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Some Worrisome Questions About the PM’s Visit to Moscow

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02 Aug 2004 - 00:00

A petty storm was menacing the clear summer sky of Romanian politics: newspapers carried the words exchanged by PM Adrian Nastase [also leader of the Social Democrat Party] and the [opposition] National Liberal Party leadership.

by ION CRISTOIU - August 2 2004

The controversy had a distinct provincial flavor, the op-eds debating over who came out worst: the SDP leader or the NLP one? But this exchange of words is part of the electoral rhetoric: the people getting at each others thoughts now might end up as political allies.

The extent of the coverage given to a cheap electoral trick is even more strange when compared to the almost total lack of reaction to a really major event: Nastase’s visit to Moscow. I do not remember to have read a decent op-ed on the matter, signed by anyone in the intellectual elite of the country. Also I did not hear any stance on the issue voiced from opposition quarters. We should not be baffled that journalists and politicians alike thought the visit to Russia did not warrant comment as did the historical event of a man having his penis accidentally cut off during surgery [an actual mal praxis event taking place these days in Romania too].

Though the life of lay citizens increasingly depends on the international setting and Romanian politics increasingly depend on those of the alliances it struck, talk about the performance of the Romanian diplomacy does not take a salient position.
Unfortunately this lack of interest over Romanian international relations goes well with the members of the ruling elite. Thus they may embark on risky deals that future generations would have to pay for. They may talk no matter what at the tÃşte-Ã -tÃşte meetings, because no one will hold them accountable.

This state of the public mind gives me an answer to some of the most serious realities of late. When he came back from Moscow, Nastase did not give a full account to the public on what he discussed with the Russian leaders and most of all on what he promised in talks behind closed doors.

We found out from Nastase a million trifle things: what he thought about Theodor Stolojan [leader of the NLP], or what he thought on Victor Ponta’s [leader of the SDP youth organization] political future. We also have been told who might be the SDP electoral challengers. But we did not find out what the talk with Vladimir Putin was about, nor did we see one line of the famous Memorandum that was forwarded by Romania to the Russians.

When sifting through the documents produced by this visit I cannot escape a feeling of amazement noticing the scarcity of information on issues so important to the fate of our nation.
Exasperatingly poor accounts emerged on the 90 minutes long meeting between Nastase and Putin. There are the Romanian PM’s statement at the end of the meeting, the Putin’s statement before it, and an interview Nastase gave to Russia Today wire services.

But the statements are revealing as many details to the public as those issued after [former Romanian dictator] Nicolae Ceausescu and Leonid Ilici Brezhnev met. Only now, when short-hands of the meetings the latter had became available, one can compare the tone of the then public statements, which said talks were conducted in a sincere spirit of comradeship, with the actual content of the meetings, where in fact the two leaders had stopped short of throwing with ink-bottles at one another.

What did Adrian Nastase and Vladimir Putin talk for 90 minutes? Was it about their wives cooking talents? Was it about Stolojan?
We should have been told what the talks were really about, all the more so since the relationship between Bucharest and Moscow grows more complicated by the day, as Romania is part of a military alliance [NATO] that Russia would never be a member of.

Nastase repeated during his Washington visit [to President George W. Bush, whom he met the week before meeting Putin] that Romania is offering the U.S. a five-star location for its military bases.
Was this figure of speech meant to confirm that Romania was ready to host on its territory parts of the American arsenal relevant for the legendary "Star Wars" defense shield?
If that was the case, then scheduling the visit to Moscow right after the one in Washington was not a draw of lots. We can assume that Nastase rushed to Moscow to reassure the Russians on any decision that might upset the followers of Peter the Great and Stalin.

If Nastase would have cared to have a press-conference after coming back from Moscow, one question would have begged the answer: was it by chance only that the visit to Moscow closely followed the one to Washington?
While the answer is obviously not available, I dare speculate that the visit to Kremlin was set while Nastase was still in the United States, and that the Romanians’ keen interest in meeting Putin stemmed from the secret arrangements he made in America too.

But there was something more than that: the trip to Moscow had an added element of mystery to it. In Bucharest a big fuss was made over the fact that the actual meeting between the two leaders was postponed till late Tuesday. Nastase’s enemies said he was subjected to Putin’s whims. But reality is different than its Bollywood like representation in our domestic comments.

Putin postponed his meeting with Nastase for Tuesday night because during the morning he had a meeting at Yalta with the Ukrainian president. This was not a pretext to humiliate the Romanian PM and grossly disregard the official protocol.
Putin got what he wanted from Vladimir Kuchma at Yalta: that Ukraine will take out of its military objectives the NATO membership. As Kuchma wants his protégée, Ianukovich, to win the presidential elections, he was also willing to put Ukraine into Russia’s strong embrace. Kuchma was also forced into this decision by the support the West gives to the candidate of the opposition and its constant nagging on issues like democracy, free press and human rights.

So, while actual information from Nastase eludes us, one can speculate that Putin wanted for a purpose to meet the Romanian PM after his visit to Yalta. Russians are great chess players, and for a career diplomat like Nastase, the decisions taken by Putin and Kuchma could not have been less than menacing.

In the absence of that previous meeting Putin had in Yalta, the one between Nastase and Putin would have taken place on an equal footing. What trump card would have had Putin against Nastase, the PM of a NATO member country, in the absence of that? Thus, from his meeting at Yalta, Putin came back with a stick to show Nastase: Ukraine was a docile tool for Russia to conduct politics in the region which included Romania.

This is more than upsetting news for our country, if proven true. Ukraine could be the stick to show Romania whenever convenient. Next to Tiraspol [capital-city of the self proclaimed break-away state Transnistria, in Eastern Republic of Moldova, which is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine], Kiev would be the other capital-city where bad news could come from out of the blue.

As long as Ukraine still aspired to getting closer to the West, any of its bad moves could have been countered. But now, when Ukraine gave up on the West for its integration into the Community of Independent States, who could turn Romania to when challenged from Kiev? To Moscow, of course.

The very serious events now taking place in Transnistria [closing down of schools teaching in Romanian language] started after Nastase’s visit to Moscow.
Or, one knows it too well that nothing goes on in Tiraspol [capital city of Transnistria] without Russian approval or even stimulation of events. Is there a link between the meeting of Nastase and Putin in Kremlin and the sudden decision in Tiraspol to close down Romanian schools?
If so, it must be that the future will hold for us provocations coming from Ukraine too, since the good Soviet tradition taught us that Russians have a way of hitting Romania via intermediaries.
Wasn’t it during Ceausescu’s time that the German Democrat Republic was trashing us while the USSR smiled at us innocently?

It is quite possible that Nastase would welcome with a superior smile my speculations when comparing them with the reality of the talks he conducted in Moscow.
He may be entitled to that smile: we may map here catastrophic outcomes, while Putin simply hugged him dearly.
To this I can only add that Nastase is the only one responsible for the scenarios I drew out, if they indeed prove to be way out of touch with reality.
He is the one who nurtured this climate of secrecy around his visit to Russia, out of which worrisome questions arise.

Translation: ANCA PADURARU

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