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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid