Moscow’s Failures in Moldova

moldova040909.jpgAn interesting take on the events in Chisinau from the Moscow Times, looking at why the Moldovans haven’t been looking East for help during this political crisis:

But what should worry the Kremlin is not the threat of a similar uprising at home but the fact that both Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and the opposition groups turned to the West instead of Russia to mediate the conflict, analysts said Wednesday.

Because of the shortsightedness of Russian diplomacy and its failure to project its own “soft” power, the Kremlin faces the possibility of being sidelined once again in a former Soviet state that it considers to be within its realm of influence.

“The policy mistakes are clear and were muchdiscussed after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine,” said Nikolai Petrov,a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, referring to theweeks of street protests in what was once Russia’s strongestpost-Soviet ally. The 2004 protests resulted in pro-Western ViktorYushchenko winning the presidency over the Moscow-backed candidate.

Despitethe Kremlin’s awareness of its mistakes, it has failed to become a big,benevolent partner to West-leaning former Soviet states since then,resorting instead to energy blackmail and military threats, like withGeorgia, Petrov said. This has fueled anti-Russian sentiment among theopposition in those countries, he said.

Moldovan oppositiongroups took to the streets to demand a vote recount after theVoronin-led Communist Party swept weekend parliamentary elections. Theprotests turned violent Tuesday, with young people ransacking andlooting the president’s office and parliament. The authorities regainedcontrol of the situation Wednesday.

In Moscow, the ForeignMinistry portrayed the protests as a foreign-sponsored plot tooverthrow Voronin, who like other long-serving post-Soviet leaders hasenjoyed strong support from the Kremlin.

“Judging by the slogansshouted in the squares and the many Romanian flags in the hands of theorganizers of this outrage, their aim is to discredit the achievementsmade toward strengthening Moldova’s sovereignty,” the Foreign Ministrysaid in a statement Wednesday.