23 January 2019

Political and military forecasts-2019 ( VIII)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

Image source: Mediafax

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA

The current situation in the Republic of Moldova (RM) is difficult both economically and politically. The RM army might be able to withstand when Russian troops in Transnistria will be ordered to cross Nistru River if their reinforcement could be blocked.

Moldova is condemned to become a bankrupt state in the absence of external support. Massive emigration is the one that economically supports the population and European sponsorship provides much of the funding for the administration. The RM survives with the help of Western economic aid, Russia being just a political capricious market and the place of migration for unskilled labor.

The stopping of European funding cannot be offset by Romania's continued and disinterested support. In addition, "theft of the billion" seriously affects financial credibility of the country.

Social tensions will probably increase in 2019 amid growing poverty and administrative abuse. Being in the service of the state is a way of life through abuse and extraction of illegal income. In the RM, the citizen is afraid of the judge and the policeman because they are the ones who abuse the most. Perhaps the most dangerous phenomenon is the transformation of the state structures in "mafia organization" which, along with the economic failure, make Moldova a failed state. It is not excluded that the ethnic divisions will again appear on the surface, the Romanian population fearing that they will become "foreigners in their own country" if the new “Kozak plan” is to be implemented.

Politically, the country is a "captive state". The political forces are those generated by the double “mafia power pyramid”: the “pro-Russian mafia”, still in minority, and the "pro-Moldovan mafia” of V. Plahotniuc, who seems to have renounced to the declared pro-European orientation.

Igor Dodon convinces the electorate only with vain promises. The Moldovans know that Russia does not give, but takes, Ukrainian tragedy being a good example. But despair is so great after the failure of the generous European project, the European funds reaching the "mafia" pockets, that Igor Dodon is not far away from a victory he actually fears. In the same way as Vladimir Plahotniuc, who uses the pro-Russian forces to scare the West in the hope of receiving support, but actually collaborates with them, Igor Dodon will use the political forces lead by Plahotniuc to attract Russian support but in fact he wants to work with them. Igor Dodon communicated this intention to the Kremlin in the hope that he would receive the approval. Democratic forces almost do not matter, though they have consistent electoral support. This support will not materialize in elections, given the obstacles that the undeclared alliance Dodon-Plahotniuc has already "legally" established.

Strong social tensions have accumulated in the RM and it is unlikely that the country will go through 2019 without open social conflicts, V.Plahotniuc having the state, but not the society, and I.Dodon having only a part of the society (the Russian, the pro -Russian and nostalgic ones), but not the active part of the it. But much of active part of the society has emigrated and subsidizes the rest of the population. Probably, Igor Dodon will lose the Ukrainians electorate, if he has not already lost it

The year 2019 is a crucial year, the past tendencies accentuating. The country could follow a dangerous way.

Economically, the year 2019 will probably be a bad one but without having to deal with a major economic crisis because the EU agreement is still in place and Russian market will be temporary open. It will be harder to balance the budget as well as to continue the development programs without European aid.

The critical events for the economy are:

- resuming or blocking (as it is now) of the European financial aid, depending on how the elections will take place;

- continuation of the aid from Romania, very important, however small it may seem;

- a relative opening of the Russian market, actually an electoral factor. Russia could close again its market depending on the results of the elections.

Moldova is barely stabilized and financially fragile. This economic situation can determine a dangerous social situation

Socially, 2019 will be the year in which the social realities will be better reflected in the political space. Everyday life in the Republic of Moldova is an adventure, from health and education, to ensuring the minimum wage necessary for survival. Remittances provide financial security for a great part of the population. The people who are working in the state administration survive due to the abuse and corruption. Business is something between legal and illegal. Corruption is a necessary way of life in the Republic of Moldova and this strengthens a pyramid that includes administration, political parties and state institutions. This "pyramid" is looking for a leader that can ensure its survival. This is mainly V.Plahotniuc and the second one is I.Dodon. While V.Plahotniuc has obtained European funds with the promise of implementing reforms (of course, these were not implemented), I.Dodon promises to reopen the economic road to Russia, which is looking generous without being. In fact, these road does not lead anywhere (ask the Belarusian or Kazakhstan leaders about the "benefits").

Politically, we will probably have a year full of events and tensions. Political tensions will reach high levels because the economic and social tensions are deep and many conflicts can no longer be controlled: the abusive power will have to answer, regardless of its control over the state and the society; the pro-Russian forces are more aggressive after the failure of the European road and the democratic ones could not withstand the pressure of power.

The crucial event will be the parliamentary elections in February 2019.  Igor Dodon's Party of Socialists is the favorite, the only question being if it gets the majority in Parliament. In the unlikely situation in which they will get it, the Socialist Party will start reorienting the country toward Russia but without having the necessary external financing. Also, Russia will speed up the implementation of the "reunification plan"" (actually, the Transnistrian control over the RM) using I.Dodon as its main lever. It is a risky route, against the general orientation of society. Probably, even "the lever", Igor Dodon, is afraid of such a course of events.

Most likely, I.Dodon and V.Plahotniuc will share the power as they do now and will use each other to explain to the sponsors why they could not implement the reforms or follow the orders. I.Dodon could announce that he wants early elections but, in fact, a solution in which the two forces work together suit both of them and the "pyramid". The only problem for them is how the democratic opposition "will disappear from the scene", being defeated before the elections (these must look "free and fair" given the European requests).

After elections, will start, very likely, a long period of political instability, marked by tensions that can degenerate into a major political and social crisis. The mixed system will favor the power but will complicate the post-election situation. The political crisis will become more complicated in the autumn when the agreement with the IMF expires.

The second event is the new “Kozak plan”, this time being promoted by Igor Dodon. The plan is more dangerous than previous one because this time the presence of Russian troops in the Republic of Moldova is no longer hidden in a secret annex but it is written in the main document as "technical guarantees". Very important is the attitude of Germany which assumes the role of mediator although the US could be also involved because Transnistria is part of the other geopolitical problem, much more important, Ukraine. Ukraine, struggling for survival against Russian aggression, can not accept a Russian bridgehead (Transnistria) that would expand its control over the whole of the Republic of Moldova. As Romania, Ukraine will have to ask the mediator to protect its legitimate security interests.

For Romania, the Republic of Moldova will remain "the problem" by definition. With the increase of the number of its citizens in the Republic of Moldova, probably the largest number of European citizens outside EU borders, Romania will have to be present not only through sponsorship and political support (caused by inertia and/or error) but also through concrete support for its citizens. Also, in the Republic of Moldova, the asymmetric threats will increase accentuating the transformation of this state into an area where many illegal activities are allowed by the political power. In addition, even if it is unlikely, “the Transniestrianization” of Republic of Moldova could definitively stop the democratic and pro-European evolution.

 

Even if it is unlikely to fall under Russia's control in 2019, the Republic of Moldova remains the big "problem with problem" that we have at the eastern border and it is too dangerous to get too close to it but also too painful to move too far from it.