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  • 1. Institute for Development andMOLDOVA’S FOREIGN POLICY STATEWATCH Social Initiatives “Viitorul” Issue 20, March 2011VISIT OF THE AMERICAN VICE-PRESIDENTJOE BIDEN IN MOLDOVA- DEMOCRATICMANEUVER AND GEOPOLITICAL RHETORICIon TăbârţăMoldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch represents a series of brief NEXT TOPICSanalyses, written by local and foreign experts, dedicated to the TO BE COVERED:most topical subjects related to the foreign policy of Moldova,major developments in the Black Sea Region, cooperation with Moldova’sinternational organizations and peace building activities in the region. membership inIt aims to create a common platform for discussion and to bringtogether experts, commentators, officials and diplomats who are the internationalconcerned with the perspectives of European Integration of Moldova. organisationsIt is also pertaining to offer to Moldova’s diplomats and analysts avaluable tribune for debating the most interesting and controversialpoints of view that could help Moldova to find its path to EU.S ix-hour visit to Chisinau of the Vice President Joe Biden has caused a real “national euphoria” in Moldova. Chisinau was the culmination point of Biden’s journey, which began in Helsinki and con- tinued with Moscow. Without diminishing the im- portance and impact of American Vice President’s visit of the capitals of Finland and of Republic ofMoldova, the real strategic stakes of Biden’s tour in Euro-pe was his visit to Moscow.
  • 2. 2 Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch„Reload” of theAmerican-Russian relations It has to be underlined from the beginning that Joe Biden represents the second political personfrom the U.S.A, not only given the status of the position he holds, but also his personal influence that hehas within American political circles. At the White House, Joe Biden is labeled as the „voice” of PresidentBarack Obama on foreign policy. Within the analytical environment Joe Biden is called „father of resetting” relationships betweenthe U.S. and Russia. Namely Biden, in February 2009, at the (annual) Munich Conference on Security,announced the need to „reset” U.S. - Russian relations. Also in an interview for The Wall Street Journal,in the summer of 2009, American Vice President diagnosed Russia as a weak state, which eventually willhave to make concessions to the West and America due to internal problems. Also Joe Biden, due to theinfluence he exercises over the American Congress, he has played a key role in ratifying the Russian-American Treaty on nuclear disarmament START III at the end of 2010, signed on 8 April 2010, in Prague,by the U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. After the critical moment of the Russian-American relations from 2008 (international recognition ofKosovo, NATO summit in Bucharest, the war in South Ossetia), their „reset” was possible because it wasneeded both by Moscow and Washington. With the U.S. waging a prolonged war in Afghanistan or being„plunged” in Iraq, it is natural to have other strategic foreign policy priorities that those of the former SovietUnion. After the geopolitical defeat suffered in „colored revolutions” in the years, after 2007, Russia hasmanaged to obtain some significant geopolitical success in the CIS space, especially in Ukraine. U.S. reflux from the post-Soviet space and Russia’s geopolitical return allowed mutual adjustmentof some points (important to for one side and secondary for another) on the Russian-American agendauntil reaching a relatively common position. By „reset” the U.S. has given a clear signal that from thepost-Soviet countries only Russia really matters for Washington. The pro-western states from the CISspace as – Georgia and Ukraine – were to a certain extent, „abandoned” by the U.S., given the interestthey have in relations with Russia. The biggest success so far of the U.S.-Russian „reset” was the signing and entry into force on 5February 2011, of the START III Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which implies a 30% reductionof strategic nuclear arsenals. However, on the U.S.-Russian agenda are several problems of utmostimportance for both parties, such as signing an agreement on missile defense. After two years of “resetting”, the U.S-Russian relations have reached a state of ambiguity, meaningsomething like “not enemies, nor friends”. Both Washington and Moscow are aware of the necessity todeepen the U.S.-Russian cooperation, but one has reached the point where in order to intensify therelation between the two parties, one of them (or both) have to revise their principle positions, makingserious concessions (from its perspective).Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org
  • 3. Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch 3Democratic maneuver in Moscow According to his councilor, Tony Blinken, the main purpose of Biden in Moscow was the evaluationof results on “resetting” the relations between the U.S. and Russia and estimation of “changes we canexpect in the future”. Blinken has underlined that in Moscow, Biden will discuss about the cooperationbetween those two countries in missile defense and Russia’s efforts to become a member of the WorldTrade Organization. Biden’s visit to Moscow has had a feature of pulse measuring of the U.S.-Russian relations inperspective of the meeting between Obama cu Medvedev that will take place during this year. Accordingto the agenda (and according to the words of Blinken) priority points of Biden’s visit to Moscow werebilateral security cooperation, especially on missile defense, and commercial relations with Russia. Priorities for this year in U.S. - Russian relations have been confirmed also by Mike McFaul, directorof the National Security Council for the relations with Russia and Eurasia, who declared that Russia’saccession to the World Trade Organization and cooperation in missile defense are “two our priority issuesfor the year 2011”. Summarizing the results of Biden’s visit to Moscow, surprisingly, its formal part referred to democraticvalues and human rights issues. Biden’s main message was that economic modernization towards whichRussia is oriented since 2010 (with the help of EU) cannot take place without society democratization. InMoscow, Biden tried to deepen and to expand areas of U.S.-Russian “reset”, including on its agenda suchissues as democracy and human rights. Given that there are other priorities on the agenda of Russian-American relationship, the emphasison democratization issues (externalized through Biden’s with key opposition leaders and Russian humanrights activists or criticism of investment environment from Russian Federation) was labeled by manypolitical analysts as a U.S. strategic challenge towards Russia, being rather an ostentatious gestureof the White House towards Kremlin, somewhere in the spirit of ’70s-80s of the last century when thestruggle for human rights in the Soviet Union was one of the basic priorities of the United States.Geopolitical rhetoric in Chisinau The importance of the public speech given by Joe Biden in Chisinau on 11 March is the recognitionof democratic progress made by Moldova in the past two years. Otherwise, the words of the U.S. VicePresident come to confirm the “success story” with which Republic of Moldova “was baptized” by the EU. Quantifying Biden’s speech in Chisinau, one identifies four key priorities of the Republic of Moldova:democratization (Republic of Moldova has shown an excellent model on how transition to democracyshould take place), economic reforms (Republic of Moldova to continue economic reforms. We would likeU.S. investors to be present here and to have good trade relations), geopolitical orientation (the country’sfuture should be in the European Union and the United States will support the European course of thecountry) and the Transnistrian conflict (the United States will support any resolution of the Transnistrianconflict under one condition: preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic ofMoldova). Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org
  • 4. 4 Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch Reading between the lines the speech of the American Vice President in Chisinau, we can identifyits essence and message. First of all, (with internal content) it establishes the policy directions anddevelopment priorities of the Republic of Moldova: democratization, economic reforms, foreign policy andinternal conflict. In other words, Republic of Moldova has been given the homework it must accomplish.Second of all, (on external purpose), the speech was also addressed to Russian Federation. Throughdemocratization and economic reforms, were flagged the overdue and weaknesses of Russia, and bysupporting the European path and territorial integrity of Moldova, Moscow has been suggested to bemore cooperative and to make some concessions on the priority topics of Russian-American discussions. Correlation between internal-external aspect of Biden’s speech in Chisinau and the subsequentdevelopment of events depends on the following factors: 1) internal political and economic success of theRepublic of Moldova; 2) the conduct of Russian-American dialogue on priority issues targeting relationsbetween the U.S. and Russia; 3) regional geopolitical context. The higher are the political and economicachievements of the Republic of Moldova, and the Russian-American discussions on strategic issues willnot evolve, Biden’s speech shall gain more practical consistency. If the Republic of Moldova will stagnate in promoting democracy and carrying out of economicreforms and Russian-American dialogue on its key priorities will be successful, then Moldova’s Europeanprospects will decline, it being increasingly oriented towards Russia. Of course, the equation is farfrom simple. Situations may arise when the Republic of Moldova will obtain very good results in thedemocratization process and simultaneously the Russian-American relations will witness a positivedevelopment. Or, on the contrary, democratization of the Republic of Moldova will witness a simultaneousinvolution with worsening of the relations between Washington and Moscow. It is also important to notethat development of the events will depend very much on regional and worldwide geopolitical context.Conclusions Indisputable, Biden’s brief visit to Chisinau is a real success of the Republic of Moldova, aninternational recognition of its society democratization efforts and achievements after 2009. But thecontext of this visit is much broader, Chisinau not being its real stake. “Reset” of the U.S.-Russian relationsinvolves a complex set of gains and mutual concessions. Having other external priorities than in post-Soviet space, the U.S. tried to undertake a series of geopolitical exploratory maneuvers towards Russia.Undoubtedly, Biden’s visit to Chisinau is a part of Washington geopolitical strategies. However, let’s hopethat Moldova is not a U.S. gambit in its geopolitical dispute with Russia on the Eurasia chessboard.This publication was produced by IDIS “Viitorul” with the financial support of Soros FoundationMoldova and the National Endowment for Democracy. The opinions expressed in this publicati-on reflect the author’s/authors’ position and don’t necessary represent the views of the donors.Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.orgStr. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org