Ukraine as end goal or as starting point? Place reserved for Moldova. IPN debate

The situation at the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is so tense that an armed conflict is not ruled out in this region that includes the Republic of Moldova. The situation at the border between the two states is anchored in an unprecedentedly grave dispute between the Russian Federation, on the one side, and the United States, NATO and the Western European states, on the other side. From both of the perspectives, the situation refers directly to the Republic of Moldova. The created situation, motives and eventual developments and the steps that should be taken by the Republic of Moldova as a state, society and even by each citizen apart were discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Ukraine as an end goal or as a starting point? Place reserved for Moldova”.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that world order represents a set of generally agreed rules concerning the international system for regulating the relations between powers. International order is influenced by the military and economic power, by ideologies and technological development. World order can be equated with international law order. An example is the world order established after the religious wars in Europe, where the states were regarded as international players. After the French revolution and Napoleonic Wars, a new world order generated the so-called great powers that set the order and laid the foundations for strengthening the colonial basis as a result of which imperial states appeared. After World War I, world order was regulated by the Peace Treaty of Verailles, while the world order established after World War II was based on the treaties and negotiations of Yalta and Potsdam. A new situation appeared after 1991 and Russia tries to explore it according to particular criteria and pretends to become a pole of the multipolar world and to regain its spheres of influence.

The expert said there are very clear document saying that the Russian Federation wants to create a post-Soviet space, an Eurasian economic union that would copy the European Union and, based on this economic union, would establish free trade relations with the EU, as partners, and to continue the idea of a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. “This new pretention is based on the enlightened conservatism launched in 2009 by Nikita Mikhalkov and on the idea of the “Russian world” that should include all the states where Russian is spoken and where the Christian-Orthodox religion prevails. After the annexation of Crimea, these elements of the Russian world started to fade away, after the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was granted the status of autocephaly. When Ukraine stated its interests to defend its independence and sovereignty from Russia’s aggression, Putin called Ukraine an anti-Russia that should be eliminated somehow,” stated Igor Boțan.

Political commentator Anatol Țăranu, Doctor of History, ex-ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to the Russian Federation, said Russia’s position became clearer back in 2008, when after the NATO Summit held in Bucharest it became evident that Russia will no way recognize and accept the extension of NATO. “In fact, this extension was nothing but an attempt by the countries of Eastern Europe to join NATO for the simple reason that they were preoccupied with the own security, while their security was somehow endangered by Russia’s policy,” he stated, noting that Russia didn’t accept this.

Putin’s “multipolarism” was an expression of the fact that after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the world became practically mono-polar as the whole power was concentrated into one pole. This happened not because the U.S. or NATO wanted this a lot, but because the Soviet Union collapsed absolutely unexpectedly. Now Vladimir Putin tries to introduce the principle of multipolarism in international conduct, but he actually wants Russia to become a pole of power at a time when it is now the tenth economy of the word with a GDP similar to that of the Netherlands.

The West said the extension of NATO is not a policy pursued by Brussels, but is a wish by sovereign countries to join an international security organization, while the attempt to limit these possibilities means nothing else but encroachment on the sovereign rights of the nations that choose by themselves the formula by which they want to build the own political-military security.

Vladimir Socor, Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation, Washington, said the current crisis is the most serious political and military crisis in Europe after “the Berlin crisis”. “That crisis lasted for three years and ended in 1969 by a compromise. The Soviets, by their German agents, built the Berlin Wall, turning the Iron Curtain into a wall not only in Berlin, but along the entire line of demarcation of the Soviet bloc and NATO, while the West accepted this compromise. The three years were marked by pressure and even mutual threats with the use of force. At that time, 300,000 U.S. troops were deployed in Germany, while Germany had an army of 200,000 people. In November 2021, from a crisis over Ukraine it turned into a general European crisis. Russia extended its demands concerning Ukraine to demands concerning the whole Central and Eastern Europe, engaging the whole Atlantic alliance into the diplomatic crisis,” stated Vladimir Socor.

According to him, at the first stage of the current crisis, Russia concentrated its forces at the border with Ukraine to make it apply the Minsk agreements and with the aim of intimidating the U.S for this to make Ukraine implement the Minsk agreements. “Russia since 2014 has said that the U.S. has been the only power that has enough influence in Ukraine to determine it apply the Minsk agreements. The Minsk agreements stipulate a special status for the territory occupied by the Russians in Donbas and the creation in Donbas of a state in the state, Donbas having the own army, foreign policy, relations with Russia, etc. After during seven years it hasn’t managed to impose this arrangement on Ukraine, Russia wants to use the Biden administration for this to impose the wanted arrangement on Ukraine. In November, Russia extended its objectives to cover the whole Euro-Atlantic system,” he said.

Vladimir Socor also said that Russia does not respect the Biden administration and this is an important moment in the Russian mentality. Russia considers that time came to inverse the extension of NATO that occurred in 1997-2004. Russia’s advantage is that in 1997, NATO offered Russia a kind of compensation for the enlargement process and signed with Russia a basic agreement by which NATO promises not to base substantial combat forces on the territory of the new member states. NATO, since then and until present, refused to discuss with Russia a common definition of substantial combat forces, but NATO agreed not to base more than a brigade in the new member states. This way, the NATO presence now ranges from zero to the purely symbolical minimum. Currently, Russia demands than NATO should withdraw this symbolic presence too, where there is such. We do not have forces to discourage NATO. Russia is close to achieving this objective,” said Vladimir Socor.

The public debate titled “Ukraine as an end goal or as a starting point? Place reserved for Moldova” is the 223rd installment of the project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. The project is implemented by IPN with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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