A total of 57 Moldovan servicemen have arrived in Ukraine to take part in NATO exercise Rapid Trident starting this week. The troops were sent according to a government’s decree, despite the fact that President Igor Dodon, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force, had vetoed the move. The president has twice prohibited the military to participate in the exercise. He has accused the government of violating the law on state security. The pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Pavel Filip says the participation in the exercise will contribute to the soldiers' better training for the KFOR mission in Kosovo.
Rapid Trident is held on September 8-23 at the International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv, Ukraine. It involves approximately 1,800 personnel from 14 nations, including Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Italy, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the US. The training event coincides with the war games known as «Zapad» (the West) to be held in in Belarus as well as in Russia′s Kaliningrad region and other north-western areas.
The president demands the resignation of Deputy Minister of Defence Gheorghe Galbura. He has ordered an investigation launched into the fact of insubordination. Igor Dodon says that as a neutral state Moldova should not take part in exercises of any bloc. The government’s action defies the country's legislation. The Constitutional Court of Moldova will be asked to pass a decision on the matter.
Actually, the Moldovan servicemen taking part in the exercise are deserters and should face trial. They went AWOL with their weapons. Ukraine welcomed the lawbreakers on its territory and even let them take part in the exercise! Those who defied the president’s order should face justice. It strikes the eye that nobody in the West has condemned the Moldovan government or the Defense Ministry’s officials giving illegal orders in flagrant violation of Moldovan law. Can anybody imagine the servicemen of leading NATO members openly refusing to carry out the orders and doing their own thing?
The conflict between the president and the government comes against the background of rising tensions in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria. In open defiance of President Dodon’s position, the government of Moldova has called on the United Nations to discuss the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the breakaway Transnistria region at the upcoming 72nd session of the General Assembly to open on September 12. Russia considers the Moldova’s letter to the United Nations as another hostile action.
In July, Igor Dodon condemned the parliament’s declaration on withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers, accusing the pro-Western lawmakers of trying to worsen relations with the Russian Federation. The parliamentary resolution was not approved unanimously. Transnistria’s legislators condemned the declaration. The Moldovan parliament failed to take into account the opinion of the people who live in Transnistria.
According to Moldovan MP Vladimir Tsurkan, the president will go straight to the people to make them rise in protest. The Socialist Party, which is enjoying the highest rating, will address the issue at the September 24 rally. The protests against the government violating the national law may lead to snap election.
Victor Stepanyuk, the chairman of the National Socialist Party of Moldova, believes the government’s actions are a gross violation of the constitution. The rally organized by the Socialist Party may turn into massive protests. President Dodon has also said he could take people to the streets. He believes that the government wants to make the Moldovan military an informal part of NATO. He does not exclude the possibility of holding a referendum of turning Moldova into a presidential republic.
According to Prosperity Index 2015, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. The World Bank believes that poverty in Moldova is widespread and endemic. With the observer status in the Eurasian Union (EAEU) granted in April, 2017, there are lucrative prospects for deepening trade and economic cooperation between Moldova and the EAEU within the concept of an «EU-EAEU common economic space». After all, the association agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova in force since 2014 does not exclude the possibility of creating a free trade zone between Moldova and third parties. Article 7 of the Eurasian Economic Union also provides for the possibility of establishing such free trade zones. It does not prevent the member states of the Union to sign other international agreements. Moldova stands to gain much by getting closer to Russia and the EAEU. The Moldovan people realize that. Nothing prevents their country from grabbing the promising opportunities.
According to the study conducted in June, 2017, in case of immediate parliamentary elections, 48, 2% of Moldovans would vote for the Socialists’ Party supporting its former leader Igor Dodon, while 26, 7% would vote for Maia Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Party (PAS). Other parties would get less than the required threshold. 38, 5% of Moldovan citizens trust Igor Dodon the most, followed by Maia Sandu (17, 3%). Other politicians like PM Pavel Filip could not get more than 3, 7% of people’s trust.
49% of Moldovans want a President with bigger power. Only 29% want a clearer separation of powers. In terms of foreign policy, 57% think Moldova should be closer to Russia and only 43% think it should closer to Europe and the West. Asked what they would for in a referendum, 48% of the respondents said they would vote for Moldova to join the Eurasian Economic Union. Only 40% would vote for joining the EU. Some 65% would vote against joining NATO, while 21% would vote for joining the military alliance.
The election victory of Igor Dodon in late 2016 shows the Moldovan people favor the development of good neighborly relations with Russia. The parliamentary elections scheduled in Moldova for autumn 2018 will play a crucial role. The Socialist Party has a good chance to strengthen its position in the parliament, increase its influence in Moldovan politics and turn the tide to improve the deteriorated Russo-Moldovan relations.
The West can turn a blind eye on the violation of the constitution in Moldova by its own government. The executive can take further steps to challenge Russia and get closer to NATO. The main thing is that this policy is not supported by the people of the country. The efforts will go down the drain and the provocative actions will not be productive. The only thing the pro-Western government can get is a snap election to make it a thing of the past.