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New concepts on foreign policy and national security

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Igor Botan / February 14, 2006
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Drafting of new concepts on foreign policy and national security

In compliance with the December 22, 2005 #374-IV and January 16, 2006 #414-IV presidential decrees, national commissions made up by high-ranking state officials are due to draft the national security concept and foreign policy concept of the Republic of Moldova by March 1, 2006. These documents are to replace the ones adopted 11 years ago through the May 5, 1995 #445-XIII and February 8, 1995 #368-XIII decisions of the Parliament.

We can ascertain after more than one decade that these concepts misestimated or ignored the true dangers against the Republic of Moldova, establishing wrong priorities. The events in the past years, especially in 2005, impose the reconsideration of dangers capable to undermine the security of Moldova and the establishing of new objectives of the interior and foreign policies.

The major priorities of the Republic of Moldova include again after 11 years: the insurance of territorial integrity; promotion of social-economic reforms; boost of population welfare; building of the state based on the rule of law in which the rights will be guaranteed and adjusted to the international rights, etc. The difference is that the internal objectives should be fulfilled including through promotion of a foreign policy on integration in the CIS, while now they are studied better and must be accomplished in the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy, without knowing the exact perspectives of the Republic of Moldova to join the E.U.

Unquestionably, the new concepts will be explained in an appropriate legal and diplomatic language, but they should cover the major objectives and dangers capable to undermine their fulfilment, as clear and argued as possible. It could be presumed that the new objectives of foreign policy and security of the Republic of Moldova are found again in strategies, concepts and plans adopted by state institutions in the past 2–3 years, which the chief of state synthesised somehow in an address to the diplomatic corps to Moldova on January 27, 2006.

Anyhow, the fulfilment of major objectives of interior and foreign policy will depend on the quality of relations with close neighbours of Romania and Ukraine, especially with the Russian Federation.

Relations with the Russian Federation

It is obvious that the only resource of the Moldovan foreign policy in relations with the Russian Federation rests with capacity to argue own interests and to find influent partners and supporters. At present, three problems with major impact on bilateral relations can be identified: a) Transnistrian problem; b) “monetisation” of relations within CIS and access to the Russian market; c) initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the elaboration of the “state programme on facilitation of moving of fellow countrymen who reside other countries to Russia” (under the Russian federation’s legislation, citizens who were born in the territory of the Russian Empire, USSR and Russian Federation, as well as their descendants are fellow countrymen) .

These problems, which seem to be very different, are interdependent and highlight several things: a) CIS is not a priority for Russia anymore; b) “human factor” of policies in the post-Soviet area is re-dimensioned in bilateral relations with Russia. This is the new expression of pragmatism of President Vladimir Putin, which seems to be reduced to the priority development of relations in the Common Economic Area and Euro-Asian Economic Union, it means where a relatively developed energy and economic potential exists.

There is no doubt that the separatist enclaves of Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan will be maintained through all means in Russia’s area of attraction. There is no room for ambiguous interpretations here; there is a definitive judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on “ Ilascu case”, which elucidates Russia’s role in this conflict, there are the 1995, 1996, 1999, 2005 resolutions of the State Duma, which unquestionably demonstrate this role. The strategy on “comeback of co-nationals to Russia” follows the major goal to stop the demographic crisis in Russia, but it also envisages directly the states that contest the policy of Russia in the separatist areas and those with which Russia has bad relations. This conclusion is based on the fact that this policy was tested on the Baltic Countries and 70,000 citizens who fall under incidence of the notion of “fellow countrymen” of this country are to be “moved by will” to the Kaliningrad region. Although 200 million dollars has been allocated for this project, it has collapsed. The cause is that the quality of life and individual freedoms in the Baltic Countries, E.U. members, are better and the problem of insurance of rights of the Russian minority was exaggerated.

As regards the poor country such as the Republic of Moldova, this strategy may have an unexpected impact. Firstly, more than half out of about 400,000 Moldovan citizens working abroad are in Russia, according to official statistics. Secondly, Russian experts say that the “permutation policy” and simplified awarding of the Russian citizenship will be based on certain criteria, with the most important ones resting with professional qualification and health. Thirdly, the eventual “permutation” of the most qualified labour force will be made on account of these states, which will finance the project by paying two-fold, three-fold, etc. higher prices for natural gas and becoming poorer, so that the eventual migrants will be motivated to give green light to Russia’s offer.

We may admit that the things are exaggerated, but they must be taken into account in order to keep the most qualified citizens, regardless of their ethnic membership. The danger does not seem to be exaggerated if we take into account the fact that the E.U. obliges Romania to introduce the visa regime on one hand, while on the other hand Russia will have a simplified citizenship awarding policy and will probably allocate huge amounts for permutation.

Of course, Moldova will be incapable to get through new provocations alone. Even more, the Republic of Moldova should take into account the policies of Russia, which do not envisage it directly, but polarise the international relations directly. It means that Moldova will have to decide what its pole of attraction is. Such a tackling does not seem to be exaggerated, but we observe that Russia is implementing its new strategies, resorting to the tactic of “taking by surprise.” It’s another problem if Russia has calculated well its forces when it developed and decided to go ahead to all fronts of its interest at the same time:

  1. Russia demonstrated indeed through its energy policy that the E.U. itself has become its area of energy influence;
  2. Russia has established a special relationship with Iran regarding the much contested problem of nuclear development of this country;
  3. the recent stance of President Putin over settlement of the “Kosovo problem” by invoking the “universal” implementation of the principles of resolution of problems with an apparently similar nature is an evident threat that Russia will recognise the separatist regimes in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Mountainous Karabakh;
  4. President Putin has invited leaders of HAMAS in Moscow, saying that he does not regard the HAMAS as terrorist movement.

Only two of these big problems envisage the Republic of Moldova directly, but they can persuade Moldova, if estimated altogether, that the outlined polarisation of international policies is almost unavoidable:

  1. The E.U. has realised that it needs a new energy security strategy and it is trying to get through this provocation;
  2. The E.U. and the U.S. have to overcome the recent divergences in order to hold out together the energy provocations, eventual nuclear dangers from Iran and new developments in the Middle East;
  3. President Putin ignores deliberately the fact that the “universal implementation” of the eventual solution for Kosovo is almost impossible. Russia realises perfectly that this “universal principle” cannot be applied on Taiwan. However, Russia can reduce the “universality of the principle” by using it only on Moldova and Georgia. China will unlikely accept such “general principles”, especially because China adopted a document last year that admits the use of military force to protect its interests. That’s why the West insists on the particularity of the “Kosovo case”.
  4. The victory of HAMAS at the elections in Palestine has shocked the West, providing Russia the chance to affirm itself like very influent international force. The West, which cannot afford financial support for a governing seized by a political force that he regards as terrorist, the way it has done until recently, will probably review its strategy in the region. Logically, it could propose Russia to resume the financing of Palestine’s budget since it does not regard HAMAS as a terrorist movement, though it did not give up intention to destroy Israel on an armed way. Perhaps, Russia will have to cooperate with Iran in order to recover its area of influence. Thus, Russia could provide financial assistance for the civil side of the Palestinian budget, while Iran could offer military support. Russia holds financial resources, especially because it has reduced the collections to the OSCE budget and threatens to do the same with the Council of Europe. At the same time, President Putin will permanently have to give explanations to public opinion why HAMAS is not a terrorist movement while Chechen rebels are terrorists, of course, regarding the applying of the “universal principles”.

Thus, the increasing role of Russia, in countersense with the role of the West based on the “universal principles” applied selectively to satisfy the own interest, will oblige the Republic of Moldova to choose a pole of attraction. In addition, by making this choice, Moldova will have to take into considerations the internal processes in the Russian Federation, which will imminently extend on its satellites (see the cases of Belarus, Uzbekistan, etc). On one hand, Russia achieves an impressive economic rise, while on the other hand it builds a corporatist state ruled by oligarchic elite; it cannot stop the continued rise of the influence of xenophobe movements (about 80 persons were killed from ethnic and racial reasons in the past two years); it shelters or supports a cohort of doubtful characters (Mutalibov, Akaev, Abasidze, Gheorgadze, Bodelean, etc); defies the internal democratic norms, but posts claims to democratise the CIS area (just one example: the former vice president of USSR(!), Alexander Rutskoy, was withdrawn from the electoral race for the post of lawmaker in the State Duma from the Kursk constituency at the December 2003 elections because he forgot to mention in his biography that he was deputy rector of a Moscow-based academy and holds the title of professor (!), while lots of uninvited electoral observers such as CIS-EMO, who have surprisingly neglected the Rutskoy case, are concerned with the quality of the electoral process in Moldova), etc.

These examples based on very concrete facts, as well as the fact that the new interior and foreign policies of Russia will be of long term and will have an immense inertia must be taken into consideration. However, the efforts to establish some good bilateral relations with Russia based on mutuality must remain of current time.

Relations with Ukraine

Problems related to Moldova’s belongings in Ukraine’s territory, delimitation of borders, the Giurgiulesti terminal, Palanca portion, especially those related to obstacles on way of transit of Moldovan goods exported to the CIS through Ukraine’s territory demonstrated that Ukraine is an inconvenient (unsure) partner.

Even more, the support for the separatist regime in Transnistria, which fuels its survival, indeed; repeated ignorance (three times!) of obligations assumed in relations with the Republic of Moldova and E.U. on regulation of entry and transit of Transnistrian goods through Ukraine; President Yushchenko’s ignorance of the Moldovan law on basic provisions of the special juridical status of Transnistria adopted on basis of the May 16, 2005 Ukrainian plan and acceptance of a new settlement plan based on the Kozak Memorandum with the agreement of Russian President Vladimir Putin make Ukraine’s claims to be a regional leader in the GUAM area and Community of Democratic Option futile.

The Republic of Moldova must learn the lesson from the practice of the years of independence — representatives of Ukrainian political elites have demonstrated that they cannot be credible partners. That’s why the idea that President Vladimir Voronin has expressed on different occasions regarding the coordination of the European integration efforts with Ukraine must be abandoned. However, the good bilateral relations with Ukraine are very important for the Republic of Moldova, especially regarding the energy security and they must be developed in continuation in the limit of possibilities, by taking into consideration the precedent experience.

Relations with Romania

The relations between the Republic of Moldova and Romania improved essentially last year. This improvement was due to the change of focus on political-legal state of things and postponement of ethno-linguistic, historical, etc. clearings up. The fact that Romania can help Moldova learn the “aquis communitaire” rapidly and make “advocacy” for its European integration is a hardly estimable trump.

However, nobody must nourish illusions that the new relations are not deeply marked by the earlier promoted counter-position “Moldovenism-Romanianism”. The inertia of this counter-position is very big and will be undoubtedly manifested, relapsing, being provoked including deliberately. Under these circumstances, the good relations will depend on capacity of elites from Bucharest and Chisinau to cooperate in the limits of pragmatism imposed by the European integration process, leaving the sensitive problems on account of time and favourable circumstances.


  1. The clauses of the foreign policy and security concepts of the Republic of Moldova must be as clear as possible, based on sincere aspirations, real and argued estimates of dangers faced by Moldova. Any allusions to intentions to “play on contradictions” between great powers or between neighbours must be avoided, the way the developers of a draft foreign policy concept launched in October 2002 said. The premeditated game on contradictions is the prerogative of some subjects of significant importance for those of whose contradictions it is wanted to profit. As for example, Ukraine. If the Republic of Moldova will try to play on contradictions between great powers or between neighbours, it will be simply ignored and abandoned in the “zone of buffer” with all its unsettled problems.

  2. The compliance of internal processes to political criteria for European integration must be a priority for the Republic of Moldova. The compliance with economic criteria must not be underestimated, but the fact that the Moldovan population represents less than one percent of the E.U. population, while the economy that must be reformed represents approximately 0.03 percent of the E.U. economy, may offer economic support to Moldova, if it complies with political criteria.

  3. A very serious examination of the problem of giving up the status of neutrality of the Republic of Moldova is needed. If Moldova wants to remain neutral in a polarising world in metaphoric terms, it should assume the risks of existence on an isle between two oscillating tectonic plates, it means the risks of the buffer area.
Quo vadis?.. Improvement of electoral legislation