Watching Moldova

Sorry for the light posting today. I realized that I’m very backed up on paid projects and was able to clear one of those and part of another. While we’re on the subject, posting may be light for the rest of the week while I try to get back on top of things.

Also, I had a snowball fight with my daughter. Priorities.

Anyway, there’s some interesting news out of Moldova that might be worth some attention. Thousands of people have been protesting in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, for a couple of days now, over the appointment of a man named Pavel Filip as the country’s new prime minister. The country has been without a prime minister since the last one lost a vote of no confidence back in October, so you’d think people would be happy to have somebody running the place again. But apparently not. Filip is apparently the front man for Vladimir Plahotniuc, a billionaire whom The Daily Beast‘s Ana Nemtsova calls “Moldova’s Donald Trump.” She may be on to something:

Plahotniuc owns four national television and three radio stations, private security forces, luxurious hotels. Nobody knows exactly how much he is worth. Meanwhile, he leads the Moldovan Democratic Party, although his official status is vice chair. He likes to be able to change his frontmen.

Like Trump or Berlusconi, Plahotniuc seems to have no sense of limits, or decency. One of the country’s leading television journalists (the Megyn Kelly of Moldova, one might stay) got a call warning her he was about to release a sex tape of her and her lover, filmed inside her apartment.

Yeesh.

vlad_plahotniuc
I’ll say this for the guy; he’s got better hair than Trump

Unlike America’s Donald Trump, who happens to be the actual Donald Trump, it doesn’t seem like you can find too many Moldovans who actually like Plahotniuc. He’s so omnipresent on the Moldovan political scene that he’s taken the brunt of public anger over the country’s staggering level of corruption–anger that reached the boiling point when $1 billion, equal to about 12% of Moldova’s GDP, was stolen from the country’s three largest banks last year. Vladimir Filat, who was Moldovan PM from 2009-2013, was arrested in October on charges that he’d helped grease the skids for that theft while in office. Filip’s installation as PM was done in a notably shady manner, with a vote held in the middle of the night, with no media present, and with little or no debate beforehand. When reports surfaced that Plahotnuic was bribing opposition legislators to vote to install a new government led by Filip, people got angry all over again.

On the other hand, the United States and the European Union are quite happy with Plahotnuic, because he says all the right things when it comes to Moldova’s relations with the West versus its relations with Russia. Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs who finds herself in the middle of far too many of these kinds of situations, praised the new government as a “pro-European government.” And Moldova is a potential Russian fault line; its breakaway, ethnically Russian Transnistria region, along its Ukrainian border, is controlled by pro-Russian forces and might be the target the next time Vladimir Putin gets the itch to do a little annexing. Heck, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to find that the Kremlin is nudging these protests along a little bit.

But the thing is, Plahotnuic and the corrupt system he represents are so unpopular in Moldova at the moment that the whole notion of being “pro-European” (and, by extension, pro-American) is discredited by association. Moldovan support for pro-Russian parties has been growing as part of the public backlash to Plahotnuic. It would serve American and European interests–to say nothing of the interests of the Moldovan people themselves, assuming we care about them–far, far better for Washington and Brussels to support good governance in Chisinau (and you can feel free to substitute “Kiev” there if you want, or “Tbilisi” while we’re at it), regardless of whether this or that particular government is pro-Russia or pro-West or whatever. Backing dependably pro-Western, but also corrupt and ultimately unpopular, oligarchs never pays off in the long run.

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