- Monday, June 10, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If President Donald Trump still believes that “Getting Along with Russia is a Good Thing, Not a Bad Thing” he might consider joining Russia and EU on resolving the current crisis in the republic of Moldova where political stability worsened dramatically over the weekend. The country’s Constitutional Court removed Moldovan President Igor Dodon following the formation of a coalition government between the pro-Russia Socialist Party and the European-leaning A.C.U.M. What Washington Times columnist L. Todd Wood had deemed “a political earthquake” in Moldova became even direr, when Dodon’s replacement, former Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip, promptly dissolved Moldova’s parliament and called for snap elections in September. Filip, who stands accused of extorting $4 million from Ukrainian businessman Nikolay Sambozhuk, is a close confidante of notorious oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who has once again successfully used Moldova’s levers of power to wrest control of the government after his Democratic Party was shut out of coalition negotiations.

Ending Plahotniuc’s “state capture” of Moldova could be a step for the future cooperation between Russia and the West in the post-Soviet space. Indeed, it looks like for the first time in many years we hear almost similar, albeit tepid statements from Washington, Moscow and Brussels calling for “calm and restraint.” However, Europe’s poorest country deserves better than this.

One would guess by judging Washington’s foreign policy over the past decade, that it seems highly unlikely that U.S. policy on Moldova is straight forward. During America’s ongoing “red scare” over anything related to Russia, anyone who is viewed as a deal maker with Putin is deemed no good, while the opponents of pro-Putin politicians deserve the support of the United States. In the context of Moldova’s latest and probably not last political crisis, Igor Dodon enjoys warm relations with Putin and has therefore been viewed with suspicion in the West.

U.S. zero-sum foreign policy did not work well in Georgia and Ukraine, when both Washington darlings Mikheil Saakashviliand Petro Poroshenko were voted out of office by their people. Saakashvili was convicted in absentia for abuse of power in his native Georgia while Poroshenko lost in a landslide to a comic actor with zero political experience and is facing multiple investigations including corruption and seizure of state power.

At the same time Plahotniuc who stands accused of using “death squads” to intimidate witnesses to his criminal activity and who allegedly received proceeds of stolen bank funds from Moldova might be preferable to some since he, as Saakashvili and Poroshenko, is anti-Putin.



As Plahotniuc continues to control the levers of power in Moldova, as evidenced by his appointments to the Constitutional Court siding with his interests to remove Dodon from power, the West should view him with great suspicion. With three major political crises plaguing Moldova since 2013, the country has demonstrated it remains an unreliable partner neither to Moscow nor the West. Washington, Moscow, and Brussels can therefore take joint action to encourage a stable government under the Socialist Party/A.C.U.M. grand coalition, thereby ensuring Moldova removes itself from lawless, undemocratic control.

First, Moscow and the West can recognize the lawful presidency of Igor Dodon. The Moldovan Constitutional Court’s rationale for removing Dodon and installing Filip was the former president refusing to dissolve parliament after a coalition was not formed within three months of the election as Moldova’s constitution stipulates. Moldova’s parliamentary elections were certified on March 9, meaning a coalition could have been formed up until June 9. As the agreement between the Socialists and A.C.U.M. was reached on June 8, the Constitutional Court’s decision to remove Dodon for refusing to dissolve the parliament was un-constitutional. Therefore, Washington, Moscow, and Brussels should no longer recognize the presidency of Filip, who was clearly installed at the behest of Plahotniuc in order to force new elections which could improve the chances of his Democratic Party during any snap elections

Second, Russia and the West should recognize the grand coalition between the Socialist Party and the A.C.U.M. as valid and formed in accordance to the Moldovan constitution. It is in Moldova’s best interest for Washington, Brussels, and Moscow to issue statements acknowledging Maia Sandu as Moldova’s prime minister and invite her and the Moldovan Cabinet of Ministers for meetings with officials in the United States, Russia, and EU. Failure to recognize the will of the Moldovan people would be a step back for the country’s development and additional unnecessary problem in U.S. - Russia relations.

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