Sunday, November 9, 2008

Performance Appraisal - Foreign Policy

I now move on to foreign policy, which in my broad definition includes the situation in Transnistria. Unfortunately there are few, if any objective measures that can be used to assess the success of the communist government's foreign policy. We don't even have a firm definition of what constitutes success - for the purposes of this post we will use "the use of diplomacy and military force to promote Moldova's interests". We then need to define "Moldova's interests' as 'peaceful economic and political development' to exclude narrow, nationalistic views which could lead to unwarranted aggression.

Let's start with Romania. The communist's policy towards this neighbour has been totally perverse. Commitments from Romania to fight Moldova's corner at the EU have been met with coolness and petty disputes. The PCRM still clings to the old Soviet myth that the victory of Soviet communists over Romanian fascists was a 'liberation', and this view colours their views of Romania to this day. They continue to twist Moldova's history to exclude at all costs any mention of the two countries having a common past.

The stupid thing about all of this is that Romania has a lot to offer Moldova. it could be a big help in the process of EU integration. It could provide energy diversification and security. It could provide security guarantees. We could see easier travel facilities and improved transport links.

The relationship with the Ukraine is another disappointment. The interests of the two countries are aligned and linked in so many ways. Odessa is de facto Moldova's port, so a customs union between the two countries would do wonders for Moldova's foreign trade. As the other country having a border with Transnistria, Ukraine is pivotal to the resolution of the conflict over that territory. Finally, Moldova and the Ukraine are both wishing to adhere to the EU, and it would make a lot of sense if the two countries were to work together to this end.

Looking at these three potential areas of pooperation, the only one that has seen positive movement has been the second. The EUBAM mission controlling the eastern border has been a tremendous success. Other aspects of the relationship have been overlooked, however.

Relationships with the major western powers, the EU and the US continue to develop. Moldova has a formal agreement with the EU under which it obtained certain trade privileges in return for promises of democratic reform (some of which have been kept). One senses that the bloc would be prepared to go a lot further were the government committed to accession in deed as well as in word. The relationship with the US seems to centre on Moldova's military contributions to American-led actions in places like Iraq.

Russia presents the biggest foreign policy headache for Moldova. As the most powerful country in the region it cannot be ignored, yet it is also a highly immature polity which maintains primitive attitudes and instincts.

The communist government's initial stance regarding Russia was to try to make Russian an official language and take Moldova into a political union with Russia. Such a move would have had catastrophic consequences for Moldova, but thankfully the government changed course under intense pressure from the EU and the western powers. For a couple of years, relations with Russia were very cool, although they are warming up again now.

A quick mention should also be made of the Transnistrean conflict. On coming to power in 2000, the communist government promised that the conflict would be swiftly resolved. Eight years later they are still saying it, however it is difficult to see how any resolution in the best interests of Moldova could be achieved at the current time.

Overall, the communists' handling of foreign policy has been a failure; all of the key relationships are problematic, and, with the exception of EUBAM, there have been no substantive improvements in Moldova's external position.

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