Moldova’s President Should Not Accept Failure as an Option
by Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin
May 28, 2023

When Putin launched his invasion to the west, he had no intention of stopping his aggression with just the seizure of Ukraine. His objective was to capture Moldova as well. Due to internal problems, Moldova would not have been able to withstand a Russian onslaught.

A small nation of fewer than 3 million people, Moldova is also among the poorest in Europe. This problem could have been overcome in the past three decades. Like many former nations of the fallen Soviet Union, including Russia, Moldova’s government has been hijacked by corruption that has permeated every level.

According to Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, Moldova rates equal to Belarus and Columbia. That’s not good company to be in for a country trying to present itself as developed and with a desire to join the European Union (EU).

As a corrupt government with a struggling economy, Moldova’s principal export is the elite of its workforce in terms of skilled laborers and intellectuals. Widespread corruption prohibits them from achieving a better life for themselves and their families. These are the very people who have the capabilities to build a prosperous nation.

Starting with the ethical leadership of Lech Walesa, Poland rose out of communist-generated depression to develop into a strong democracy and a major European economy. Unfortunately, Moldova has yet to produce a Lech Walesa. This is unlikely to happen as long as the exodus continues.

Financially trapped in Moldova, the lower skilled are condemned to struggle on the equivalent of $200 a month in wages. Meanwhile, they witness their country’s leaders rewarding themselves with mansions, yachts, and luxury cars by raiding government coffers.

In a true democracy, all people are afforded the opportunity to advance through hard work and education. Unskilled laborers are denied those opportunities just as their children are denied proper education and hopes of achieving a better lifestyle than their parents. With no hope for a future, these families have no choice but to experience the expression, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

The inability of people to escape their situation, while corruption is flaunted in their faces, leads to resentment and anger. Resentment and anger lead to social unrest and a justified feeling of betrayal of their government. The people of Moldova had been promised hope and reform in 2020 when Maia Sandu became President. As former Education Minister and Prime Minister, she had to know actions needed to be taken to correct the course of her government.

Instead, she and her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) have squandered opportunity after opportunity to reverse Moldova’s downward spiral, leaving this pro-EU government struggling for relevance at a time when western support is most needed.

Especially for a Harvard alumna, Maia Sandu has been extremely slow in figuring out what needs to be done to put her country on the right path. In the two and a half years she has been in office, her reforms have moved at the pace of a startled snail.

To her and the citizens of her country, credit must be given for the acceptance of half a million Ukrainian refugees. This dedication to humanity doesn’t surprise me. During my tours in Iraq, I worked with Moldovan soldiers who were putting their lives at risk destroying Soviet-made munitions captured from Saddam’s weapons caches. This is a nation of people who care about humanity.

President Sandu needs to display the same courage as those soldiers, clean up the government’s law enforcement and judicial systems, and bring them into the fight against corrupt political leaders. When she ran for the presidency, she claimed to be an anti-corruption candidate. PAS needs to be a party of action, solidify itself with the citizenry, and take their country back from the corruption element, no matter how massive it may be.

The solution for the skilled labor force is right in front of President Sandu. Those half a million Ukrainian refugees created a twenty percent increase in Moldova’s population. They are ready to go to work. They could be a huge boon to Moldova’s struggling economy, boosting productivity, and improving the nation in a way that would take decades to do organically. What Ukrainians can accomplish is proven every day in how their countrymen are continually defeating the Russian invaders.

Poland integrated over 900,000 refugees into their economy and has reaped the benefits in the form of 14,000 new businesses and a flurry of economic activity. While Moldova is providing food and shelter for displaced Ukranians, little is done to leverage their talents to improve the wellbeing of the nation.

President Maia Sandu’s party holds a comfortable majority and should have little trouble passing the reforms needed. It’s time she started to execute her promises and lead her people to a brighter future before bad-faith Russian assets subvert her mandate and destroy any hope for her people’s EU membership. If she wants democracy in Moldova to survive, she needs to govern by action, not words, because her people, and the West, are tired of waiting.

©2024 Wes Martin