The protracted conflicts across the post-Soviet space have returned to the center of regional and international politics over the past several months.
Will Maia Sandu’s victory matter for one of Europe’s poorest country, which has been torn between Russia and the West for the better part of the past three decades?
Many remember Russia’s Cold War strategy of invading, destabilizing and intervening in other countries’ governance. Putin has apparently once again made this his policy.
Even in the best-possible scenario, Moldova has a long way to go before it sheds its reputation as one of the most corrupt and poorest countries in Europe. It will be up to the countryâ€™s political elites, as well as their respective external patrons, to decide whether these elections are the first step in this direction.
Confidence-building measures can help to stabilize a conflict, but the stability they generate is often fragile and temporary. In an environment like that in Ukraine, there is a risk that such measures will sustain, not end, the conflict.
The West should send a much clearer message to Moscow and back it up with credible policy. The question, however, is whether policy makers from Berlin to Brussels, London and Washington think that Moldova is worth such a tougher line.
More constructive dialogue between Russia and the West would possibly enable a face-saving way out of the current deadlock. This would serve both sides in the new great game over influence in Eastern Europe, but Russia would be the clear winner, and Ukraine the first victim of this new geopolitics.
Neither Russia nor the West can really afford to let bilateral relations deteriorate to such an extent over the crisis in Ukraine that international diplomacy and crisis management become completely impossible for a prolonged period of time.
The EU has a clear opportunity to contribute to the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and prove itself an effective conflict manager and actor for stability and security in its own neighbourhood. This is a task that is not without challenges, but these challenges are of such a nature that the EU can, and must, confront them.