I’ve long been critical of Ponta and his political allies and more supportive of President Basescu but I’m afraid the old man is off his medication. Either that or he’s fallen victim to Yanukovich Fever, that awful disease that strikes powerful politicians who were once popular but now see their time in the spotlight coming to an end (Basescu’s 10-year reign ends this November) and can’t stand the thought of being just an ordinary citizen again.
In an interview with the AP (unknown whether it was conducted by our dear Alison Mutler or not) and picked up in English only over at The Australian but copied in Romanian in a few places, Basescu said:
“If you look at the map, you will see this chain of frozen conflicts” around the Black Sea “that can be set off at any time,” [Basescu] said, referring to conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Mr. Basescu said Putin’s priorities “seem to be connected to the point of contact between the European Union and NATO.” He said Ukraine and Moldova were “a priority for Vladimir Putin, who wants to rebuild the Soviet Union.“
Yes there is tension between Russia and NATO but rebuilding the Soviet Union? That’s utterly preposterous.
Back in the early 90s I was in Washington, D.C. and my colleagues and I used to play a game where we’d challenge each other to name all the newly independent countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and list them in reverse alphabetical order.
You have to be pretty good at geography to be able to do it, which is why it was a fun game but I’ll spare you the suspense (if you can’t name them off the top of your head) and say that there are a total of 15 countries. That’s right – Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Estonia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia + Russia itself.
Obviously there’s no way in hell that Putin or any other Russian leader wants to “rebuild the Soviet Union”. Even Belarus, where 99.99% of the population can speak and read Russian and where the government is solidly pro-Russia, has zero intention of merging with Russia under some kind of single government. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are members of the EU and NATO both and there is again no chance (or risk) of some kind of Soviet annexation or takeover there.
But Basescu was all over the map, adding other nonsensical comments as well (my translation):
President Traian Basescu stated on Monday that after Sunday’s referendum there was no chance of a war in Crimea and that our country was not in danger of being attacked by either Russia or Ukraine.
“There won’t be a war in the Black Sea and there is no direct risk to our security,” the president said.
“Absolutely not, we are not concerned about war, not in the Black Sea, not in Ukraine and even less so in Crimea. Militarily speaking, nothing has changed in Crimea. Under no circumstances should Romanians be concerned about aggression from Russia or from Ukraine.”
Wait a damn minute, isn’t this in direct conflict with what he said just two weeks ago?
For me, what happened in Crimea is a glimpse at what could possibly happen in the Republic of Moldova. Under no circumstances will Romania intervene militarily. Let me make it clear that there’s no way that Romania will interfere in Moldova’s affairs.
Obviously I’m glad to hear that Romania isn’t making empty gestures about sending in troops to Moldova to resolve any future conflicts but again, this seems to be a direct contradiction to what he said in January 2014 when he was calling for a debate on whether Romania should join Moldova.
And yet yesterday Basescu continued to prevaricate (my translation):
President Traian Basescu has stated that he will no longer insist on the idea of a national project to unite Romania with the Republic of Moldova.
He also emphasized that he is not anti-Russian and that he wants good relations with the Russian Federation.
“I assure you that I am a man who is not anti-Russian. No way! And I want very good relations with the Russian Federation.”
But saying that the Russian president wants to annex Moldova and rebuild the Soviet Union is a great way to keep those good relations?
It’s okay, Basescu is about to get even crazier:
I’ve been looking at the Kremlin ideologue, that one named [Aleksandr] Dugin, who made the offer of uniting Romania and the Republic of Moldova together in the Eurasian Customs Union. Romanians have never had slanted eyes and neither have Moldovans. As far as I know, we’ve always had European eyes.
First off, Romania has never once been invited to join the Eurasian Customs Union, not by Aleksandr Dugin and not by anyone else. Secondly, nobody in Belarus has “slanty eyes” either and yet they’re founding members of the Customs Union precisely because it’s about economics, not ethnicity. I realize Basescu probably thinks he was being funny here but it just comes off as stupid, uninformed and racist to boot.
And then Basescu once again had to dig in his oar about Moldovan politics by criticizing the Moldovan PM (my translation):
The president [Basescu] also criticized the duplicitous attitude of the government in Chisinau as well as the “suspicious” attitude of Ponta’s government, and accused them both of having hidden pro-Moscow “aspirations”. “I don’t think it’s natural to have differing viewpoints on national projects.”
That “national project” he’s referring to is the idea of uniting Romania and Moldova into one country. I have no idea why it’s suddenly “not natural” for people to have differing viewpoints on such an important topic though.
Basescu also called Ponta and Leanca (the Moldovan PM) “servile” in their attitudes towards Russia. Meanwhile this is the same Leanca who was in Washington just a couple of weeks ago getting congratulated personally by Obama after signing an agreement to increase trade with the European Union. Yeah, a real pro-Russian “stooge” there.
And for all of Ponta’s faults (and there are PLENTY) I can’t think of a single instance where he supported anything that could even be remotely construed as pro-Russia. Ponta’s best friends (externally) are western companies like Chevron and Gabriel Mining Resources, not Gazprom.
It’s okay, Basescu had one more lunacy to contribute in his interview yesterday (my translation):
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, what grade do you give the EU concerning the crisis in Ukraine?
A: I give the EU a 10 only because that’s the maximum allowed. The EU has done absolutely everything it could concerning Russia. We don’t have a common foreign policy or a common security policy so we’re doing the best that we can. In 1991, neither Romania nor the Republic of Moldova had the necessary political leaders in place. Romania will never be an aggressor state.
Elena Udrea could easily beat Victor Ponta, physically if necessary, but when it comes to the elections I’m not taking sides.
Uh, say what? One minute he’s talking about the EU and Crimea and then suddenly he throws that non-sequitor in there about how Elena could physically beat up Victor Ponta. Words fail me.
As for Romania never having been an aggressor state, that is total and complete bullshit. There were Romanian troops who took part in the invasion of Iraq and there are Romanian soldiers right this very minute in Afghanistan. Neither one of those countries has ever done anything to Romania and yet Romania (with enthusiastic backing from Basescu) sent in armed troops as part of a NATO military occupation.
I have to say that easily the most surprising thing I’ve learned all year is just how much calmer and more balanced the statements coming out of Russia are than the hyperbole and hypocritical rhetoric from politicians in the rest of Europe. I grew up in the shadow of the (real!) Soviet Union and expected a lot of Cold War type bombast and agitprop out of Russia but the more I read and speak Russian, the stranger it gets for me to realize that I find myself agreeing more with Moscow than I do with Bucharest or Brussels.
Basescu survived two bullshit impeachment attempts and plenty of other challenges (including steering Romania towards membership in both the EU and NATO) during his presidency but now it’s time for him to run out the clock and retire gracefully and let the Republic of Moldova sort out its own future.
Quite frankly, Basescu should emulate George W. Bush, who has retired to his mansion to spend his time painting pictures and playing with his grandkids.