Last Tuesday, three weeks before the end of his term, Igor Dodon gathered his belongings and left the presidential residence in Condrița, found in a suburb of Chisinau. He did it quietly, without his arrogance, with no proletarian riots and street fights, as he had threatened during the electoral campaign, which is good.
The same day, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov reinforced an earlier stated position that Russia will not leave Moldova. The declaration came in response to the newly elected president Maia Sandu’s statements regarding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the left bank of the Nistru River, the evacuation of ammunition from Cobasna village in the breakaway Transnistria region, and the transformation of the Russian military peacekeeping mission into a civilian one, operating with a mandate from the OSCE Mission’s position. It’s a bad sign.
High-level authorities in Chișinău regularly demanded withdrawal of Russian military troops from the Nistru River and Russia’s high-level authorities regularly refused to do it. Similarly, Moscow has been repeatedly blamed or accused, both nationally and internationally, for failing to comply with its commitments. This also includes the 2001 Moldovan-Russian basic political treaty, which poses security risks and dangers to Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Twenty-nine years after the fall of the USSR, Moscow still aspires to further treat Moldova as a peripheral governorate of the former empire. Numerous experts keep going to different TV studios in Moscow, with all sorts of atlases and improvised maps, through which they seek to prove that Basarabia and Transnistria are old Russian lands and that Chișinău is just destined to take into account Russia’s interests on the Nistru River.
Moscow has gotten used to this thought, especially during Igor Dodon’s presidency. Moscow seems to forget, however, that the situation in Chișinău changed after November 15, therefore, it is normal to have a “change in the status quo” including in the Transnistrian problem. Otherwise, what’s the point of the Moldovan-Russian political treaty? It should be denounced and even renegotiated.
Moscow has kept the conflict frozen for 27 years (since the 1992 war on the left bank of the Nistru River), which is not a solution. They chose to conserve a problem that was artificially created to block Moldova’s European course and to block our freedom of being an independent state. That’s what Putin, hand in hand with Dodon, was busy with for four years. Today half of Moldovan citizens left the country, and those who remained in the country face poverty and desolation. It is only reasonable that Maia Sandu should plead for the re-evaluation of relations with Russia, especially regarding the military troops in the breakaway Transnistrian region. Moscow’s reaction, however, was inadequate.
Two days after the presidential election results were announced, Maia Sandu gave an interview to the Ukrainian Evropeyskaya Pravda. Discussing the potential solution to the Transnistrian conflict, Maia Sandu stated that the Russian troops, that station illegally on the Nistru River, must leave, ammunition must be evacuated from Cobasna village, the Russian military peacekeeping corps must be reformed into a civilian one and operate with a mandate from the OSCE. President Sandu added that the Kozak plan for the federalization of Moldova must be abolished and emphasized that they should look for peaceful solutions to resolve the Transnistrian problem.
Moscow reacted promptly. The Kremlin-affiliated press and central state institutions mobilized against her. “Russia will never accept the withdrawal of its troops from Transnistria.”, “There is a prospect of so-to-say unfreezing the conflict followed by entering a hot phase, no matter what Sandu says about her desire to resolve the matter peacefully,” countered Elena Panina, a member of the State Duma’s international affairs committee.
“Russia is playing a very important role in so-called Transnistria and changing the status quo could lead to significant destabilization,” said a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Maria Zakharova, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, specified “We view Maia Sandu’s statement as aimed at undermining efforts to peacefully resolve the Transnistrian problem. There is a long way to go before the conflict is settled.”
Does it mean we shall never settle it?
Moscow started a planned information-propaganda campaign to discredit Maia Sandu in revenge for the loss in the election. For four years Igor Dodon served Putin. Unlike him, Maia Sandu had the courage to declare to Moscow that common rules will stand at the bases of Moldova – Russia relations and the rules are to be respected.
On November 15, 2020, Moldova put an end to slavery. Moldova could have achieved it earlier if it had consistent leaders who would not balance between East and West.
As presidents changed, so did the policy in relationship with Russia, which has been inconsistent. Former presidents Lucinschi and Voronin changed the vector started by a former president Snegur, and then head of state Timofti came, then Dodon. If not for Dodon, Russia might have been different now.
Dodon claims he established good relations with Russia. Alas! After Dodon’s mandate, relations with Russia must be resumed from scratch.
Igor Dodon left the Condrița presidential villa last Tuesday. Will he stay in Moldova? It is rumored that if the Chicu government leaves and Greceanîi is not head of parliament anymore, Dodon will retire to Russia. Putin would have rewarded his servitude granting him an estate in the outskirts of Moscow.