Dumitru Alaiba is one of the most vocal and visible deputies of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), which became the ruling party in Chisinau. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of Moldova's independence, Veridica spoke with Dumitru Alaiba about Russia's declining influence in Chisinau, the interests that link some Moldovan politicians to Transnistria, but also about corruption and the politics of the past 30 years.
Veridica: Mr. Alaiba, it will soon be 30 years since the Republic of Moldova declared its independence from Russia and we would like to talk about how Russia has still managed to maintain a great influence in the Republic of Moldova in the last thirty years.
D.A .: First of all, I don't think that Russia has as much influence as it did 10-20 years ago. Russia's influence is clearly declining. Including from an economic, political, geopolitical point of view, etc. But of course, Moscow does maintain a certain level of influence here.
I would dare mention these levers. On the one hand, there is the Transnistrian region, Russia’s agents, including in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, without naming them, because they do not deserve much attention, and there are also all kinds of economic tools, even if their devastating potential has been growing smaller [than] the economic embargoes imposed on us starting about 15 years ago, which have devastated the economy of the Republic of Moldova.
Now, of course, there are also entrepreneurs who suffer because of the embargoes, when Russia imposes an embargo or another, but overall, the negative effect is much smaller.
It is not an exhaustive list of tools that Russia uses to exert its influence in Moldova, but propaganda is worth mentioning. This is probably the most visible and harmful lever that Russia is mobilizing and using in Moldova. It is an overt anti-European and anti-human rights propaganda, which includes hate speech and more. They all still divide society by ethnicity and other criteria like that.
Veridica: Why is the Republic of Moldova so exposed to Russian propaganda, as compared to the Baltic countries and even Ukraine?
D.A .: Because, in the Republic of Moldova, we do not have the quality of the institutions that exist in the Baltic countries. For example, Sputnik does not exist in the Baltic countries. In Estonia it simply does not exist. Probably the only clear evidence of how Russian propaganda works came from Estonia, because there the police seized some computers and found evidence that Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Estonia were part of the same propaganda network.
But that means that there, in Estonia, institutions simply work a little differently. On the other hand, in Ukraine, under the pressure of the conflict in the east of the country and the annexation of Crimea, a certain political will was found in order to act a little harder.
Until recently, we had a ruling party that was openly pro-Russian. A party which had more than just affinities with Russia, it would protect its interests. Which is very different. In their case, half of their parliament members could be convicted for treason and for selling the interests of the Republic of Moldova in favor of a foreign state.
Veridica: For almost three decades, Transnistria has been an instrument of military, economic and, more recently, electoral pressure / blackmail. How do you see the fact that in recent years, pro-Russian left parties have been increasingly using the Transnistrian electorate to score in elections?
D.A .: Obviously, I don’t have a positive perception of it, but if we read between the lines, this indicates that there is no more conflict. That there are no more inter-ethnic issues.
It is quite obvious when thieves on both banks of the Dniester have common interests and when they are carrying out certain transactions, they manage to find common ground. At the same time, if we were to look at it from a higher level, probably the good part of this phenomenon is that they are running out of moves.
It is clear that, if necessary, they know how to strike a deal with those in Tiraspol. And then the question arises, if they agreed on elections, why can't they do the same with regard to other issues?
Transnistria is not an "issue", it is a corruption scheme that has been going on for 30 years now, and entire generations of politicians on both banks of the Dniester have made billions out of this so-called issue. It is, in fact, a classic scheme where everyone pretends not to understand anything, but in fact the longer it continues, the more profitable it is for them.
If we took corruption out of this context, I am convinced that there would be nothing left of the so-called “Transnistrian issue”. Nothing at all. The main motivation for maintaining it is the scheme by means of which they make billions of black money, all the time.
Traffic, of everything, has been a permanent activity there. Cigarettes, smuggling through Ukraine, or other schemes. At the same time, when there is an uncontrolled territory, “geniuses” always appear who know how to make money from it.
Veridica: After these parliamentary elections, the left is at the lowest political rating it has probably had in the last 30 years. What will happen to PSRM? Will Dodon be backed by Moscow or has he completely lost all of Russia’s endorsement and help?
D.A .: We can only make assumptions about this. I suppose that there in Moscow they have the capacity to understand that this is a totally unprofitable investment. I don't know what Dodon's political fate will be. In the end, it depends on citizens’ vote. And that's what he has never understood.
Even if to a certain extent his political fate depends on Moscow, it first depends on the votes of the people. He tried to do everything for Moscow but did almost nothing for the people who voted for him.
Moscow has a problem in Moldova, since we are talking about 30 years of independence. They could not find “a person of ideas”, no matter what. Whether we are talking about “Russkiy Mir” (Russian world – ed’s note) or the imperialist idea, and so on. It passed from one mercenary to another, from one opportunist to another who wanted to just take advantage of the electorate, but in fact they have not been honest with any of them all these 30 years.
Veridica: Will Russia give up the Republic of Moldova after these elections, or will it seek to somehow regain the influence lost here? Do you think that the Bloc of Communists and Socialists will go hand in hand or maybe other political projects will appear, we are referring here to the warming up that Mark Tcaciuk and the Civic Congress are doing on the sidelines?
D.A .: That’s a good question! I would not like to give Moscow any ideas, but I do not know if it makes much sense for them to create a pro-Russian left-wing party here, in a country where the pro-European trend has been growing for the last 20 years. Most likely, they need a party to control, but which is a pro-European centrist party. A party that says “yes, we are pro-European, but…”
As was the Democratic Party in 2010. They were, if I remember correctly, the main brake on everything to do with the EU-Moldova Association Agreement, the visa dialogue, and so on. I am not saying that they were directly influenced by Moscow, but somehow, they were acting very strongly for the benefit of Moscow when, from within the Alliance for European Integration, they would do anything to prevent the country from taking its European path.
Veridica: During the visit of President Maia Sandu to Kiev for the “Crimean Platform”, the Socialists issued a statement condemning this visit on the grounds that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had allegedly said that there was, and I quote, “an anti-Russian Shabbat” there. Could we describe PSRM as Moscow’s loudspeaker in Chisinau?
D.A .: They have never denied, they always amplified Moscow's messages in the Republic of Moldova. I have not read this communiqué, but I can guess what it’s about. I came to the conclusion that they totally misunderstood the result of the July 11 elections.
They looked at the final result and probably came to the conclusion that they need to be more pro-Russian in order to boost their political rating. But, in fact, it is the other way round. They should be in line with the way the citizens of this country think. They should be neither anti-Russian, nor anti-European. We as politicians must speak on behalf of the people.
When you just give them bullshit and other nonsense, people cannot relate and they just don’t vote. It’s very simple.
Veridica: Is the result of the parliamentary / presidential elections a happy event or a new trend for the Moldovan society / electorate? Did Russia bet until the last moment that Moldovans would not elect as president an unmarried woman, without children, a candidate totally opposed to the Moldovan patriarchal society? Were the Russians too relaxed in the presidential campaign? How do you see all these?
D.A .: I don't know how PSRM perceives ordinary people. I can tell you how I see them. The citizens of this country know well how to tell the difference between good and evil. They are much more open-minded than the propagandists would assume. This was demonstrated not only on July 11, 2021, in the parliamentary elections, but also in the presidential elections of 2016. If weren’t for Plahotniuc's schemes and the lies about the 30,000 Syrians who would be brought to the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu would have won.
Even then they did not understand anything. We, as a society, are much more willing to change, to accept some narratives worthy of the 21st century, than some of our politicians think. I am convinced. And that’s exactly how the joke was played on them [PSRM].
Veridica: In your opinion, was the Romanian language used an instrument in the hybrid wars waged here by Moscow?
D.A .: Yes, it was an artificial discussion, but even that has expired. I read the signs correctly. In the 1990s or even 2000, the Romanian language or the “Moldovan language” was a reason for protest. I remember this being one of my first protests. I was not a fan of Iurie Roșca. We had our separate movement, but this discussion really took people to the streets.
Somehow this issue of the spoken language is disappearing by itself. But it would be a gift for them if this thing would be rekindled because they believe that by escalating this again they would get higher ratings.
We want to talk about corruption, about higher living standards, jobs, reforms and fair justice. They are not credible when they talk about these issues. On the contrary, they prefer the more emotional topics that usually divide society.
Veridica: How do you see this initiative related to the Crimean platform from Kiev and the fact that President Maia Sandu is with Ukraine in this endeavor?
D.A .: It’s by all means a natural approach. We are co-interested in having strong, stable neighbors, with territorial integrity and now wars. Moreover, given that we have a separatist regime ourselves, how could we be silent about the same thing happening on a larger scale in a neighboring country. We have new neighbors, and we all need to understand and support each other. Otherwise, we will not succeed either.
Moreover, our position as a party, and I think it's no secret, is that the Crimean Peninsula is Ukraine, it must be [returned] to Kiev. My question would be how can one keep quiet about this?