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On the way to the EU, Moldova faces attempts to destabilize the Kremlin

A few days before the summit of the European Political Community in Moldova, political scientist Valeriu Pasha sheds light on the political situation of this country on the verge of the war unfolding in Ukraine and subject to repeated pressure from Russia.

“We have come to say loud and clear, with confidence and pride, that Moldova’s place is in the European Union”, declared the President, Maia Sandu, on Sunday May 21, at the initiative of a large popular rally. in the center of the capital Chisinau. According to the police, more than 75 000 people came to support the pro-European orientation of their country, an influx rarely seen since independence. The aspiration is now formulated without ambiguity.

Politically fragile and economically weak, Moldova has so far intended to spare Russia, on which it is very dependent. But in 2022, this small Eastern European country received the status of an official candidate for membership of the European Union (EU). Since the launch of the invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the distancing of the new Moldovan authorities from Moscow has been paid for by repeated attempts at destabilization. The EU therefore sent a civilian mission lasting two years to identify and thwart these Russian threats.

In this context, Moldova will host, on the 1er June, 47 Heads of State and Government on the occasion of the second summit of the European Political Community. Launched in 2022 on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, this format aims to strengthen cooperation between all the countries of the continent (with the exception of Belarus and Russia). An unprecedented event for the country.

For France 24, the Moldovan political scientist Valeriu Pasha, from the think tank WatchDog, draws up an inventory of the political situation.

France 24: What do we know about the destabilization attempts orchestrated by the Russian state in Moldova? ? How do they manifest ?

Valeriu Pasha: In reality, there have always been attempts by Moscow to interfere in our internal politics, but their intensity has clearly increased. The Kremlin is testing different methods, including aggressive ones, by sending in provocateurs, including people from the Wagner group. As far as I understand, they carry out the tasks formerly assigned to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence. The first attempt since the start of the aggression in Ukraine occurred on May 9, 2022 : they believed that they would manage to provoke large-scale demonstrations, in particular by aggravating the situation in Transnistria [région séparatiste de Moldavie, soutenue par la Russie, NDLR]where they staged terrorist acts.

They then tried to reinforce antagonisms in society by fueling a protest movement against the government, financed by the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor. But once again, the population did not follow. The protests were joined only by those who had been paid. By dispatching groups of sportsmen from the criminal world, they tried to provoke clashes with the police in order to polarize society.

Read also Ilan Shor, Moscow’s pawn to destabilize Moldova?

The desired end is not clear, but it is obvious that the objective is for the government to concentrate all its energy on managing these overflows. They thus test the reaction of the State faced with this type of provocation, study the way in which the intelligence services work in order to draw lessons for the future. Next year’s election sequence will be particularly perilous.

At the beginning of the year, the Moldovan authorities, who previously favored discretion, publicly revealed the existence of these destabilizing maneuvers. For what ?

They used to avoid provoking Russia until now. By ignoring the various aggressive actions carried out by Russia, Moldova wanted to show that it was not looking for conflict. Which, in my opinion, is a profound political error, because this approach does not work with Russia. As in a schoolyard, showing fear and keeping quiet maintains the logic of “bulling” [harcèlement, NDLR].

From the beginning of the 2000s, Russia used this strategy of intimidation with energy blackmail : at the time, the Moldovan presidency had not made it fully known what had come out of the negotiations. Russia understood that it could act as it wished. The countries of the European Union may have made the same mistake by trying to soften Russia. On the contrary, if Putin perceives a weakness, he will apply all the more pressure.

Did the outbreak of the war against Ukraine change the perception of Russia by the Moldovan population? ?

Generally speaking, pro-Russian voters have become significantly fewer in number. If they represented about 40 % of the electorate, this proportion no longer exceeds 25 % Today. Putin’s popularity index, which was still very high in 2020, has dropped by half. It is a very sensitive shift. And even if a quarter of the population maintains pro-Kremlin opinions, the war is absolutely not supported in Moldova. The refugees were very well received, even in regions favorable to Russia.

Within the Russian-speaking population of Moldova, a certain number do not have an elementary knowledge of Romanian [langue officielle en Moldavie, NDLR], which allows language elements to take root. Political parties espousing the Kremlin’s agenda do not support military aggression, but they do echo Russian rhetoric that Americans and Europeans are ultimately responsible. Changing that will take time, because we won’t just be talking about the propaganda that has been pouring out in recent years. This has found fertile ground in Soviet propaganda which has contributed to NATO’s still very negative image in Moldova.

What results do you expect from the summit of the European Political Community?

It is clear that this is a great honor for Moldova, and that this event will have a huge influence and will support our agenda for accession to the European Union. Today 58 % of population in Moldova supports integration, while this share was 48 % last October. But we still have to go further, to do pedagogy to reach at least two thirds of those who live in the country. The diaspora represents one million adults, i.e. more than a third of the population. : the vast majority of these emigrants live in the countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and among them, support for European integration approaches 90 %.

But increasing membership is not enough. We fully understand that we need to strengthen our state and carry out reforms. Otherwise, we will never be admitted to the EU. Our greatest weakness is the judiciary, which remains corrupt and loyal to the old oligarchic system. These people work for the return of the old power, which today works for the interests of Russian oligarchs. The authorities of Moldova are calling on EU countries to sanction these toxic personalities who maintain this old system. They have to be shown that if they do this, they will lose their property and their money abroad.

France 24 Europe Fr Trans

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