Friday, May 21, 2010

Emergency Exit

A number of experienced Moldovan and international commentators are reading between the tea-leaves of declarations currently being made by senior Russian and Ukrainian politicians and coming to the conclusion that the two eastern powers have cut a secret deal in respect of the Republic of Moldova.

Petru Bogatu, writing in his blog on Voice of Basarabia, maintains that a climate of insecurity is being intentionally created (e.g. through Vardanean's arrest on spying charges) such as to facilitate the recogonition of Transnistria by both Ukraine and Russia.  The territory would then be formally incorporated into a Rusofile Ukraine and Russia would be given long-term basing rights.

Where that leaves the rest of Moldova is anybody's guess.  It appears that the EU is keen to develop a relationship with Moldova, however there is no possibility of accession any time soon.  Moldova is unable to enter NATO because of its constitutional neutrality and because of the unjustified antipathy of its people to that organisation.  The only alternative appears to be several more decades of poverty, desperation & human rights abuses as a Russian vassal.

Bogatu sees another option - reunification with Romania.  I am not a unionist per se, but I am inclined to agree with him that some form of reunification may be the only way of providing Moldova with safe harbour against the oncoming Russian nationalist storm.  To me, the form of reunification is vitally important, as the option needs to enjoy broad public support in order to be viable.  Any model must therefore preserve the cultural distinctiveness of Moldova and the role of Chisinau as a meaningful centre of government.

Here's how it could work:

  1. Establish a legal basis for reunification - either a repudiation of the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest or an upholding of the 1918 act of Union would do the trick (and nullify the existing constitution in the process)
  2. Moldova would become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Romania (in the same way that Hong Kong is a SAR of China).
  3. Romania would be responsible for Moldova's foreign policy and defence policy (both areas where Moldova's capabilities are in any case very weak).  Critically, this means that Moldova enters NATO through the back door and receives a security guarantee.
  4. Moldovans would vote for the President of Romania (who would become the head of state in Moldova as well) , but not for the parliament of Romania.
  5. Moldova would retain its own parliament, government, currency, visa policy, customs policy and internal institutions, i.e. in all respects other that defence and foreign policy it would be self-governing (as is Hong Kong).
  6. As a sweetener to the Rusophile community (who will have to swallow the bitter pill of Romanian domination), the Russian language could be given official status alongside Romanian in regions of Moldova with a significant (say >30%) Russian-speaking minority.
  7. Moldova would not initially be part of the European Union, just as the Channel Islands are under British sovereignty but not part of the European Union.  Moldova would only join the EU when it was economically, politically and culturally ready to do so.
This is plan B, not plan A.  Under plan A, which must be the desired outcome, Transnistria surrenders, the EU admits Moldova and we all live happily ever after.  Plan A's chances of coming about in the current geopolitical context are, however, very slight.  Accordingly, all necessary preparations for plan B need to be made now so that they can be put swiftly into place on the day Russia and Ukraine repudiate the 1992 ceasefire agreements and recognise Transnistria.

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