Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Latest Colored Revolution!

Who is behind Moldova's Twitter Revolution?




To determine whether or not any event is geopolitically significant, the timing is an element which always needs to be taken into account. The post Soviet space is one of the most active arenas of great power strategic competition and there are some meaningful recent precedents such as:

· The fact that Ukraine and Georgia have not been accepted as NATO members in spite of intense diplomatic pressure by prominent NATO members.

· Unlike other post Soviet states, Moldova's government had declared that Chişinău would remain neutral and that it would thus refuse to side with great powers, which more or less resembles the position taken by fellow former Soviet Republic Turkmenistan whose foreign policy must meet criteria of strict neutrality.

· The Russo-Georgian war in which Moscow inflicted a military defeat on strongly pro-Western Georgia.

· The announcement by the Kyrgyz government that the Manas air base will be closed.

· The European Union launched its Eastern Partnership project, designed by Poland and Sweden to reach out to Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Armenia. This was seen in Moscow as an attempt to co-opt these countries and marginalize them away from Russian influence.

· Ukraine's decision to hold anticipated elections. It might be added that pro-Western Viktor Yuschchenko's candidacy does not look particularly promising.

The above demonstrates that the geopolitical rivalry between Russia and NATO has been intensifying. In fact, Russian senior politicians are already claiming that civil unrest in Moldova is been orchestrated by western intelligence survives. They have also emphasized that the ultimate goal is to accomplish regime change in Chişinău so NATO member Romania can swallow Moldova. It is no secret that hardline nationalists in Bucharest would like to achieve Anschluss with Moldova. Yet Western governments have refrained from voicing a strong support for the anti-government crowd in Moldova. However, it is necessary to explore what Western interests could consist of in this tiny post Soviet republic.

Why Moldova?

Moldova was one of the poorest and less developed republics of the Soviet Union, as well as the most densely populated. It is a landlocked country contiguous to Romania and Ukraine. Soviet planners had decided that Moldova would specialize in food production. Nevertheless, Moldova was not entirely homogeneous. The country's industrial infrastructure was built in Transnistria, a region mostly populated by people of Slavic ethnicity (i.e. Russians and Ukrainians). This region was responsible for a large of percentage of Moldova's GDP (40%) and it also contributed with almost the entire power generation of the Moldovan SSR. Toward the end of the Cold War, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu had stated that the Kremlin had annexed Bessarabia (aka Moldova), which implied that he considered it as a part of Romania.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union changed little. The overall Moldovan economy is not specially outstanding since it exports wine, fruits and other beverages and food products. Moldova is a net importer of coal, oil and gas since if has no natural deposits of any of these resources. According to the CIA World Factbook, Moldova ranks 138th in a list of countries arranged by GDP.

Transnistria declared its independence from Moldova following the Soviet collapse because it was fearful of an increasingly nationalistic Moldova and the reemergence of pro-Romanian sentiment. This triggered a war between Chişinău and Transnistrian separatists. Russian forces were then deployed in order to end hostilities. The conflict has been frozen ever since. Nevertheless, the presence of Russian military personnel (which numbers nearly 3000) has allowed Transnistria to keep its de facto independence from Molvoda even though it still formally belongs to the latter. Indeed, Transnistria has its own authorities, military, law enforcement, currency, public services, flag, national anthem, constitution and coat of arms. Nearly half of Transnistrian exports are shipped to Russia.

Russia has supported Transnistria because it is inhabited by a considerable proportion of ethnic Russians loyal to Moscow; this must not be born in mind because people is Russia's scarcest resource. Furthermore, Transnistria is located in the easternmost region on Moldova and, more importantly, it borders Ukraine. Last but not least, Transnistria's small economy is based on heavy industry, textile production and power generation, which represents an additional atractive. As a result of Russian involvement, Chişinău has been careful not to be antagonistic toward Moscow.

Moldova's current president, Vladimir Voronin (the name can be misleading but he is, in fact, an ethnic Romanian), was elected in 2001 as the candidate of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova. Regardless of his party's name, his administration can be described a pragmatic; for instance, he decided to continue privatization plans first put forward by his predecessor. Back in 2002, he angered nationalists by designating the Russian language as a second official language. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to brand him as pro-Russian because his foreign policy has been seeking to balance Russian and Western interests without having to take sides. For example, his administration has expressed a desire to establish closer ties with the EU (which even runs a permanent mission in Chişinău) and cooperation with NATO and Russia, excluding membership in the Atlantic alliance or in the Russian-led CSTO. Furthermore, Voronin's government has stressed Moldova's need to preserve its independece instead of being absorbed by Romania. In short, he is neither pro-Russian (like Alexander Lukashenko) nor pro-Western (like Mikheil Saakashvili). Rather, his political position is closer to those of Ukraine's Kuchma, Georgia's Shevardnadze or even Turkmenistan's Niyazov and Berdymukhamedov.

Nonetheless, it is not far-fetched to assume that NATO in general and the US in particular are interested in regime change in Moldova. The main goal would be to overthrow the current Moldovan government and have it replaced by rulers more antagonistic toward Moscow. If such attempt succeeds, a new government in Moldova could be harangued into expelling Russian troops from Transnistria in an effort to rollback Russian military presence away from Eastern Europe, an effort meant to diminish Russian influence in the post Soviet space and to undermine Russia's prestige there and elsewhere. Moreover, it could be a Western reminder to Moscow that the slightest Russian distraction will be taken advantage of by NATO. A hypothetical pro-Western Moldova could even be later incorporated into NATO member Romania, moving the alliance borders eastward bypassing ordinary acceptance protocols for new members.

It remains to be seen if the Kremlin was caught by surprise and it is unclear how it will ultimately react to an eventual regime change in Chişinău, particularly if any new government attempts to take over Transnistria by force, much like Georgia did last year concerning South Ossetia. What is clear, however, is that Moscow does not want to be trapped into a conflict which could drain financial, military, diplomatic and political resources. Yet, Russian decision makers do not like what they are witnessing in Moldova; it is a script that had seen at play before. Therefore, it is reasonable to assert that Russia will resort to its intelligence assets it operates overseas in order to counter anti-Russian moves in Moldova before any deployment of troops is seriously considered. It is still too early to accurately foresee what defining developments will take place in Moldova and how they will unfold. If the current Moldovan government survives, the Twitter Revolution there could backfire. If that is indeed the case, Moldova's rulers could end up openly embracing Moscow as a result of real or alleged Western covert support for anti-government forces.

Russian accusations regarding the involvement of Western intelligence agencies has not been proved because all clandestine operations operate on the principle of plausible denial. Nonetheless, there are circumstantial facts which seem to demonstrate foreign intervention. For instance, some Western semi official institutions and NGO's openly acknowledged their activities in Moldova. For example:



· The USAID website concerning the agency's activities in Moldova mentions that some of them include "Moldova Citizen Participation Program", "Strengthening Democratic Political Activism in Moldova" and "Internet Access and Training Program". The latter is noteworthy because online social networks have been employed in order to increase anti-government activism. USAID's website specifies that "[its program] provides local communities with free access to the internet and to extensive training in all aspects of information technology". It goes on to explain that "Target groups include local government officials, journalists, students, local NGO representatives, professors and healthcare providers..."

Those examples are particularly revealing if one takes into consideration that those organizations were prominent participants in previous color revolutions. That is, both the players and the Modus Operandi remains largely unchanged. A notorious protagonist and organizer of the Twitter Revolution is journalist Natalia Morar who used to work as press secretary for "The Other Russia", a strange coalition of anti-Putin political groups which encompasses hardline nationalists, communists and pro-Western activists.

In short, bearing in mind all of the above, it looks like a new episode of geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West is unfolding in Moldova. This battle is not over yet and whatever its outcome turns out to be, its strategic implications will be deep because they will send strong shockwaves throughout Eastern Europe and the post Soviet space. The stakes are certainly being raised in this new round of the Great Game. A few years ago, notorious neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer observed that "This [Ukraine's Orange Revolution] is about Russia first, democracy second". The same phrase applies to Moldova's Twitter Revolution.

José Miguel Alonso Trabanco is an independent writer based in Mexico specialising in geopoltical and military affairs. He has a degree in International Relations from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies, Mexico City. His focus is on contemporary and historic geopolitics, the world's balance of power, the international system's architecture and the emergence of new powers.

José Miguel Alonso Trabanco is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by José Miguel Alonso Trabanco

4 comments:

MusicLover said...

I have been reading about it and also what's going on in Georgia

The Jail Cell May Be Fake, but the Impact Is Real

nytimes.com/2009/04/09/world/europe/09georgia.html?_r=1&ref=europe

I will be using your article and post it


I have noticed you are well informed when it comes to Eastern Europe

PH said...

"I will be using your article and post it"

You have a blog ? I follow reddit and digg for things like these, check them out if you are not already familiar with them.

"I have noticed you are well informed when it comes to Eastern Europe"

We have a lot in common with them when it comes to western geopolitical interests and they, like us, are victims of the west's interference and divide and conquer games so I always read up on their politics to get an idea of whats coming our way ;). Would love to be able to read south American blogs and news bet they have much juicier material :P.

Anyway glad you enjoyed the article and will be throwing more your way, salaam for now.

MusicLover said...

Thank you for reminding me about digg and reddit as I have not been to their sites for a long time. Too much information is killing me, how much I can absorb, the time to find to do the things I want to do, being a parent, the kids priorities comes first :-), I do not blog, lets say I microblog, I post what I read or listen on a daily basis, honestly less time consuming than to read a blog and comment. How come you do not have an email so that I can spam you lol.

A Wild Cossack Rides Into a Cultural Battle

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/world/europe/13cossacks.html?ref=global-home

PH said...

"How come you do not have an email so that I can spam you lol."Well here it is :

nnoname.noname@gmail.com

spam away ;).