News / Europe

    As EU Pact is Celebrated, Moldova Keeps Wary Eye on Russia

    From left, Moldova's Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso participate in a signing ceremony at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, June 27, 2014.From left, Moldova's Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso participate in a signing ceremony at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, June 27, 2014.
    x
    From left, Moldova's Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso participate in a signing ceremony at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, June 27, 2014.
    From left, Moldova's Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso participate in a signing ceremony at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, June 27, 2014.

    Former Soviet republic Moldova’s government is happily embracing a new pact with the European Union. But the celebration is overshadowed by the prospect of Russian retaliation for the move, especially in light of the dangerous lesson of Ukraine.

    Moldova’s ambassador to the United States told Voice of America that he expects an Association Agreement with the European Union to be ratified by his parliament almost “immediately.” Diplomatic receptions are planned, even in Washington, to mark the occasion.

    But even as diplomats break out the champagne or perhaps increasingly popular Moldovan wine, there are Russian storm clouds on the horizon. Looming over tiny Moldova is the specter of Vladimir Putin’s regime, which threatened Moldova not to sign the agreement.Moldova is clearly vulnerable and not just with military action or incitement by comparative giant Russia, which already has troops in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria.

    Further economic retaliation by Russia could also severely damage the poor nation and disrupt its energy supply.

    “We are very much aware and worried about the possible reaction,” Moldova’s ambassador to the United States Igor Munteanu said in a lengthy interview on the eve of last Friday’s EU pact signing with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. “We are not alone in keeping worried about the future. Of course, the entire region is largely affected by the recent decision of the Russian federation to occupy and annex Crimea and make turmoil in eastern Ukraine.”

     “I do hope nothing similar will happen, but we are worried,” added the Moldovan ambassador.

    The fear is that Putin could decide to make Moldova the next Ukraine.  Such a dangerous prospect even registered a continent away in the U.S. Congress. With Ambassador Munteanu and his small staff intensely monitoring Capitol Hill, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Thursday passed a resolution in favor of the EU association pact.

    A draft of the House resolution “calls upon the Government of Russia to refrain from economic threats and pressure against Moldova and to cease any and all actions that support separatist movements on the territory of Moldova.”

    The U.S. lawmakers said in the resolution Russia should remove troops from the Transdniestria region, noting that action was called for in an OSCE European summit 15 years ago.

    The draft House resolution “reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to support the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the inviolability of its borders.”

    A companion resolution is being readied in the Senate and a U.S. Congressional delegation is expected to visit Moldova shortly, according to Munteanu. The United States and Moldova established an official “strategic dialogue” this spring, a moved toward boosting the visibility of the threatened nation. Munteanu is in regular touch with the U.S. State Department which publicly offered congratulations on the EU agreement.

    The Moldovan ambassador made it clear the trade and economic agreement was also a decision to ally with the Western-oriented European Union.  “It is a strategical choice,” he said, “despite the visible obstacles on this road.”

    One threatening obstacle is the supply or pricing of natural gas, a weapon employed by the Putin Administration via Russia’s huge Gazprom utility in Ukraine. That tactic can be particularly effective against Moldova. “This is a huge vulnerability to the Moldovan economy,” acknowledged Munteanu.

    Gazprom not only supplies the gas, it owns more than half of the MoldovaGaz company, he said. Moldova is working on alternative supply of natural gas through Romania this summer. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso saluted the Association Agreement with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia as “historic” and “the most ambitious the European Union has entered into so far.”

    But he also pointedly visited Moldova a few weeks before the signing and asked Russia “not to take punitive measures further to the upcoming signature and implementation of the agreement with Moldova. There is no economic reason nor legal justification for such behavior," Barroso said.

    Moldova’s clear goal is “to be inside the club” of EU membership, ambassador Munteanu explained. The economic pact “is kind of an insurance policy for us” against Russian attempts to damage the Moldovan economy.

    Yet Munteanu was also careful to state the goal of the pact was not aimed at opposition to Russia. Eighty percent of the 846-page agreement is related to trade, according to the ambassador. He termed concerns about the agreement “absolutely stupid.”

    “It is our clear understanding that a trade agreement with the European Union should not harm our relations with the Russian Federation, but of course we cannot change the minds of politicians,” Munteanu said.

    A negative Russian reaction came quickly. Putin’s spokesman warned right after Friday’s signing that Russia may take action to protect its economic interests in light of the pact.

    Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin has also offered not very veiled threats against Moldova, including one about hoping Moldovans wouldn’t freeze, a reference to the Russian natural gas spigot. And in a visit last year, he also cautioned Moldova against a rapid move toward the EU. “Traveling at such a speed, a locomotive can lose its rear carriages," Rogozin warned Moldovans.

    The Moldovan ambassador pointed out that he doesn’t expect Russian troops marching into other areas of Moldova in immediate retaliation.

    “We do not expect a radical sharp escalation in the following weeks,” Munteanu said. “We are concerned but we are not panicked.”  

    The nation with a small population of under four million and only independent from Moscow since 1991, is “trying to project every other kind of scenario that could happen,” the ambassador said. “Frankly speaking what is happening in Ukraine is a call to arms to everyone in Europe.”


    Lee Michael Katz

    Lee Michael Katz is an award-winning journalist, analyst and author.

    Currently a prominent freelance writer, Katz is the former Senior Diplomatic Correspondent of USA Today and International Editor of UPI News Service.He has reported from more than 60 countries.  Katz’s expertise includes foreign policy and diplomacy, peace talks, national security, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction policy, foundation grants, business and financial topics.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora