Saturday, August 8, 2015

Moscow Seeks to Use Food Weapon to Divide Moldova

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 8 – Even as many in Russia and abroad are transfixed by the ugly spectacle of the destruction of embargoed foodstuffs at the Russian border, Moscow is deploy what one might call its own food weapon against Moldova in a transparent attempt to split that country and weaken its drive to become part of Europe.

                A few days after Chisinau joined the EU sanctions regime against Russia, Warsaw’s “Rzeczpospolita” reported yesterday, Moscow announced that it would not permit the imports of food and wine from Moldova but would allow them from Gagauzia, which opposes Chisinau’s pro-EU policy (

            This action is designed to punish Moldova as a whole for its pro-European stance while rewarding Gagauzia, a Turkic but Russian Orthodox republic of 200,000 80 miles southeast of Chisinau for its pro-Moscow position, thus exacerbating tensions between Chisinau and Komrat and potentially giving Moscow some leverage in the Moldovan capital.

            Under the new Moscow rules, Russians will be able to import apples, grapes, and other fruits now, and, according to the Polish paper, Russia has “not excluded” the possibility of expanding the list of goods which it may import from Gagauzia. According to the autonomy’s head, “Moscow ‘will help local firms survive the crisis.’”

            The breakaway Transdniestria region in Moldova’s north has been a problem for Chisinau since the early 1990s, but increasingly, Moscow has sought to exploit its influence, religious if not linguistic, in Gagauzia in order to put the Moldovan capital in a bind. This use of a food weapon is only the latest example, but it is worrisome.

            On the one hand, it suggests that the Kremlin has concluded that now is the time to put more pressure on Moldova for its pro-Western stance. And on the other, and more ominously, it appears to indicate that Vladimir Putin is prepared to use food to divide not only Moldova but quite possibly other post-Soviet countries.

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