agree with such a decision solely if its troops also participate in it. Especially as the Russian military contingent already participates in the Trans-Dniester Peacekeeping Mission (together with the Moldovan and TMR's units). Besides, the Operational Group of Russian troops in Moldova is located in the territory of the TMR.

Against this background, Russia's unilateral military interfering into the situation in Moldova under the pretext of protecting its “compatriots” and military personnel is also possible, as was done regarding Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine - in 2014. In this case, Moscow will put severe pressure on Ukraine to let its troops to Moldova, and in the event of our state's refusal, it may go for a breakthrough through the Ukrainian territory. Such a breakthrough can take place in two ways, namely:

  • by conducting a large-scale offensive to create a land corridor to Crimea and Trans- Dniester. Thus, under the guise of securing the conditions for conducting a peacekeeping operation in Moldova, Russia will manage to establish control over the South of Ukraine;
  • by landing of sea and airborne troops near the city of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Odesa region. Such an operation will be much smaller, but it will enable Russia to isolate the southwestern part of Odesa region from Ukraine, to create its own bridgehead here and to ensure the TMR's access to the Black Sea.

 

To date, all these scenarios are mostly hypothetical, but they allow us to assess potential threats to Ukraine that may become real.

Thus, Russia is actually rehearsing in Moldova the ways of acting against Ukraine. Due to the immutability of Ukraine's foreign policy and its attitude to the issues of Crimea and the Donbas, in the near future such Moscow's actions may become larger in scale and more aggressive.

The Moldovan leadership's agreeing to federalize the country (which is unlikely but should not be completely excluded) will be used by Russia as a precedent for imposing such decisions on Ukraine. At this, the formal settlement of the Trans- Dniester conflict will be presented by Moscow as an opportunity to resolve the crisis in the Donbas on Russian conditions.

The aggravation of the situation in Moldova, let alone the emergence of an armed conflict in the country, will create a powerful source of instability leakage immediately on the Ukrainian border. At the same time, the crisis developments in Moldova will be used by Russia both, to increase its military presence in its territory and to create conditions for expanding the scope of armed aggression against our state.

The danger of such threats to Ukraine requires a reaction in the political and military spheres in advance, including strengthening our state's defense on the South-West direction.