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Moldova, Georgia Brace For Russian Retaliation After EU Pact

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca (left) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht looks on after Leanca initialed Moldova's Association Agreement with the EU.
Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca (left) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht looks on after Leanca initialed Moldova's Association Agreement with the EU.
By Claire Bigg
Georgian and Moldovan leaders were all smiles as they finished initialing their Association Agreements with the European Union, a key milestone in their bid for membership of the 28-nation bloc.

Despite the happy faces and handshakes, however, the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, deepened fears of harsh retaliation from Russia in both countries.

The Kremlin worked aggressively -- and successfully -- to prevent Ukraine from signing its own EU pact. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych walked away from the deal just days before its expected signature in Vilnius.

Hours after the November 29 initialing ceremony, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca called on Moscow not to shut down the communication line with Chisinau.

"We hope to continue to have a good dialogue with our colleagues in Moscow, in the same way as I talked just recently with Russian Prime Minister [Dmitry] Medvedev, to discuss all the problems and try to find solutions," Leanca said.

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Marian Lupu, the speaker of Moldova's parliament and the country's former acting president, suggested that Moscow would wait until after the Sochi Winter Olympics in February to initiate retaliatory measures.

No 'Limited Sovereignty'

EU leaders in Vilnius lashed out at Russia for bullying Ukraine into shelving its landmark association deal with Europe in favor of closer ties with Moscow.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelachvili (left) with French President Francois Hollande at the EUs Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.Georgian President Giorgi Margvelachvili (left) with French President Francois Hollande at the EUs Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.
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Georgian President Giorgi Margvelachvili (left) with French President Francois Hollande at the EUs Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelachvili (left) with French President Francois Hollande at the EUs Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.

In unusually blunt terms, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the bloc would "not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia."

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso added that "the times for limited sovereignty are over in Europe."

Alexi Petriashvili, the Georgian minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, says such strong-worded statements suggest the European Union will do its best to shield both countries from possible Russian reprisals.

SPECIAL PAGE: The Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius

"The readiness of the European Union to counter this pressure was addressed in statements made at the summit," Petriashvili tells RFE/RL in Vilnius. "It was very clearly stressed that no one has a right to put pressure on the independent, sovereign decisions of independent countries. In such cases, the EU, as a block but also as separate member states, will have a very clear and firm reaction, and show readiness for concrete steps in support of each [affected] country."

Russia's Toolbox

Russian sanctions could nonetheless have devastating effects on Georgia's and Moldova's still-fragile economies.

Russia is an important export market for both countries.

And while Georgian imports most of its natural gas from Azerbaijan, Moldova relies almost exclusively on gas from Russia -- which has been known to tighten the tap on its neighbors during politically sensitive times.

Moldovan Prime MInister Iurie Leanca (left) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the European Union's Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 29.Moldovan Prime MInister Iurie Leanca (left) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the European Union's Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 29.
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Moldovan Prime MInister Iurie Leanca (left) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the European Union's Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 29.
Moldovan Prime MInister Iurie Leanca (left) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the European Union's Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 29.
Moldovan political analyst Arkady Barbarossie says Russia has a multitude of levers at its disposal against Moldova.

"First of all, gas. Moldova depends 95-97 percent on Russian gas. The second instrument is the Russian market," Barbarossie says. "The embargo on Moldovan wines and some agricultural products imposed by the Kremlin in 2006, together with the embargo introduced by Russia this year, show that the Kremlin will not balk at using this lever. This could deal a severe blow to Moldova's economy."

Barbarossie says Russia may also choose to slap travel restrictions on Moldovan migrant workers, whose remittances account for one-third of Moldova's gross domestic product.

'Act Of Defiance'?

While chastising Moscow for bullying Ukraine, EU leaders in Vilnius also sought to soothe Moscow's concerns over their Eastern Partnership program with former Soviet countries.

Van Rompuy insisted that "this kind of agreement is also benefiting Russia, because the better the economies in the neighborhood of Russia are performing, the better it is for Russia."

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Barroso, in a thinly veiled reference to Moscow, said the EU pacts were "a process for something, not a process against someone."

In Moscow, however, such reassurances are likely to fall on deaf ears.

"This rhetoric against the Eastern Partnership fits very well into Russia's current conception of geopolitics, which is based on the assumption that Russia has no partners and allies and only opponents and enemies," says Andrei Okara, an analyst at the Moscow-based Center of Eastern European research. "In pro-Kremlin expert circles especially, the Eastern Partnership is viewed exclusively as an act of defiance toward Russia."

Andrei Shary of RFE/RL's Russian Service and Koba Liklikadze of RFE/RL's Georgian Service contributed to this report.  RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak also contributed from Vilnius
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 30, 2013 10:37
Ah, what "retaliation": by removing trade barriers and opening their internal markets to the European goods, the govts of Georgia and Moldova are undermining their own capacity of tax-collection and therefore will further reduce their capacity to spend on social programs and infrastructure. The latter will further damage the internal consumption in those two countries, which will then further slash economic growth, and the latter will increase the unemployment and so on along the lines of this vicious economic circle.
That is to say that Moldova and Georgia will literally follow the European path: the same negative economic phenomena can currently be observed in a number of EU member states, such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portual, Italy and now even the Netherlands that used to have a healthy economy, and in 2014 will continue being stuck in the 3rd year of economic recession in a row.
Source on the NL: http://derstandard.at/1385169398852/Niederlande-schlittert-tiefer-in-die-Krise
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
December 01, 2013 03:02
Just ask the Poles whether it was a good idea for them to move away from the Russian economic sphere into the European space. Or as the Estonians. Or the Romanians....

No wait -- wait ten years, and then ask again the Moldovans and the Georgians what happened in their country.

Your questions are not difficult to answer. Just wait and see. Don't pontificate: just wait and see...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 01, 2013 10:20
First of all, Asehpe, I did not formulate any questions and this is probably why they "are not difficult to answer" :-).
Second, yes, please do ask those who live in the EU how they feel about being turned into German colonies: ask the Greeks what they think about having their econmy shrunk by some 25 % (!!!) over the last 6 years, ask the Cypriots how they feel about their money being stolen from their bank accounts by the German-led Euro-Troika, ask the Spaniards how they feel about having 400.000 families expelled from their homes and having to live on the street, look for feed in the garbage AND still owe money to the banks etc.
But if you really live in A'dam, you know very well yourself that peple living in the EU are VERY DISENCHANTED with the process of European integration, as long as they realize that it was all nothing but a bubble that burst in 2008, and we are all paying the price for it now.
And there is no need to "wait for ten years" (what an idea :-))): just wait until the elections to the European parliament NEXT SPRING: all the opinion poll I have seen indicate SIGNIFICANT GAINS for ANTI-EU political parties all across the EU.

by: eric d from: ABQ USA
November 30, 2013 21:25
It's embarrassing that the US is so caught up in the misbegotten "war on terror" that "we" aren't supporting the Eastern Bloc countries who "we" encouraged to break with the Soviets & Moscow in the Cold War daze. There've even been insinuations that Georgia (like "the breakaway republic of Chechnya") has supported "terrorism!!!" and therefore doesn't deserve our support. But whenever I see these allegations, I have to wonder whether the FSB might have a hand in them. Like, what about the Boston Marathon bombing? Why has there been no full investigation? And why are the authorities so eager to cover it up? Etc.
In Response

by: Minas
December 02, 2013 05:08
You better stop watching Fox News, interetsting what the likes of Bill O'Reilly can do to someones brain.

by: cris
December 01, 2013 01:43
both EU and Russia are poison to Moldova and Georgia

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 01, 2013 08:02
Wow, impressive, guys: it looks like the whole circus in Vilnius was only a small part of a pretty well planned attempt of carrying out a coup d'état in the Ukraine aimed at trying again (the same way as it was back in 2004) to remove the legitimate and democratically elected govt of the country and install a German-US-dependent junta that would then turn the Ukraine into a real Greece-style German colony and let the Germans loot Ukraine the same way they are looting Greece, Cyprus or Spain now.
Let's see if in the Ukraine the bankrupt and inept Euro-Atlantic oligarchy will be any more successful than they were when trying to removie Bashar from the Presidency of Syria. Most probably this attempt will be one more of they last convultions :-)).

by: Thomas from: London
December 01, 2013 11:19
Interesting the bully Russia still at work, with people trying to get membership of eu, they will regret it the eu has brought misery to many countries there countries trying to get out of the eu it has brought them unwanted laws and HELL.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 01, 2013 13:44
Thomas is saying: "the eu has brought misery to many countries there countries trying to get out of the eu it has brought them unwanted laws and HELL". A very good point, Thomas! Here is an interesting comment for you to reflect upon, Asehpe.

by: Boris from: London
December 01, 2013 18:21
Claire Bigg, do your home work... Georgian economy doesn't depend on Russia in any way. Georgia has been under Russian embargo for last 7 years, which helped Gerogian economy to diversify...President Saakashvili's government worked very hard to achive economic and energy independence from Russia. only leverage KGB still holds against Georgia is pure military bullying...

by: Minas
December 02, 2013 05:02
I really don't see any bullying in Russia's actions. Living in US, I have no sympathy for Russians but I think what Russians do is normal. They say "for every action there is a reaction." What did you expect Russians to do? To sit and watch their ungrateful neighbors who have been benefiting from Russia's economy for years, are now ditching them! So Moldova expects Russia to host millions of its workers and buy their wines but when it comes to economic alliances they simply show the middle finger to Russians and sign a free trade pact with EU and yet they have the audacity to call Russians bully! Or in the case of Georgia which still has millions of its people working in Russia and even its billionaire former PM owes his entire fortune to Russians complaining about Russia's retaliatory measures! The question is where were our good EU friends when for years Moldovan and Georgian families had been surviving with the few hundred dollars their relatives were sending them from Moscow? If EU truly wants to help these countries they should first work with Russia on finding a common ground for the future of the whole region, otherwise any unilateral move by EU will be logically seen by Russians as a move directed against them and they will do their best to stop it.
In Response

by: Minas
December 12, 2013 09:35
whom you are kidding? There are tens of thousands descendents of Georgians and Georgians in Russia simply because this country has been 3 times totally and 2 times partially annexed by Russians in last 200 years. So stop messing up about millions of Georgian workers. In all Georgia with its 4,5 mil inhabitants you may have 2 millions workforce but not in Russia. Georgians has been living in this country and beacuse they are not slavs you can distinct them very clearly. Most of them either have Russian passport and citizenship from times of Soviet union or always have been pro-russian collaborants serving Russian imperialistic governments. But majority of these people are not citizens of post-soviet Georgia.

by: Marin from: Tiranë
December 03, 2013 03:06
They've been saying this for a long time now, what Germany failed to do in WW2 through war, is doing it through economy and very successful at that. Regards from Tirana.

by: eric d from: ABQ USA
December 03, 2013 19:48
From all the pro-Russian, anti-EU comments here, you'd think you guys were looking forward to WWIII! Because, as far as I can see, the only way to avoid a repeat of Stalingrad & the Gulag & Auschwitz is if the EU really works!

Okay, the US has its own ambitions in the world (though mostly we're too busy killing Muslims to get involved in the Balkans, now.) And the EU is a bureaucratic federation run by the biggest countries (Guess who?).

But compared to ex-Soviet terror czar, Vlad (the Impaler) Putin's terrorist regime, I'd say Germany & France & the US look pretty good! And if I was in Georgia or the Ukraine, I'd be doing about what pro-EU folks in the Ukraine are doing!

So do you guys want to send the Russian tanks, or what?

PS: Glad to send RFERL has decided to stop just pushing US "propaganda" (or whatever) & allow some "free discussion" by sensitive, intelligent individuals...

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