Earlier this summer, Billy Simons, the Young Republicans International Committee (YRIC) Senior Advisor for Eurasia, traveled to Moldova and was provided a tremendous opportunity to witness local elections there. Read his exciting and personal account below:
My recent trip to Moldova provided a greater insight into the current situation on the ground. The issues of Transnistria, Russian propaganda, and local elections were brought into clearer focus. Moldova could be a model for bridging east and west, but it will take tremendous effort and honest dialogue.
The last couple of weeks have been a mix of both joy and sorrow for me. I recently travelled to Moldova to visit my wife’s family and was able to celebrate the birthdays of my two young nieces. Moldova is a land of intense beauty and it also carries a strong history; a history of defeat and triumph, of freedom and occupation, and of a richness of spirit despite numerous economic challenges. While it was hard to leave, it is harder still to witness the challenges the country continues to face.
Until the crisis in Ukraine, many people may have been unacquainted with Moldova. However, it was also a precursor to events there and in Georgia. When Moldova declared her independence from the collapsing leviathan of the Soviet Union, Russia helped to create a new conflict. The conflict across the Nistru River, and what would become one of a long line of frozen conflicts constructed by Moscow. The reasons Russia gave for its involvement resemble what we hear today from Putin and his henchmen regarding Ukraine. The Russian 14th Army intervened to “save” local Russian speakers and prevent the “fascists of Chisinau” from carrying out crimes against humanity (sound familiar.) Now, more than 20 years later Russian troops still occupy the territory and prop up a Stalinist regime. The KGB arrests principals and teachers of Romanian language schools on their way to teach children that enjoy recess in schoolyards surrounded by barbed wire. The challenges Moldova faces are from both within and without. While progress on reforms continues, corruption and an independent judiciary are issues that require immediate attention.
Today, Moldova faces a greater threat. The threat of “special war” conducted by the Kremlin to once again occupy their country. This time they are seeking to take over not just with tanks and soldiers, but satellite transmissions of propaganda and stealth funding of politicians and special favors, which help to perpetuate the issue. The elections offered an example of how they are making some progress on this front. The pro-Russian Socialists, and others that take their cues from Putin, made some gains in local elections throughout the country. On the other hand, PLDM candidates performed well in many local elections, and the capital of Chisinau remained in the hands of the pro-European parties.
During my time in Moldova, I had the opportunity to speak with various representatives of PLDM, our IYDU partner in Moldova. They shared with me a list of concerns, as well as hopes for future cooperation. While the list was extensive, I’ll share some of the areas of greatest importance. First, is a more consistent dialogue. This will allow us to share best practices, in addition to understanding the rapidly changing conditions on the ground. Moldova is a bridge between East and West and can be a prime example of how this need not be a zero-sum game. Next, encouraging other partners in Europe to expand their cooperation with PLDM. These partners are much closer and can provide a higher level of support due to their proximity. Finally, the threat of Russian propaganda. This is their greatest external challenge and the most difficult to address as well. The easiest way for us to aid in this effort is to tell the truth of what is happening on the ground, not the lies that are beamed from satellite dishes or spread via Facebook and other social media sites. This partnership will be filled with many challenges, but these challenges are great opportunities for us to assist one of our most vulnerable partners.
I would also like to address a key piece of Russian propaganda. Social media and other outlets are teeming with insinuations that Moldova backed by the US, EU, and NATO are preparing to invade the breakaway region of Transnistria. I saw firsthand that this is completely false, and the exact opposite is true. I ventured near the border and saw a buildup of security on the Transnistrian side, but Moldova was business as usual. Reports from sources on both sides informed me of the increased surveillance measures on the east bank of the Nistru.
Ukraine is right to fear an offensive from this breakaway region, and is within their rights to limit access. In fact, Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin, in his birthday wish to Transnistrian “president” Shevcuk said this, “I wish him sound health, good luck and patience. As for courage he’s never lacked it.” Rogozin is one of the key managers of Russian orchestrated frozen conflicts.
Moldova will continue to face many challenges as it goes forward. The Moldovan people’s rich history and ties to both East and West, make them a key player in international affairs. Moldova can be a shining example that foreign policy is NOT a zero-sum game. They just need honest partners on all sides to ensure that this can be the case.
– See more at: http://www.yrinternational.org/2015/07/07/moldova-a-bridge-to-the-future-of-europe/#sthash.pyyZg328.dpuf