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News 02 Jun 17

Moldova’s Pro-Russian President Vows to Keep NATO at Bay

Amid a serious diplomatic crisis between the Moldovan and Russian governments, Moldova’s pro-Russian President has pointedly gone to Russia - where he has reiterated his opposition to EU and NATO membership.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Moldovan president Igor Dodon. Photo: privesc.eu

Moldova’s pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon, said he intends to ask the UN Security Council to officially acknowledge Moldova’s neutral status, in a move to keep the former Soviet republic out of NATO and continue his policy of rapprochement with Russia.

In the middle of a major diplomatic row between Moldova and Russia, after Chisinau expelled five Russian diplomats for spying, and after Russia then expelled five Moldovan diplomats in return, Dodon was in St Petersburg on Friday to attend the Eurasian Economic Forum, where he was scheduled to speak the same day.  

His decision to attend the forum broke a government ban imposed at the beginning of the year on officials traveling to Russia.

In a long interview with the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, published on Friday, Dodon said Moldova had made a mistake in 2015 when it signed its association agreement with the European Union.

"My stance has remained unchanged, although some people hoped that I would say one thing in Moscow and another in Brussels. However, I have always said frankly that the signing of the EU association agreement was a mistake," he said.

"Back in 2014, it was a geopolitical move that was profitable for Europe, not Moldova," Dodon said.

"Our domestic political forces needed this agreement to prove during the electoral campaign that they had managed to achieve something. But from the economic point of view, we jumped the gun and lost the Russian market," he added.

According to the President, the country’s exports dropped by half in 2015-2016.

"We opened the market to the flow of European goods that killed our manufacturers. Dozens of thousands of jobs were lost, and people are leaving the country," he said.

"That’s why the association agreement, or at least its economic section, will be scrutinized when we [the Socialists] get the parliamentary majority."

He also noted that Moldova’s constitution stipulates that the country is neutral, and said he would seek recognition of this neutrality at an international level.

“I spoke of this at NATO headquarters in Brussels, in February. I also suggested signing an agreement so that NATO could confirm this idea – that it respects Moldova’s neutrality,” he recalled.

“We don’t need a statement, we need a document, ideally, a decision of the UN Security Council that all countries recognize Moldova as a neutral state, that NATO’s tanks would not enter our territory.”

In a recent ruling, Moldova's constitutional court ruled that the 2,000 Russian troops keeping the peace in the breakaway Transnistria region were against international law.

The court also said Moldova’s neutral status does not exclude cooperation with other military alliances to boost its defence capacities.

Dodon has been a staunch opponent of NATO opening a liaison office in Chisinau, although alliance officials that the office, due to open in June, is a diplomatic mission rather than a military one.

In another bid to get closer to Russia, Dodon's Moldovan Socialist Party PSRM is to sign a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party on June 8.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and PSRM chief Zenaida Greceanii will sign the document, after the two political formations hold consultations in Moscow, a PSRM press release read on Friday.

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