By Paul Goble
Moldovan President Maia Sandu says that many Moldovans want to unite with Romania and by so doing integrate with the European Union and NATO. But she warns that many are against and says that such a union could occur only if there is “overwhelming” support among Moldovans for it.
Her remarks – available at vz.ru/news/2021/12/28/1136389.html – have already triggered concerns in Moscow and discussions there about the ways in which the Russian government can act in order to prevent support in Moldova for union with Romania from growing (vz.ru/politics/2021/12/28/1105215.html).
The list of tactics Moscow analysts are suggesting is not new but because of Sandu’s remarks it is worth listing them once again:
First, Moscow can push Transdniestria into a new round of talks with Chisinau and thus convince Moldovans that they have more to gain by staying an independent country than by joining Romania an action that would certainly cost them Transdniestria which almost certainly would oppose such a move.
That is the Russian government’s favored tactic and one it deployed again within hours of Sandu’s speech (kommersant.ru/doc/5153367).
Second, it can stop any effort to block Turkey from promoting a referendum in Gagauzia and instead allow that move to go forward something that would threaten the territorial integrity of Moldova and could be presented as a problem that would go away if Moldovans vote to stay within the east and not seek to join the West.
And third, and related to this, Moscow can play the Gagauz card in a new way: it can play up fears in Bucharest that any union with Moldova would involve the introduction into the Romanian political system of a state autonomy, something that could lead other minorities there to demand equal treatment and threat the centralism of that country.
That alone should be enough, the analysts Vzglyad surveys say, to give Bucharest pause about continuing to lobby for Moldovan entrance into the EU and NATO either directly or via union with Romania.