Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Neutrality and all that

According to its constitution, Moldova is neutral. Neutrality in Moldova's context basically means that it will not join any military bloc or enter into military alliances, and that no foreign troops should be dispositioned on Moldovan territory.

Actual breaches of Moldova's neutrality:

1. The stationing by Russia of troops and military assets in Transnistria

Potential breaches of Moldova's neutrality:

1. Moldova has taken part in military activity abroad (e.g. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan), however this is typically under a UN mandate.

2. Joining the European Union, which (in theory at least) operates a common foreign & security policy.

3. Participation in strategic / military cooperation as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

So what should be the new majority's policy with respect to Moldova's neutrality. The coalition agreement is somewhat silent on this, probably because it's a bit of a hot potato and the supporters of the Democrat Party and the Liberal Party have very different views. The Democrats have a large Rusofile / Moldovenist support base and are looking to steal more of these voters from the Communists. They campaigned on the promise of a 'strategic partnership' with Russia. The Liberals are pro-Romania, pro-EU and pro-NATO.

Within the coalition, these views need to be reconciled; my view is that a strict interpretation of Moldova's neutrality will be the key to success.

First, Moldova's membership of the CIS is a positive thing so long as this organisation is focussed on economic matters, i.e. building trade and investment links among the member states. The Liberals should have no problem remaining in the CIS under these conditions. If, on the other hand, the CIS begins to take on a military / strategic nature, then Moldova will be compelled to withdraw due to her constitutional neutrality. Such a stance would send a good message to CIS member states and Russia in particular, i.e. don't try to turn the CIS into a military alliance.

Second, Moldova should keep out of NATO provided that her neutrality is truly respected by all and that her sovereignty and territorial integrity is not under threat. This means that Russia would need to promptly withdraw her troops from Transnistria (say by the end of 2010) and stop supporting the separatist regime (immediately). It would also mean observable good behaviour by Russia in other parts of its near abroad (e.g. full observance of the Sarkozy plan in Georgia).

If, on the other hand, Russia maintains her military presence in Transnistria, continues to support the separatist regime or engages in another war in Georgia (for example), then Moldova's neutrality is compromised and her sovereignty and territorial integrity are under threat. In such circumstances she should seek the protection of a NATO security guarantee. I would argue that, although this would breach the letter of Moldova's constitution, it would conform with the spirit, by restoring a strategic balance that is currently missing.

The good news for Russia is that, through good behaviour, it can achieve its major stated foreign policy goals in Moldova - the Republic can be neutral, in the CIS and outside NATO. This would obviously suit the Democrats as well. But the Liberals would also be happy because of the removal of the Russian military threat and the improved prospects for reintegrating Transnistria. Potentially its a win-win-win situation.

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