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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs