Friday, April 23, 2010

Reducing Russia's influence in Moldova

In this post I want to list some practical steps by which Russia's influence in Moldova can be reduced and Moldova's own, unique identity begin to emerge from the post-Soviet shadow.  I'm not going to argue the point about why Russia's influence should be reduced, as I believe that is well established, and readers are invited to review my earlier posts that refer to the subject.

The first area that needs attention is the media.  Because the media is dominated by Russian channels and publications, Moldovan society (and especially the Rusophone part) is similarly dominated by Russian opinions (e.g. "Putin is a great leader", "Georgia started the war in South Ossetia").  We need greater diversity, both on television and in print.  The three national TV networks should be allocated to TRM, a quality Romanian language broadcaster (e.g. TVR1) and a quality Russian language broadcaster (I think the Israelis may have a good channel).  Other licences should be given out on the basis of programme quality, journalistic professionalism and diversity.  Similar encouragement to diversify should be provided to the print media.

The next  change that is required is in the Orthodox Church.  Moldova has two Orthodox Churches, one subordinated to Moscow and one subordinated to Bucharest.  The Russian church actively campaigned for the communists in 2009 and is now pushing for a referendum to make teaching of the (Russian) orthodox religion compulsory in schools (a gross breach of the Moldovan constitution's separation of church and state). Furthermore, Patriarch Kyril of the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday gave Igor Smirnov a medal for his 'contribution to peace'.  Smirnov, the guy who usurped constitutional power and launched a war that claimed a thousand lives!  It is clear to me that Moldovans need to detach themselves from submission to Moscow via this corrupted church.  Their are a few ways this could happen:

  1. Transfer allegiance to the smaller Basarabian Orthodox Church, which is under the spiritual authority of the Romanian Patriarch.
  2. Engineer, as the Estonians have done, a reorganisation of the Orthodox Church in Moldova such that it comes under the direction of the (neutral) Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul).
  3. Take a look at other alternatives, such as Catholic and Protestant churches.
Language education is further priority area.  Many rusophones get their news and information from Russia because language barriers prevent them from hearing other views.  We need to figure out a way to make cheap Romanian and English language courses available throughout Moldova, and particularly in zones where Rusophones are concentrated.  This is an area where the Romanian and British states could have a major role; Romania could send legions of language teachers across the Prut, while the British Council could commence activity in Chisinau at least.

Somehow we need to engineer more maturity among the political class.  Disappointingly, many Moldovan politicians look to Vladimir Putin as a role model.  Igor Dodon appears to practice Putin's mannerisms in front of a mirror, while even our friend Vlad Filat seems to admire the Russian premier and seek his favour.  Putin is an authoritarian leader (if not a dictator) who is responsible for widespread human rights abuses both within and without of Russia.  He is militaristic, vengeful and corrupt.  He is to be managed rather than admired.  If Moldovan politicians want good political role models, they should pick real heroes such as Mandela & Churchill.  The electorate needs to sanction any party willing to put Russia's interests ahead of Moldova's.  That means a definite refusal to vote for the Communists and United Moldova, a probable refusal to vote for the Democrats and increasing wariness of the Liberal Democrats.  Of the major parties, only the Liberals do not appear to be in Russia's pocket at the current time.

Introduce law based on EU directives as soon as possible.  Moldova's laws were inherited from the Soviet Union and hence have inherited a high degree of bureaucracy, dysfunctionality and abusiveness.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the justice system.  Bringing in EU law will provide for far better protection of human rights and go a long way towards changing the 'soviet' mentality of many Moldovan citizens.

Attract foreign investment by deregulating, eliminating bureaucracy, flattening and reducing tariffs.  This will create jobs and will also grow Moldova's international community, providing greater opportunity for Moldovans to interact with foreigners and providing mutual learning opportunities.

The justice system needs to be more severe on those who serve foreign powers against Moldova's interests.  What Smirnov and his band did in 1992 was treason, and, if there is no quick resolution to the Transnistrian impasse, should be treated as such.  Gagauz leaders who threaten to secede should be similarly sanctioned.  Klimenko's statements incite people to civil war, and should be dealt with  under the appropriate articles of the penal code.  Voronin's signature on the Palanca cession and on the March 2009 document which supposedly allows Russian forces to stay indefinitely on Moldovan territory constitute abuses of power under Moldova's constitution and law.  He should be tried for these alleged crimes.  Once people see Russian nationalists going to jail for their attempts to undermine the Moldovan state, there will be less appetite for skulduggery.

Reduce the size of the Russian embassy, both physically and in terms of staff numbers.  Those of you who have been to Chisinau will recognise the massive, menacing compound that occupies a whole city block.  You may also have also heard the rumours that the reason the embassy is over-sized is because it has a role as a spy base for South-Eastern Europe.  The Moldovan government should benchmark the size of the Russian embassy against other embassies in Chisinau and abroad, then take appropriate action to 'right-size' it.

Economic blackmail needs to be brought to an end.  Moldova must build its own energy generation capability and find alternative sources of foreign fuels.  Then Russia will not be able to create mayhem by switching off the gas in mid-winter, or put pressure on the government by increasing gas prices and triggering a round of inflation.  Moldova should also find more reliable markets for its exports, in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so that the sting is taken out of future Russian embargoes on Moldova's wine and horticultural produce.

Take a new approach to Transnistria.  Show up at the negotiations, but only for the purpose of showing willing; don't expect anything to come of the process and don't let Russia use Transnistria as a recyclable negotiating card.  In the meantime, show great attention to the people of Transnistria.  Make sure they are as well informed as possible, despite Smirnov's attempts to keep them in the dark.  Make sure that they are given (courtesy of Moldova and the EU) as many opportunities as possible.  Make them want to dump their tin-pot regime and reunite.

1 comment:

  1. I interviewed my grandparents about the Soviet influence in Moldova, my eldest grandmother even being sent to Siberia herself where her sister and mother died, never hearing from her father too and even she had nothing against Russia. The older generation need to let go of their propaganda filled heads and not let the young and the future leaders of Moldova get Russian influence too. It's true, most TV is in Russian and it expresses to my generation of young adults that it's a glamorous want to visit Moscow and look like the Russian actors on TV. The rest of the ex-eastern bloc didn't turn out too well under soviet influence and should look forward to a new independent future with new imports/exports and fuel sources. Russia has already such a large country and population, how about it tends to it's own needs instead of trying to babysit smaller countries in hopes of something back.

    Great article. Totally agree.

    - andreea