After a decade toiling as a captured state under the thumb of corrupt oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova is finally demonstrating a commitment to reform under the coalition government of the pro-European ACUM bloc and pro-Russian socialists. Earlier this month, the European Union announced Moldova has "moved resolutely” to implement key democratic and rule of law reforms since the coalition formed in June. This was followed by praise from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who, after meeting with Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu, commended the government’s "progress on judicial, governance, and security reforms.”
Moldova’s coalition government earned a triple crown of international praise on September 20, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $46 million loan tranche to Moldova, declaring in a statement "the Moldovan authorities have taken decisive corrective measures… [on] ensuring macroeconomic stability and advancing reforms.” With the Moldovan coalition clearly leading the country down a path that diverges from its past years of corruption, why would anyone praise the oligarch who previously played both sides in Washington and Moscow in order to enrich himself, while keeping Moldova struggling as Europe’s poorest country?
Moldova is the rare example of the case when US, EU and Russia finally found a way to work together and achieve a common goal both to benefit the people of a former Soviet republic and at the same time ease the East-West tensions.
Apparently not everyone likes this development and one of them is the former Republican Congressman Bill Shuster, now a lobbyist for Squire Patton Boggs, who writes glowingly of Plahotniuc, stating the ruthless oligarch "fought for a more robust economic and political relationship with the European Union and the United States.” Shuster, who retired last year following revelations of a relationship with a lobbyist while serving as chairman of a House Committee, fails to mention Plahotniuc’s alleged role in $1 billion theft that "gutted” Moldova’s banking system or the oligarch’s alleged use of a "laundromat” money laundering scheme that "processed as much as $70 billion,” according to a Wilson Center report. Moldova’s new government should instead be praised, as the country’s Interior Minister Andrei Nastase has requested the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assist Moldova’s investigation into both crimes. As Nastase wrote, the "schemes have ruined the financial and banking system and have deprived our country of much needed resources.”
While Washington’s and Kishinev’s law enforcement agencies work together to bring to justice those Moldovan citizens who profited from corruption while Moldova’s economy stagnated, it is important that the Trump Administration continue to put to rest any rumors that Plahotniuc might become a U.S. asset and live in America as an asylum seeker. U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Dereck J. Hogan on one hand has stated that there is no agreement between the United States and Plahotniuc and that the oligarch will "not enjoy any privilege over the ocean.” However, why in this case US Embassy in Moldova has issued him an entry visa to America? Looks very strange indeed.
How does US Embassy action in this case corresponds with the advice of a former OSCE political officer and a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar, who co-authored an analysis calling on the "U.S. government to initiate an interagency process sanctioning Mr. Plahotniuc under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act.”
Plahotniuc cannot be allowed to hide behind his enablers in Washington like Shuster or former Obama-era U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, now a consultant for the Albright Stonebridge Group, who "stood shoulder to shoulder with Moldova’s most feared figure.” Too much is at stake for Moldova’s "unorthodox coalition”, which has "demonstrated a surprising degree of cohesion and purpose,” according to the Kennan Institute. Washington, Brussels, and Moscow all united in opposition to Plahotniuc’s continued grasp on power.
This unusual solidarity forced Plahotniuc from power and led to the government coalition that has been praised by western leaders and institutions. Allowing Plahotniuc to regain influence will signal to Moldovans that Washington cares only about using Moldova as a pawn in the geopolitical chess game between Russia and the West. It also will allow remnants of Obama’s foreign policy to creep back into Secretary Pompeo’s State Department.
The list of such pawns on post-Soviet space is pretty long and is not limited to the former Washington’s darlings like Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili or Ukrainian presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko.
Moldova should be encouraged to continue following a multi-vector economic and security model, which, if respected by Washington, Brussels, and Moscow, could help lead to a rapprochement between the West and the Kremlin. Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicolae Popescu has indicated Kishniev will not revise its agreements with the European Union, or free trade accords with the Commonwealth of Independent States.
While Moldova’s coalition continues its reform program, it should be allowed to follow a geopolitical path chosen by the Moldovan people. If that path is warm friendly relations with both the United States, European Union, and Russia, so be it.
Pragmatism should be encouraged not only in Moldova, but in Ukraine as well, where the election of Volodymyr Zelenskiy has led to dialogue between Moscow and Kiev and the the release of prisoners between the two countries. In Ukraine, voters rejected the dangerous rhetoric of Petro Poroshenko and in Moldova, the deceit and corruption of Vladimir Plahotniuc. Lessons can be learned in Washington, Brussels, and Moscow, that Ukrainians, Moldovans, and let us not forget Georgians want prosperity and security, not just zero sum thinking policies that enrich the few, while keeping these countries in a geo-political gray zone.
The Washington Times