Moldova Announces Open Policy Toward Russia

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has pursued a policy of rapprochement with Moscow. (Wikimedia Commons)

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has pursued a policy of rapprochement with Moscow. (Wikimedia Commons)

Moldova will extend an open policy toward Russian investors and journalists, President Igor Dodon announced in an interview with Kommersant on September 23.

Dodon confirmed to Kommersant that Moldova’s governing coalition had reached an agreement to “no longer take a systematic anti-Russian approach.” Dodon’s pro-Russia Socialist Party hastily formed the coalition last June with the pro-EU NOW bloc, led in part by Prime Minister Maia Sandu.

Moldova’s relations with Russia initially soured after the ratification of an association agreement with the European Union in 2014 under the leadership of the pro-EU Democratic Party, according to UrduPoint. The situation worsened in 2017 when Moldova’s parliament cut off relations with Russia’s government and expelled several Russian public figures. Balkan Insight reports that 10 Russian journalists were prevented from entering Moldova between June 2017 and March 2018.

However, Dodon has long supported increasing the nation’s ties with Russia, according to Balkan Insight. Since his election in 2016, Dodon has paid several visits to Moscow, despite the two governments’ suspension of contact. The ousting of the Democratic party in June brought fresh hope for Moldova-Russia cooperation, with Dodon stating on the Russian television program Vesti Nedeli, “I am sure we will have very good relations with Russia under the new government.”

An essential component of Dodon’s pro-Russia policy is Transnistria, the Russian-speaking breakaway region that remains a contentious arena in the struggle between the East and West for influence in Moldova, according to Balkan Insight. Dodon has advocated for a so-called “special status” for Transnistria, a plan that Romanian MP Matei Dobrovie likened to a euphemism for federalization in an interview with RFERL. Infotag reported Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s response to Dodon’s bold statements: “Politically, we haven’t discussed any proposals or concepts on Transnistria, so I do not know what Igor Dodon speaks about.”

Moldovans who hope to see their country become closer to the EU fear a federal system because of the potential for Transnistria’s largely pro-Russia population to influence future elections, Balkan Insight reports. Dodon denied political motivations when a Kommersant reporter suggested that Transnistria’s reincorporation would lead to Dodon holding onto power in future elections, claiming that his sole priority is to strengthen the Moldovan state. 

Members of the international community have expressed concern over Moldova’s recent eastward swing. Ned Siegel, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, told American Security News, “I fear for the good people of Moldova who deserve the chance to be prosperous and free from Russian oppression.”

However, Prime Minister Sandu does not intend to let Dodon take control so easily, announcing in a statement to the press, “No matter what high post Mr. Dodon may hold, the destiny of Moldova and the settlement of such problems are not decided by one person.”