Moldova occupies a unique position in the context of the ongoing process of Euro-Atlantic integration. And that position is determined largely by three paradoxes that have come into bolder relief since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The first paradox is Moldova's relationship with post-communist Romania, which logically should be the republic's closest ally and friend. Although the two countries share a centuries-old heritage of traditions, history, and culture, as well as a nearly 700-kilometer border, their relationship can best be described as rancid.
The second paradox is Moldova's relationship with its own breakaway region of Transdniester. Although Moldova and Transdniester share ideological and psychological leanings born of the Soviet period, Transdniester chose to break away after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has since become Europe's lawless black hole.
And the third paradox is historical and geopolitical.
Imprints Of Artificial Construct
Moldova stands out as the only visible remnant of the notorious secret provisions of the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of August 23, 1939 -- the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In contrast with the Baltic states, all of which reverted to their prewar status following the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-totalitarian Moldova bears many of the typical imprints of an artificial construct. The country is the result of a deliberate Soviet fragmentation process.
A little history. The never-completed Soviet nation-building project in Moldova began in 1924 when the USSR created a pilot Moldavian "republic" on the Dniester River, carved out of Ukrainian territory. In 1940, however, the project was moved westward with the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was carved out of territory that had formerly been part of the Kingdom of Romania.
This legacy of questionable historical legitimacy has produced what might be described as Moldova's ambiguous subservience to Moscow, which continues to the present day.
Russia Looms Large
These three paradoxes continue to bedevil Moldova's quest to define its own position in the context of Euro-Atlantic integration and the eastward extension of NATO and the European Union. And, as might be expected given Moscow's unchallenged domination in the region, Russia's shadow looms large in all aspects of this complex network of relations.
In fact, most of the substantive discussions of Moldova's status vis-a-vis other political entities (including breakaway Transdniester and EU/NATO member Romania) have ultimately hinged on the stance of Russia, on the one hand, and on vague hopes of a clear Western response to the Russian Federation's growing ascendancy on the world stage, on the other.
Ultimately, the litmus test for Moldova remains the festering stalemate between Chisinau and the breakaway Transdniester region. Russia's power over both Chisinau and Tirasopol, combined with the West's absent response to the Kremlin's designs, remain the keys to understanding Moldova's situation. The country's place in the post-Soviet Euro-Atlantic space will remain clouded as long as these three paradoxes remain unresolved.
Andrei Brezianu is a historian and a former director of the Voice of America's Romanian Service. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.