Sunday, August 2, 2009

Managing Russia

When you look at the programmes of the four non-communist parties you find a lot of common ground. Everyone wants to improve the business environment, everyone wants better social outcomes and everyone wants to build democratic institutions.

The one area of potential disagreement is Moldova's relationship with Russia. On one end you have the mildly pro-Romanian Liberal Party that wants to withdraw from the CIS and join NATO. On the other end you have the mildly pro-Russian Democratic Party that wants Moldova to have a strategic partnership with Russia.

Can these views be reconciled? What should be the goals of Moldova's policy towards Russia?

Here's what I would like to see:

ECONOMIC

1. Encouragement of Russian (and other) investment in Moldova's economy on a free and transparent basis.

2. Promotion of Chisinau, Balti and Cahul as university towns providing high-quality Russian-language education to students from all over the CIS.

3. Development of economic partnerships not just with Russia but also with Ukraine and Turkey. Perhaps even an Eastern European customs union?

STRATEGIC

1. Moldova to remain neutral, providing that (a) Russia withdrwaws all troops from Transnistria within a year, and (b) Russia doesn't launch any further military adventures in Georgia or elsewhere in the 'near abroad'. Otherwise, Moldova should apply for NATO membership.

2. The recognition of the strategic importance of gas and electricity reticulation networks, and the construction of gas storage capacity

3. A strong push to develop wind / solar / biofuels to reduce Moldova's dependence on Russian gas. Participation in Ukrainian and Romanian energy security projects.

4. Moldova to use its own example to influence democratisation in Russia.

CULTURAL

1. Mitigation of Russia's cultural stranglehold on Moldova through the reintroduction of Romania's channel 1 television and through the extension of ProTV's licence to cover the whole country.

2. A strong push to teach the Romanian language to ethnic minorities so that they can participate fully in all aspects of life in Moldova.

3. Respect for the internationally established rights of the Russian-speaking minority, together with recognition of the limits of those rights.

4. Compulsory teaching of Russian in schools as a foreign language. Same goes for English, by the way. Moldova must relate to both East and West.

5. Specific laws (e.g. on advertising, TV programme content) to promote the national language and protect it from being swept away by Russian.

To sum up, I want Moldova to have as good and productive a relationship with Russia as is possible, subject to the constraints of maintaining Moldova's independence and cultural distinctiveness.

The list above is a bit of a grab-bag, however could be a good starter for discussion. If you have any other ideas on how the Moldova - Russia relationship should develop, please post them as comments.

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