Warning: Moldova is leaning back to Russia
by Bill Shuster, politician, former congresman
Russia’s ever-increasing aggressiveness with its neighbors and the West’s occasional ambivalence about that interventionism have made life difficult for the countries caught in the crossfire. Some former Soviet states have taken a-now-familiar tack to deal with the dilemma; they play both sides and see how far they can get.
A prime example is the tiny but strategically important country of Moldova, whose Prime Minister Maia Sandu is expected to make her inaugural visit to the United States next week.
If anyone were to read recent history, Moldova would stand out as a strong candidate to be moving closer to the West. Its political leaders of the recent past, including former First Deputy of Parliament Vladimir Plahotniuc, fought fo r a more robust economic and political relationship with the European Union and the United States mindful of the opportunities for expanded trade that those relationships could bring.
They have done this while being fully aware that the Russian takeover of Crimea in neighboring Ukraine might become a model for what happens down the road to them and Moldova. Indeed, Mr. Plahotniuc’s efforts appeared to earn him an intimidation campaign from Moscow replete with criminal investigations and death threats, forcing him to flee his country for his own safety.
Prime Minister Maia Sandu is similarly using rhetoric consistent with the recent past. She says she is seeking a more open, democratic government that can work with Western allies. Ms. Sandu often expresses a pro-European Union stance while also promising political, economic and anti-corruption reforms.
Her position isn’t shared by other officials in her government, particularly the arguably more powerful President Igor Dodon. Mr. Dodon, who was popularly elected, has made clear that he tilts more to the East and an alliance with the Kremlin.