“Rethinking Russia” presents the expert commentary by Andrei Devyatkov (Ph.D. in History, Senior Fellow at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies of the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Regional Problems of World Politics, Moscow State University) on Igor Dodon’s Visit to Moscow that took place in March.
On March 16-17 the president of the Republic of Moldova Igor Dodon came to Moscow with a working visit. The visit was aimed at enabling positive dynamics of three directions of bilateral relations – migration, trade and economic cooperation and Transdniester settlement. Dodon hopes to achieve substantial progress in all these spheres by both fulfilling his last years’ election pledges and preparing for 2018 parliamentary elections, which are key to Moldova as a parliamentary republic.
After Russian and Moldovan presidents’ meeting in January, when all these questions were raised, Russia has taken an unprecedented step: Moldovan citizens residing in Russia who violated the rules of staying in the country got an opportunity to legalize their stay till March 20. Moreover, Moscow removed restrictions on supplying products of some Moldovan winemakers. And Patriarch Kirill voiced support for the dialogue of Moldova and Transdniestria saying that two banks of the Dniester River are united by single faith.
Nevertheless, we are far from solving all the problems: for instance, migration amnesty has not touched just about 30 thousand Moldovan citizens, who had not been allowed to enter Russia before for these or that reasons. Besides, according to Alexander Kalinin, Head of the Congress of Diaspora of Moldova, many Moldovan citizens, especially in the regions, have faced considerable difficulties receiving patents. It can be explained, to a large extent, by the fact that Russian Interior Ministry has not officially announced the amnesty (so, some officials in the regions simply do not know anything about it) and that the procedures of legalization at Russian labor market are not proven. For the moment, Dodon has managed just to extend the deadline of the amnesty.
As for trade and economic cooperation, opening the market is also a complicated process, and now every Moldovan manufacturing enterprise is going through it in fact on its own. So, this will take time. Talking about Transdniester settlement, it should be mentioned that Vladimir Putin characterized this issue as “sensitive”: Transdniester authorities have recently delivered firm statements (about the continuing fight for independence). Moldovan government has done just the same – about some preliminary conditions for holding talks, including determining the political status of Transdniestria on the basis of the Moldovan working constitution. So, Dodon hopes to achieve progress in all these spheres mostly due to permanent direct contact with Putin.
For Russia, in its turn, dialogue with Dodon and some nice gestures towards him are a way of, in context of coming parliamentary elections in this country, making the Moldovan foreign policy more balanced. Since 2009 it has been focused on rapprochement with the EU and the USA and has paid little attention to Russia’s interests and expectations. The key question now is whether Igor Dodon’s strategy will be consistent and whether he is ready for real opposition with the ruling Democratic Party of Moldova. At the moment it looks like the Moldovan president is trying to score points due to additional requests to Russia, which he has voiced during this visit: reducing the customs duties (imposed by Russia on the most exported Moldovan goods as a result of the Association Agreement) and signing a treaty on dual citizenship. However, both these requests are significant for Russia and it is unlikely to agree to them until the bilateral relations will be fully normalized. The ball now will be in the court of president Dodon and the Socialist Party. A serious challenge is facing them now: elections in Moldova are still far distant and most achievements possible in relations with Russia have already been announced by the Moldovan president.