Wall Street Journal Prods Moldova to Follow Ukraine into the Abyss

February 28, 2015
James George Jatras
Deputy Director, AIU

Moldova continues to limp along under a shaky two-party “pro-Europe coalition” that depends on the votes of the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) to stay . . . well, if not exactly “in power,” at least in place as the formal government in Kishinev. In Bucharest, the prime booster of Moldova’s “European path” (and, unsurprisingly, of Anschluß with Romania), there is worry that installation of the weak government marks “the end of the pro-EU orientation of Moldova.”

The apparent fear is that the authorities in Kishinev lack the muscle or the will to ram through “reforms” (the ubiquitous term for adopting Brussels’ mandates) necessary for rapid implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU) that Kishinev ratified with unseemly haste last year. Instead, Moldova may have to take a go-slow approach that seeks to balance ties with the EU against those with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

In the real world, this used to be called making a virtue of necessity. No matter how passionate the leaders of the governing coalition (Vlad Filat’s Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM) and Marian Lupu’s Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM)) might be for rapid restructuring of Moldova’s institutions to meet the preferences of Brussels bureaucrats under the AA, political reality forces them – no doubt to their dismay – to take into account the views of those Moldovans who disagree with them. The result may turn out to be a balanced, moderate, compromise policy.

How this works out, and for how long, largely will be determined by former president and PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin. While not a member of it, the coalition would collapse without PCRM’s support. Effectively, this means that Voronin – whose position straddles that of the coalition and that of the strongly pro-Moscow Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – is in a position to say Yea or Nay on the government’s actions, at least for now.

As it happens, this middle position may be the best approximation of Moldova’s divided public opinion. Whether it can lead to positive outcomes for the country’s economy remains to be seen. But at least it promises to hold at bay the divisive forces that tore neighboring Ukraine apart in a year-long ordeal that has not yet ended. That is something, at least, for Moldovans to be thankful for.

However, the Wall Street Journal evidently cares little for Moldova’s civil peace. An unsigned February 23 editorial rehashing of the usual black-and-white, good “pro-Western” vs. bad “pro-Kremlin” caricatures calls upon Moldovans to embark upon a “a long, lonely and potentially violent struggle to defend themselves if Mr. Putin decides to test their pro-Western convictions.” With seemingly monolithic unity, in the Journal’s assessment, Moldovans’ “convictions” unite them in their “westward turn,” their “desire for greater EU cooperation,” and being “willing to risk” a confrontation with Moscow.

The trouble is, Moldovans as a whole are not united on any of these things. They are divided on their country’s future path, just as Ukrainians were before their country imploded. As with Ukraine, any attempt to force either a Western or Eastern uni-vectoral path on Moldova is bound to lead to trouble. Perhaps the Journal’s editorialists know that and just don’t care.