- - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Not many Americans can locate Moldova, a tiny former Soviet republic with a mostly ethnic Romanian population bordered by Ukraine and Romania, on a map. Even fewer could tell you that Moldova was once part of Romania and won its independence with the fall of the Soviet Union, only to have Russia carve out a separatist ethnic Russian enclave called Transdniester, complete with Russian troops and recognized as independent only by the Kremlin.

It had been 10 years since a Moldovan head of state traveled to the metropolis on the Moscow River to kiss the tzar’s ring, as Moldova moved closer to the European Union, even signing a trade agreement.

So it’s worth more than a mention to note that all that changed in October, when a pro-Russian president was elected in a vote marred by outside interference from the east. New President Igor Dodon promptly flew off to Moscow, bearing gifts of allegiance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The election had most likely already been won by pro-Russian forces when a fantastic heist took place in 2015 and 20 percent of the state treasury’s funds mysteriously disappeared. The pro-EU government took the fall for failing to prevent the dark, diabolical act. Moldova’s future was, quite literally, stolen.

The theft gave Moscow an extremely convenient and timely opening. As in most former Soviet territories, the oligarchs are really in charge and the public typically cannot see the face of the man really behind the curtain. This has been Ukraine’s problem, and exploiting local corruption seems to be part of the playbook Moscow is using to claw back the territories it lost after the Cold War.

If you destabilize a government, whether through financial machinations, “lawfare,” or just inciting the opposition to violence, you create an opening to install a government more favorable to your interests. Mr. Putin clearly gets it.

The same thing is happening in Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe. The strings are being pulled in Moscow. There are forces at work in the Balkans as well, as old ethnic rivalries raise their heads.

And why not? The strategy is clearly is working. The Kremlin is winning, while the West indulges in policies of liberal redistribution and cultural suicide. Russia, by contrast, offers a calm hand, a comforting nostalgia, and a willingness to stand up for traditional Christian values and identity while the European Union demands that its members accept hordes of unvetted Islamic migrants.

This will be the lasting legacy of what Donald Trump calls Europe’s stupidity — forgetting about its people as continental elites chased some globalist utopia.

There is an old saying that all politics is local. The bureaucrats of Brussels forgot this. Or maybe they didn’t forget it, they just don’t care anymore. Why should they, as they sip their 50-year-old Bordeaux in Davos? It’s the old, “I got mine, you’re on your own.”

Mr. Putin’s success in winning back parts of the old Soviet hinterlands is not just a function of the Kremlin’s mastery of the dark arts of statecraft. The blame must be shared with those so-called Western “leaders” who betrayed their own people.

With the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election, we may be seeing the pendulum swing the other way. We may be witnessing the people finally standing up for themselves and taking back their culture and society.

The people of Eastern Europe have seen enough of Marxism in their past to realize it doesn’t work. When it shows up in the West, ushered in by the high priests of wealth redistribution and cultural self-loathing, the people will eventually turn away. Russia is no longer communist, and perhaps some people have concluded it’s better to be with the realist devil you do know than with the globalist one you don’t.

L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.

• L. Todd Wood can be reached at ltwood@123washingtontimes.com.

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