Interview with Igor Dodon, President of the Republic of Moldova, conducted by Ghenadie Vaculovschi granted exclusively to FLUX.MD
FLUX: Mr. President, it has been more than a year since the presidential election in which you won an overwhelming victory. Since then, you have been asserting yourself as a head of state for the sovereign current. This trend is also growing in Western Europe, where state sovereignty is becoming more and more precarious. What, in your opinion, are the factors that endanger the sovereignty of our country?
Igor Dodon: It is a very complex issue, there are many elements, both internal and external, and while some depend on us, others are related to regional and global geopolitics. And since we are talking about sovereignty, as you rightly said, I prefer policies aimed at preserving national values and traditions, as opposed to the globalist current that is now day by day more aggressive on the international level. On the other hand, I am a follower of economic protectionism with regard to the internal market. At least these two basic elements – national values, our national specificity, which characterizes us as a civic nation, as a state, as citizens – we must do all we can to preserve them. At the same time, we need a rational protectionism, which allows us to solve our internal economic problems, such as job creation, etc.
FLUX: In the context created by globalization, how can Moldova avoid the status of a colony of the great powers?
Igor Dodon: Small countries are always in danger. The great ones are constantly trying to turn them into subordinates. This has happened many times, to many countries. As soon as the leadership of the small countries allow themselves to be lured by certain favors – including economic ones – offered by the great geopolitical powers, they sacrifice their entire people, and we become hostages of a pro-Western or pro-Eastern policy. It is very difficult to maintain the balance. We have to say frankly that the Republic of Moldova, at different stages, failed to maintain this balance. In the 1990s, in a desire to move closer to the West, we took a lot of advice from the West and destroyed everything the Soviet Union left us, that is, everything that was good. I’m thinking in particular of infrastructure. Lately, there is again a willingness to please Europeans or Americans, and this is very dangerous for us. The Republic of Moldova can only survive if it maintains good relations with both the East and the West. Is this possible, especially in the context of globalism? It’s difficult, but for my part, I think it’s possible. Obviously, to ensure such a status, apart from the desire to do so – we need the political will of our leaders and society, and this is where the problem appears: our society is divided – between pro-Westerners and those who favor the East. The first step for us would be to understand that we should not be pro-anything, but pro-Moldova. The next step would be to obtain a consensus between geopolitical forces. When Switzerland was created, as a neutral state between several great empires of the time – France, Germany, Italy … – Then the great empires decided that there was this territory where some of the inhabitants speak French, some have a language closer to Italian, another part of the population speaks a German dialect. But the great forces, by mutual agreement, decided that this state, whose name originally meant “border country”, would have the right to live neutrally in their midst Without being annexed. Well, the Republic of Moldova would have a good chance of becoming another Switzerland, provided that there is an internal social consensus in this sense at the national level. The second important condition is that the great powers succeed in resisting the temptation to annex us. The European Union can live very well without us, just like Russia; and, subject to a force of attraction, countries like Moldova fall apart. This is what happened in Ukraine. The great mistake of the geopolitical powers has been to adopt an “if, if” approach – you are with us or you are against us. For such states as the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and others, we cannot accept such an approach from our geopolitical partners. Because if you do it, you can see what is happening; for instance in Ukraine. Moldova is exposed to the same risk. This is at least my opinion, which I had the opportunity to discuss both in the West and the East, with Mr. Putin on several occasions over the past year, but also with the authorities from Brussels, like Mrs. Mogherini and others – and it seems to me this approach is increasingly understood by our foreign partners.
FLOW: Can Moldova bring the main actors of the chessboard to adopt such a consensus? It is, of course, impossible for us to control them, but can we play a role in this process? And what would be the nature of this role?
Igor Dodon: We must do everything we can to convince them. Those powers are: the Russian Federation, the European Union, Germany (due to its important role in the EU) and the United States of America, which lies at a greater distance but has a great influence in the region, especially on what is happening in Romania, which is a regionally important country. I believe that our strategic goal must be that Moldova should appear on the agenda of these great powers as the place where a regional geopolitical compromise can be reached. In my view, the need for a regional compromise is obvious and will become even more obvious in the coming years. Once the Russian elections are over, I am convinced that the Russian Federation and the United States will be looking for points of agreement in this region. After all, they also have common agendas in other parts of the world. But in this region they will need a common agenda and a success story that both parties can claim. This is what I have tried to explain to those in Germany, the Russian Federation, Brussels, the United States – to demonstrate that this is the place where every one of you could be proud of a success. You might consider coming here under the auspices of a success that will belong to everyone, not just one; and this success could, in the future, serve as a model for solving other problems. Honestly, I look forward to the period that will open after the completion of all the electoral processes of the current year: at home, in Russia, in the United States (mid-term elections to Congress). I hope that after that, 2019 will be the year of compromise, and that Moldova will be on the agenda of the great powers. Lately we have not been on the agenda of the great powers. Or at least not on the front page.
FLUX: Promoters of the pro-Western speech present you as being pro-Russian. On the other hand, I followed with great attention your intervention of December 15, 2017 at the international conference organized around the theme of Alternatives to Financial Capitalism; however, in the context of this intervention, you have positioned yourself as a follower of the Greater Europe concept, „from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, which some authors also call „the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis”. What role can the Moldavian Republic play in this concept, which we know is being constantly sabotaged by other forces, which are not necessarily part of the Eurasian continent?
Igor Dodon: Moldova is a small country, but one that will play a decisive role. Provided we have the intelligence, we can become the bridge by which this road can open. Instead of being ignored by the whole world, we could serve as an example, a point of agreement between the great powers, as I’ve said before. If we fail to have the necessary intelligence and skill to do so, then this country will be torn apart and broken into pieces. Those who try to portray me as a pro-Russian politician are precisely those who do not want us to come to this consensus. Because it is simpler to say that there are pro-Russians on one side, pro-Europeans on the other, and continue to divide society. I tell you sincerely: it is a reality of which I myself am becoming aware of more and more; I admit that in the past, I, too, have been too categorical on some points, but I am becoming increasingly aware that Moldova needs balance in its foreign policy. And, provided we show sufficient skill, political maturity and intelligence to ensure the internal conditions, Moldova will have a decisive role in the creation of this axis [Paris-Berlin-Moscow].
FLUX: In recent times, the Visegrad Group states are promoting a common policy against Brussels, which is trying, through its bureaucracy, to undermine their sovereignty. At least that’s what the V4 politicians say. They manage to do it! As head of state, do you not think that you should intensify your dialogue with the leaders of these countries?
Igor Dodon: I agree with you; last year, already, we made some contacts in this direction: I met the Hungarian Prime Minister, Mr. Viktor Orbán; After a most cordial discussion, we concluded on common positions on many aspects of regional policy. Which highly pleased me. Mr. Orbán belongs to the European family of right-wing parties, while I am a leftist politician, but on a large majority of themes – for example migrants, the need for a balance between Russia and the West – we found tangent points. This year, I hope to meet the Czech President. I sent him my wishes on the occasion of his birthday. We should soon decide where it will take place: in Chișinău or in the Czech Republic. Last year, I had contacts with the Bulgarian authorities. The Vice-President of Bulgaria has visited Chișinău and this year I hope to speak with the Bulgarian President, who is like me a socialist. And we will also try to intensify our contacts with others.
FLUX: To return to domestic politics, economic protectionism and economic sovereignty, I have a question about agricultural land. In Hungary, a referendum ratified the exclusive right of Hungarian citizens to own farmland. Perhaps the Republic of Moldova should do the same?
Igor Dodon: On this point, my position is equally categorical. Take a look at what happened in Romania, and in other countries that have opted for a liberal approach to this issue: in practice, agricultural land is now largely owned by foreign citizens or foreign corporations who do not always have an interest in developing agriculture. In some cases, it is simpler to ruin agriculture, to bring there their own products, which they produce in other countries. And this is a tragedy for such countries, for the state: the land is in foreign hands, agriculture is ruined, jobs have disappeared and the internal market is flooded with agricultural products from elsewhere. I recently read an analysis of Romania, which calculated the billions of euros that Romanians pay to import agri-food products that they once produced. Look at what happened in Bulgaria: EU membership and full liberalization resulted in the bankruptcy of at least 50% of indigenous production capacity. From this point of view, Hungary is an example to follow. Of course, this phenomenon must be contained in Moldova too. For the moment, by various means, foreign citizens manage to buy agricultural land. Which is very dangerous.
FLUX: You recently met the President of the World Congress of Families, the American Brian Brown. By mutual agreement, you decided to organize the next congress of this organization in September in Chișinău. What led you to take this initiative? Do you, too, think that at present the family is under a historically unprecedented attack?
Igor Dodon: When is a state strong? This question is the answer to your question. There are many philosophical and rhetorical answers. Some say the state is strong when it has a strong army. But there are powerful states that do not have an army or do not have a strong army, nor are they nuclear powers. The state is strong when it has a history, a consolidated nation, a society that keeps its values. That state is strong. That state can hardly be destroyed from the outside. In the Republic of Moldova over 98 percent are Orthodox Christians. In the Republic of Moldova it is traditionally normal to have good family relationships. It has always been said to us that the family is the basic cell of society. And look at what’s going on. What have our opponents – the enemies of our statehood –been targeting most of the time in recent years? They strike at our history, our religion and our family traditions. They come with the history of other states, with the attempt to denigrate the church in Moldova, with the registration of sexual minorities. In my opinion, if we allow this, statehood, the pillars on which our state is based, will be destroyed. For these reasons, over the past few years, I have been categorically against attempts to undermine these values. I went out with several initiatives to protect these values. This year, when we were able to convince our foreign partners to organize the World Congress of Families in Chisinau, we took this opportunity. Two years ago, in 2016, I was in Tbilisi, where such an event took place. Last year took place in Budapest. I managed to get them here, to convince Brain Brown. And surely in September there will be representatives from dozens of countries, not just from the Christian-Orthodox world, but also Catholic countries, which share the same values. I think it is an enormous success for us.
Obviously, even before September we will hold several events. In the most mandatory way we have to make a family festival in the Great National Assembly Square and we will organize it. Under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Moldova, such an event will take place. We also plan some events outside the country. Mr. Brain Brown invited me to the United States to organize a few round tables in that context and I will take advantage of this opportunity, I will accept the invitation and I will go.
We in the Republic of Moldova must understand that we are strong without a strong army, but through our traditions, our culture, our families. And this must be defended.
FLUX: You position yourself as a defender of Orthodoxy. Do you not think this can hurt your image? Knowing that in our society, permanent attacks against the church are in vogue.
Igor Dodon: We must base our conduct on how we feel and what we believe in, and not on the press and PR campaigns organized by our adversaries in order to impose their agenda and mislead society. All that you speak of as a fashion is actually funded campaigns, artificially created agitation in the hope that part of society will end up believing it. This, of course, is an extremely dangerous thing. As far as I’m concerned, I do not intend to give in on the pretext that someone on TV said that it would be better to do this or that, or because such and such young people – to my great regret – let themselves be trapped by this kind of speculation. I am firmly convinced that this position enjoys the support of the majority of our fellow citizens, to whom I will not fail.
FLUX: Will your vision of a Greater Europe, as well as your beliefs in favor of the preservation of traditional values, have a greater impact after the upcoming parliamentary elections in Moldova? What are the chances of seeing them lead to the formation of a parliamentary majority favorable to such a program?
Igor Dodon: It depends a lot on us first, but also on the geopolitical context. If the great powers, once their common agenda is established – which will certainly be the case by the end of the year – agree not to tug Moldova one way or the other, and let it remain a neutral state, in friendly relations with each side, it will be easier. For much of what will happen next year also depends on the agenda of major geopolitical actors in the region. For my part, I do not think for a moment to give way. Of course, it’s not easy. The attacks are very violent. You can see all these press campaigns on me – orchestrated by the West – that do not stop. Those who hide behind such campaigns must see in me a danger: the danger of a leader opposed to globalism. I said it openly last year at an economic forum in St. Petersburg: I am for the protection of our values and for our continued focus on our national interest. It should be neither Washington’s business, nor Brussels’, nor Moscow’s to dictate us an agenda. In everything we do, we must consider our national interest first. If it is desirable for the Moldovan Republic to have a visa-free entry regime in Europe for our citizens, let us have it. Belonging to the Eurasian market is desirable and we already have observer status, there is a memorandum to that effect, so let’s sign this memorandum. We must always have our own agenda, so that we do not let anyone dictate one from the outside, telling us that „it would be in your interest”. In recent years, to my great regret, this has happened to the Republic of Moldova: the agenda was imposed from abroad, and our leaders have not been able to express their own position. On the one hand because they were afraid, being subjected to blackmail related to their holdings in the West, on the other hand, for lack of competence, firmness, verticality. Whatever the International Monetary Fund tells them: “Increase the retirement age!”, or other instruction – it was executed. “Open your market to European agri-food products!” – and here we are importing meat from Europe, while almost all our dairy products come from Ukraine … In the long run, such an attitude would lead us where? That’s why, to answer the question, I think it’s a real possibility. It will depend a lot on us. For my part, I am not going to give up, but it also depends on the geopolitical situation at the end of this year and especially from the beginning of next year.
FLUX: This interview will be published on the FLUX.MD portal in four languages at the same time, and will be taken over by our media partners in Western Europe and Russia. What message would you like to address to our readers from abroad?
Igor Dodon: First of all I want to invite them to come to the Republic of Moldova. Despite the geopolitical battles in the region, the Republic of Moldova is a very beautiful country. I want to thank them for their support. Lately, I get a lot of messages, including on social networks, that encourage me. People come up with messages such as: “Mr Dodon, we see that you are fighting and we agree with your position, even if we are from the UK, Germany, France, the United States. We believe that you are right when you talk about family preservation, traditional values, religion, when you talk about economic protectionism.”
I want to thank them for these messages and I want to assure you that we will not give up. My position, which I have discussed today, is supported by the vast majority of Moldovan citizens. When we talk about neutrality without NATO, in Moldova there are over 65-70 percent of the population supporting it. When we talk about our Orthodox faith, in Moldova it is shared by over 90 percent of inhabitants. When we talk about preserving traditional family values, Moldova is over 90 percent for that. That is why, in the Republic of Moldova, despite all the pressures and the attempt to impose some standards and values that do not represent us, we are an open country for all, but very patriotic. And I invite you to come see us.
FLUX: Mr. President, thank you very much for this interview.