Sarah van Rijswijk
Dichotomy is causing unrest in Moldova
The Moldovan government maintains a pro-EU course even as nearby countries Ukraine and Russia cause unrest in the country. The ongoing war has led to inflation, leading to the people going on the streets to protest. The pro-EU course of Moldova gained attention after 2009 when the communist party lost the elections and liberal-democratic parties formed the new coalition, but there is a debate on which course is the better one for the country. Moldova made some pro-EU moves, but only in 2022 did they make an official application to join the EU. Since June 2022 they are on the list of candidates for EU membership together with their neighboring country, Ukraine, who became a candidate for EU membership a few months earlier in February 2022.
The main reason why naturally Moldova is a country with such a dichotomy between pro-EU and pro-Russian adherents is its location. Both Ukraine and Russia want Moldova to follow the same course as them. Either way, one of them will be displeased with the side Moldova chooses. Also, more than 200,000 Russians and almost 300,000 Ukrainians live in Moldova, which is 14.4% of the whole population. These Russian and Ukrainian inhabitants also bring along preferences based on their own country, which contributes to the dichotomy.
Another cause of the dichotomy is that some people argue that following a pro-EU course leads to higher costs through inflation and supporting Ukraine has led to a crisis in Moldova. Notably, the political party of Ilan Shor is against the pro-EU course and in favor of a pro-Russia course. It is even argued that Ilan Shor encourages people to go out on the streets to protest. On the other hand, there is the party of action and solidarity of Maia Sandu, the incumbent minister of Moldova. This party is in favor of the course that follows the EU and since the war between Ukraine and Russia, the pro-EU course is gaining followers, because there are some allegations going around about Russia. Maia Sandu was afraid Russia had plans to attack government buildings, which would be dangerous as Moldova is an unstable country. Especially at the moment it would not be capable enough to defend itself against a Russian attack. Also, the Moldovan military only consists of 6500 people, so that wouldn’t be enough for them to defend themselves. Russia’s attack on Moldovan government buildings would cause unrest and fear in the country and this is exactly what Russia wants according to the adherents of the pro-EU course.
According to Maia Sandu, Russia also planned the attacks to prevent Moldova from joining the European Union. However, Russia rejects the allegations and states that Ukraine wants to cause unrest in Moldova to make them more involved in the war. The dichotomy in Moldova is expressed in the protests that have been going on for months now. Ilan Shor would encourage his adherents to go out on the street, but also Russia would be feeding the protests to destabilize the country increasingly, while the pro-EU course followers try to stay out of the chaos.
Transnistria is a region in Moldova where a government building was actually a target of an attack from Russia. Transnistria is a key place when talking about Russia trying to cause unrest and instability in Moldova, because it is a de facto independent state. Russia has always supported Transnistria, because not a lot of countries see it as independent. This support led to Transnistria following the pro-Russian course. Russia attacked the government building in Transnistria as a strategy to spread Russian propaganda and disinformation into the world and cause unrest and instability in Moldova. In the end, every violent action of Russia is disguised as opposition protests according to Maia Sandu, which is why Russia gets away with it every time and the people of Moldova who protest are held accountable.
The protests are closely linked to Ukraine, because according to the Pro-Russian followers, the Moldovan government gave too much support to Ukraine during the war. This support leads to the increase of prices and a crisis as a result. Pro-Russian people also say that giving more support to Ukraine would mean that Moldova would be drawn into the war. The adherents of Ilan Shor therefore want peace, because that will lead to lower prices again. The position in the protests taken by the people depend in the end on who they adhere to, but it can be stated that a lot of people believe the allegations against Russia, because the pro-EU course is gaining followers and therefore do not show up at the protests.
Only the future will show if the protests keep going on, because this will mainly depend on how long the war will keep going on. It is expected that the protests won’t stop until the prices are decreasing and this won’t happen if the war keeps continuing, Russia keeps spreading disinformation and trying to cause unrest in the country.