Moldova and Ukraine pose problems for each other on the way to Europe, but in fact the main task for both of them is to overcome the common Soviet past.
Regardless of who wins the presidential election in Ukraine, the desire of this country – at least, of most of its political elites – for integration with EU won't disappear. Speaking to the reporters about her program prior to the election, one of the main contenders for victory – the current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – said that in the case of her victory the country will become an associate member of EU already this year. And she also promised that Ukraine will become a full member of the European Union by 2015.
Tymoshenko's chief rival in the struggle for the presidency Viktor Yanukovych has publicly advocated more pro-Russian stands (at least comparing with the stands of the current President Viktor Yushchenko.) It is clear that the statements of the main contenders for the presidency could equally be a pre-election rhetoric. And it is still unknown what Tymoshenko or Yanukovych will say and, most importantly, do in the case of their victory. Moreover, in the current political situation in Ukraine no one will be able to concentrate all power in his hands – there are still the parliament, courts and other institutions of democratic government.
Nevertheless, on the way to a united Europe one can of course face obstacles and even an outright opposition – first of all, in Russia. The entry of Ukraine into NATO, for instance, could delay, which would create some difficulties for the process of European integration. But the main vector of Ukrainian foreign policy at the turn of the first decades of the XXI century is most likely determined. (Which, let’s say, is different from the "multi-vector policy" of Lukashenka's Belarus.) The same can be said about Moldova – a small post-Soviet republic, which, in direct (both geographically and historically) and metaphorical (geopolitically) senses, was sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.
Between the Dniester and the Danube
As for Moldova, formal negotiations on signing the agreement on its associate membership in EU started in Chisinau January 12 this year. Prior to the negotiations the Prime Minister of this country Vladimir Filat presented a report on the first 100 days of his government and the implementation of the program "European Integration: Freedom, Democracy, Prosperity." In February a visit of EU mission to Chisinau is expected, during which the introduction of visa-free regime for Moldovan citizens entering EU will be discussed. The decision was taken in Brussels at the meeting of EU-Moldova Cooperation Council.
Meanwhile, in December last year there was an information that the European Union has informally gave Ukraine to understand that its associate membership in EU is possible if its application for membership will be considered simultaneously with Moldova's application. However, Brussels immediately refuted this information.
Nevertheless, it is no secret that in the foreseeable future only the CIS countries that have no tangible contradictions and mutual claims can count on membership in EU. And relationships between Moldova and Ukraine are not simple.
Although at the last CIS summit in Chisinau Ukrainian President Yushchenko met with Moldovan leadership and expressed his willingness to resolve all the disputed issues soon, Ukrainian experts at the talks' level faced the hardening of the positions of Chisinau. Even the visit of Ukraine's NSDC Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova to Moldova in November 2009, when she carried a few alternative solutions to the problems, could not help.
The demarcation of the border remains a key issue
In the area of the Dniester HPP-2, some technological facilities of the hydroelectric station are located on the right bank of the Dniester border, i.e. in Moldova. Kiev is interested in obtaining ownership of that land. In turn, Chisinau wants to get from Ukraine several hectares of water surface of the Danube nearby Giurgiulesti, where Moldova is completing the construction of a seaport.
The Road is Yours, the Land is Ours
Ukrainian journal Zerkalo Nedeli wrote in this regard: "They are well aware in Kiev that Moldovan international port Giurgiulesti promises nothing good for Ukraine or any other Danubian power in terms of ecology and maritime safety." But Ukrainian journalists believe Kiev counted that in response to getting an opportunity to become a maritime power Moldova will give Ukraine the ownership over at least some part of the highway Reni-Izmail nearby Palanca village (this is stipulated in the documents ratified by both parties.) Moldovans also like to joke about that: the road is yours, but the land under the road is ours.
The current government of Moldova is agree to give away ownership of the land under the specified section of the road only in exchange for getting an additional territory in the port waters of Giurgiulesti.
Also the lack of progress on the demarcation of central (Transnistrian) section of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border remains one of the stumbling blocks.
At the same time, as the journal "Zerkalo Nedeli" wrote, "just within a few months Bucharest managed to get from the new government in Moldova a permission to open Romanian consulates in Balti and Cahul (the previous power team in Moldova, attempting to curb Romanian expansion, was categorically against the increase of the number of Romanian consulates.)" In addition, the Moldovan-Romanian agreement on small border traffic was initialed.
In Ukraine they fear that the Moldovan authorities will satisfy with a declaration on associate membership in EU and then will start developing bilateral relations with Romania.
As for the relations between Kiev and Bucharest, they get even worse than with Chisinau. Last year in the International Court in The Hague Ukraine has lost the dispute around the separation of the Black Sea shelf, rich in oil and gas, nearby Snake Island. By the decision of the court 79% of the disputed territory went to Romania. Yushchenko said Ukraine would abide by any ruling of the International Court. However, it is not certain whether the future leadership of the country will put up with this decision.
Romania, for which itself it was pretty difficult to join the European Union because of not matching some important EU criteria (for example, the country has a very high corruption level), now, not acting directly against Ukraine's membership in EU, makes hints that there has to be a constant observation and control over Kiev. Bucharest has a bone to pick with its eastern neighbor. However, that will be discussed below.
Moldovan politicians don't act under someone's orders
Recently Russia's most circulated newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published in two successive issues an article by Darya Aslamova "Why Romanians consider Russia an enemy number 1 and think Moldova is Romanian territory." (Daria Aslamova is a well-known journalist who became famous, in particular, for her scandalous book, where she described how she slept with different Russian and foreign Politicians.) The article contains an interview with an extremely right-wing nationalist politician Vadim Tudor, leader of the Great Romania Party and a member of the European Parliament. He argues that he hasn’t heard anything at all about Ukrainian culture, and that EU together with Russia must keep the territory of Ukraine under control. "I don't like that in result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact my Romanian brothers and sisters are the Ukrainian prison inmates," – Russian journalist quoted him as saying.
Of course, Russia's tabloid publication reflects the views, to put it mildly, not of the entire political spectrum of Romania. Besides, Russian establishment, including journalists close to Kremlin's media, is happy about any opportunity to emphasize frictions between the former Soviet republics, as well as countries of the former socialist bloc. Moscow is especially jealous about the attempts of the "former" ones to join NATO or EU – be it Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine, separately or together (for example, as parts of the GUAM.) This has a purely economic grounding. Of course, Russia, with its ambitious projects of gas pipelines Nord Stream and South Stream, wants to hear nothing about the Nabucco.
But there are also ideological reasons, no matter how strange that may seem. Their roots are in the Soviet imperial past.
Tudor's words have a specific sense. To understand them we should refer to history – especially as there’s an occasion for that. This year, in addition to the 70th anniversary of the Soviet annexation of the Baltic countries, there will be celebrated the 70th anniversary of the entry of Soviet troops into the territory of Bessarabia and the passing by the Supreme Soviet of USSR of the law to create Moldavian SSR and include Northern Bukovina and three counties of Bessarabia (which after the WWI was a part of Romania) into USSR. By the way, unlike Bessarabia, Bukovina wasn't mentioned in the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Eastern Europe between Stalin and Hitler. But the main thing which MP Tudor and alike ignore or don't want to understand is that after gaining independence in 1990 Moldova over twenty years became an independent state, no matter whether someone likes that or not. And the fact that Romanian language remains native for the majority of Moldovans doesn't mean that they are ready to join the "Greater Romania" tomorrow. Firstly, this is not what Moldovan political elite would want – just as the state bureaucracies of all other former Soviet republics don't want to depend on Moscow or Brussels (or, like in this case, on Bucharest), because that may limit the bureaucrats’ authority and influence of in their own countries. Finally, not everyone is happy in Brussels about the policy of, for example, Poland, but EU has to contend with the fact that Poland was – and will remain – itself, which means London, Paris and Berlin have to negotiate with this country. In its turn, Warsaw must take into account the interests of Vilnius, etc. The potential EU members in Eastern Europe should be treated similarly, if the West decides not to leave them on the "tender mercies" of Moscow.
Moldova's entry into the European Union through the absorption by "Greater Romania" may seem attractive only to certain Romanian politicians. In fact, that would be a way to the past, to the revival of pseudo-imperial complexes, and therefore – to nowhere. Moldova's political elite is looking for a way to EU on its own, because only this way they can bring economic well-being to the country. And Moldovan politicians don't act under someone's orders – be that Moscow, Kiev or Bucharest.
Stalin Grew Them to be Committed to the People
On the other hand, there is, of course, much of the population of post-Soviet countries – whether in Ukraine or Moldova – which sees the way out of economic difficulties in orienting to Russia. It would be even more correct to say that many people in those countries are overwhelmed by nostalgia for the Soviet Union. It is no accident that the self-proclaimed leadership of the separatist Trans-Dniester Moldovan Republic (TMR) has repeatedly declared the desire not for joining Russia, but for a hypothetical reconstruction of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Yet, a growing number of people, especially young ones (and last year's parliamentary elections in Moldova showed that) understand that the only way to the nation's survival is the way to the West, which gives people hope for a more or less civilized future.
Much credit for that situation goes to Russia itself. Russia's reluctance to recognize the former Soviet republics as peers (however, this always was like that), to recognize the fact that the peoples of these republics are as civilized as Russian people, and sometimes even more civilized, to recognize the rights of these peoples for their own history, their own language, their own understanding of national interests, and finally, the persecution of "guest workers" and displays of xenophobia and outright fascism in Russia – all that contributes to the conscious distancing of new independent states from Moscow.
But the leadership of Russia, which seems to stand firmly on the path of capitalist development, in politics is quite unprincipled and cynical and simply doesn't want to see the changed realities close by. They say Russia's new leadership has no ideology. Even if that's true, then the role of ideology in Russia is increasingly performed by... Stalinism. This is never proclaimed openly. The talk is not so much about the external manifestations of Stalinism – the return of the images of the leader, the open praise to him in textbooks, on television, in statements by high-standing officials. The fact is that any criticism of Stalin's policies and condemnation of Stalin's crimes in the countries neighboring with Russia causes such a vigorous reaction in Moscow, as if the case was the condemnation of ... Russia's current policy and all the glorious imperial past. That is, Russia's leadership has consistently failed to distinguish its history and the history of the Soviet Union from the present. In essence, the leadership remains true to the Stalinist imperial ideals.
Stop Going in for Dramatics
About the same time, in the early days of the New Year, significant events, which remained sort of on the periphery of the media spotlight, took place in Ukraine and Moldova. A court of appeal in Kiev recognized Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich and other senior leaders of the CPSU(b) and the Communist Party of Ukraine criminals guilty of genocide of the Ukrainian people during the famine of 1932-33. Because the defendants have long been dead, the case was closed by the court. However, the named people were legally recognized killers.
Since this happened on the eve of the presidential elections, many thought the event was President Yushchenko's pre-election PR – along with his initiative to establish an international tribunal for communism crimes. Of course, this initiative issued hastily and without public participation, together with the decision of Kiev Court looks belated. But that doesn't diminish the importance of the judicial decision. As the head of the Ukrainian state has said, "Ideology and practice of Stalinism must be condemned in the same way as ideology and practice of Nazism were condemned." By the way, among other things this corresponds to a well-known resolution of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, adopted in Vilnius, which equated communism to Hitler's Nazism.
Meanwhile, in Moldova, the Acting President and Speaker of the Parliament Mihai Ghimpu issued a decree on establishing a commission to study and evaluate the totalitarian communist regime in the republic. The commission was also established on the basis of two resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concerning the elimination of the heritage of the former communist totalitarian systems.
The decree says that "Sovereignty Statement from June 23, 1990 and Independence Statement from August 27, 1991 meant not only removing the totalitarian communist regime, but also the chance to create a democratic society. Even though throughout the two decades Moldova registered a progress in creating a state law and to adhere to EU, the country doesn’t know the truth about the communist regime and its history." Until June 1, 2010 the commission comprised of scholars in law and philosophy should make a collection of documents and submit an analytical report on historical and politico-legal assessment of the totalitarian communist regime.
An immediate hysterical reaction of Moldovan Communists, demanding to ban the activities of such a commission as criminal, speaks for itself. By the way, most of the media in Moldova, even after the defeat of the Communist Party in parliamentary elections, remain under the control of Communists.
The reaction of Russia's State Duma, whose members responded to court decision about Stalin's Famine-Genocide with the utmost neglect and contempt, also speaks for itself.
Of course, one can say that the actions like the creation of the commission or the decision of the court of appeal contain a propaganda component and are aimed primarily at attracting the attention of European institutions to Moldova and Ukraine, so that the successes of these countries are valued.
But they should finally understand in the West that until the newly independent states don't overcome the communist heritage and condemn it by law, their true progress towards democracy and European integration is impossible. And their reunion in the "unbreakable union of freeborn republics" headed by Russia remains an alternative.