August 21, 2012

From European ‘Party of Discontents’ to ‘Axis of Resistance’ to West

By Irina Severin | 20.08.12

Will Merkel's Visit to Moldova Make a Difference?

Why Angela Merkel, the most influential European politician, in the midst of the EU financial crisis decided to visit Moldova - Europe's poorest and otherwise insignificant country? Why bother?

A glance at the map shows that Moldova including its breakaway region Transnistria (self-proclaimed in 1990-s with the Russian Army support) is sandwiched between two countries, problematic for the EU:  Ukraine with the "Tymoshenko case" and Romania with the 'Basescu case'. Both countries Romania as a member of the EU and Ukraine,   proclaiming the European aspirations demonstrate clear potential for sliding into authoritarianism. 

In both cases, there are indications of Russian involvement in domestic political processes. In the Romanian case, Russia was traced as encouraging the Ponta-Antonescu 'coup' against Basescu. In Ukraine, Russia's growing meddling limits Ukrainian potential for democratization.

 The economic pressure is another instrument of influence. In both cases,  gas prices being political are used for control of the political and economic situation in the countries.

Transnistria, existing mostly for justification of the Russian military presence in the region, is a direct threat to security in the Europe, not a "stabilizing factor" as Russia pretends.  Russia involvement wouldn't be a threat if Moscow were moving to rapprochement with the EU modernizing its political and economic system. Germany is interested in cooperation with Russia, but both the EU and Germany need to see that Russia is open for the European values as a precondition for closer interaction and for being guaranty for stability.
In 2009 Angela Merkel offered closer cooperation to Medvedev in exchange to Russia constructive role in the Transnistrian frozen conflict settlement. Russia didn't advance in this direction preferring to impose its will maintaining its military presence on the border with the EU. Russia is quite pessimistic about the EU future considering it a temporary experiment and recalling that about 50 years ago European countries were each other’s worst enemy.
Moscow thinks that the EU dissolution would rise Russia to a great power status. Though, Russia's plans are much more ambitious. Russia considers its  Eurasian Union an alternative to the EU and doesn't limit it with the former USSR borders as some used to think. 

As Fyodor Lukyanov mentions in his article Uncertain World: Does Europe Have Any Alternative? Moscow doesn't exclude that it can relapse in what it names 'big Balkan game’ and even ‘big Orthodox game’ (including Greece and Serbia, for instance)."
From the European 'Party of Discontents'…
Meantime Russia tries to get control over the EU's decision-making without abiding by the European principles, but converting the EU countries to its own political 'matrix'. Technically this is achievable by encouraging the EU countries' politicians to break the EU political standards and oppose to the EU requirements. 

Now this is happening in Romania with Ponta government.  He came to power by organizing protests against President Basescu accusing him in complying with the tight the EU and IMF requirements.  Ponta's actions are tempered for now by coming parliamentary elections. Romanians are staunchly pro-European, and any anti-European rhetoric would obstruct their chances to win elections. 

Earlier Greek Syriza incited long-term protests against the EU and IMF, what put on the brink of collapse not only Greece but the EU and Eurozone as well. 

Opposing to the EU and the IMF from left or right by default puts any country into the Russian sphere of influence and at Russia's mercy.  Lukyanov names this opposition to the EU "the growing "party of discontents": "Both ideological extremes are brought together by the new rhetoric calling on the government to defend the public against the social ills of globalization". Further, he explains:
The difference between the ‘party of recovery’(consisting of Conservatives, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Social Democrats) versus the 'party of discontents' lies in their ability to run the state. The former has a clear idea of what should be done and how, but finds it increasingly difficult to garner public support, while its opponent can channel public sentiment but lacks a strategy of its own. The discontents are chanting slogans without assuming any responsibility. 
Ideological developments are more complicated. One EU country, Hungary, is already essentially turning its back on European valuesIt is increasingly leaning towards a more conservative and nationalist policy. 
On another side of Moldova - in Ukraine Russia recently managed to considerably advance its interests in exchange for a promise of lower gas prices. The "Language law" offers status of the regional language to the Russian language making the Ukrainian language redundant in more than half of Ukraine. 

Now Russian propagandists promote as the next step the idea of partition of Ukraine on the Ukrainian-speaking West and predominantly Russian-speaking rest of the country, where the Ukrainian language will be excluded, and the Ukrainian speakers will become the unprotected minority. 

The "Language law" has radicalized and polarized political situation in Ukraine,  making the country unstable before the elections. Not to mention here the incarceration of the opposition leaders, what is the anathema for the EU, but an apparent gain for Russia.
On this background,  Moldova despite all odds following democratic principles and adopting European values is looking like a rare case of success, which can become a showcase for others. The country doesn't require massive investments and is genuinely European. 
At the same time, lack of clear European prospective for Moldova makes it a subject of the Russian pressure. One of the instruments is artificially created fringe movements: pro-Russian, invoking reunification with Russia and 'anti-Russian', promoting reunification with Romania. 

Both extremes exploit and boost nationalistic moods and raise the grade of polarization of the society. Recent March, organized by a fringe group supporting Unification with Romania, led to staged clashes with the "Patriots of Moldova", another fringe group, promoting the idea of unification with Russia. Naturally, such performances don't encourage the Transnistrian conflict resolution. Quite the opposite - they offer a justification for the existence of Russia's  military outpost on the Dniester. 
…To the Authoritarian 'Axis of Resistance' to the West
Merkel's encouragement of Moldova's European aspirations can strengthen Moldova as a stability factor in the region as well as a positive example for the neighboring countries. Otherwise, Moldova as small as it is can trigger a massive destabilization,  which can reach as far as the Balkans and Greece. Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is a key for the European security and stability.
If not supported now Moldova together with the EU's "party of discontents" one day can become a part of the authoritarian 'Axis of resistance' to the West, which Putin is working hard to create after his return to the presidency. 

The Authoritarian Axis became apparent due to the Syria case. Apparently,  it includes Russia, Syria, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela. The situation starts to resemble the "Cold War" bi-polar world order when two sides were fighting for promoting their political models to expand their influence. 

Putin managed to replace the communism with the ideology of the Resistance to the West but has nothing to offer as an alternative political or economic model. Exactly as the European  "party of discontent", ‘ "detected"  by Lukyanov,  Moscow knows how to "channel public sentiment" and "to sow the seeds of discontent’ around the world, but doesn't know what to do next. Being underdeveloped and ineffective Russia could only lead the world to the chaos. 
For many years the reply of the West to Russia's growing assertion abroad was 'we don't fight with Russia'. But the problem is that Russia is fighting the West. And the West should at least acknowledge this. And if not fighting back at least to secure democratic values and principles in the world with some meaningful steps. Supporting Moldova today Merkel invests in stability and security in the Europe, what can be not achievable tomorrow.
The next day after Angela Merkel's announcement about her coming to Moldova Prime Minister Vlad Filat has got an invitation from  Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin after Merkel's visit. Will Moldova become the next target of promises of lower gas prices in exchange for the anti-Western  'discontent moves'?

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