Yesterday here in the Republic of Moldova it was Independence Day. I was too busy working to attend any of the celebrations but I did see a rather anemic five-minute firework display from my balcony in the evening. It turns out that the pathetic light show pretty much sums up the state of democracy around here.
I’ve already written before about how George Soros is a moron when it comes to Romania and a paranoid idiot when it comes to Moldova. But hey, that’s all right because even rich people are allowed to have stupid opinions.
Now it turns out that pontificating about how Russian troops were on the verge of storming Chisinau (still hasn’t happened as of two years later!) and funding his little pet projects wasn’t enough – now there’s proof positive that bought off the leadership of the so-called democratic “pro-EU coalition” that’s still somehow inexplicably in power here in Moldova.
A spokesperson for Open Society Foundations told The Daily Caller that the group was trying to “boost democratic practice” by secretly funneling $135,000 to foreign government officials.
From July 2013 to February 2015 OSF secretly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to four key staffers working for the prime minister of Moldova, including chief of staff Eugen Sturza. The organization, which is controlled by liberal billionaire George Soros, worked around Moldovan laws by funneling the money through a German non-profit.
If you speak Romanian and want to skip right to the relevant details, click here. For the rest of you, I’ll break down exactly what happened here and why this is so shockingly egregious.
An Extremely Brief History of Post-Soviet Moldova
1992 – Moldova declares independence from the disintegrating corpse of the Soviet Union on August 27, forever after known as Independence Day.
Due to colossal political blundering on Moldova’s leadership (“led” by Mircea Snegur) that included a protestor (Dmitri Matyushin) being beaten to death on the streets of Chisinau for speaking Russian (something conveniently excised from Moldovan/Romanian history), Transnistria effectively “un-secedes” and there’s a brief war that led to an overwhelming defeat of Chisinau forces and the de facto separation of Transnistria from Chisinau Moldova that still exists today.
To hang onto power, Snegur and his allies decide to ban the Communist Party and the economy goes into a tailspin. In 1994, Moldova joins the junior version of NATO ironically called the “Partnership for Peace” but the new constitution declares Moldova militarily neutral forever largely to prevent a second breakaway war in the Gagauz part of the south.
By 1997, the Communists were back in power under President Lucinschi followed by the Communists winning the biggest slice of the parliament. Until 2009, the Communists had a virtual monopoly on power. But a huge protest that led to the death of a protester (Valeriu Boboc – a name every Romanian/Moldovan historian knows) and the subsequent storming of the parliament prompted the government to hold snap elections.
A coalition of four Moldovan parties, led by Marian Ghimpu, Vlad Filat, Vlad Plathotniuc (technically Marian Lupu), and Serafim Urechean, known as the “pro-EU alliance” formed the ruling bloc in parliament. Iurie Leanca who was a former board member of Soros’ Open Foundation, was given the freshly-amended post of “Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration”.
Moldova had, of course, been part of the European continent for roughly a billion years. But as of 2009, “European” now was meant to understood to mean European Union as well as code for all things bright and beautiful.
Now, in the minds of Soros, Traian Basescu, and rising State Department stars like Victoria Nuland, 2009 was a moment of supreme triumph. Finally, the Russian-loving bastards of the Communist Party were gone! Foreign aid flowed in like champagne and everyone in Brussels did the happy dance now that Moldova was on its way to becoming the next ex-Communist waif to be rescued by the loving arms of their western neighbors.
And, for a while, most people in Moldova were happy and Moldova’s backers were happy, as Vlad Filat was their golden boy. But the real problem was that the “pro-EU” coalition was made up of the country’s worst gangsters. Plathotniuc, the biggest gangster of them all, had a fallout with golden boy Filat and the next thing you know, Filat was arrested and hauled out of the parliament by cops for his supposed involvement in the Theft of the Century. Filat, despite some pretty obvious injustices, continues to rot in jail today.
Plathotniuc then used this and other pretexts to cut out a few “non-performing” lackeys and so the “pro-EU” coalition was reconstituted in May 2013 with Iurie Leanca being bumped up to the Prime Minister slot.
Now I’ll let Soros’ own internal documents describe what they thought of him:
Leanca is a professional diplomat, who ran the Foreign Ministry well but lacks experience in domestic affairs (including conflict issues related to Transnistria) and day-to-day governance. Following Leanca’s request to GS, OSF provided funding to hire three key advisors July 2013 – June 2014.
The guy became PM on the last day of May and by July he’s calling up Soros and asking for three key advisers to get money. But why? All four of these advisers were already drawing government salaries, rather generous ones at that (roughly 70 times what the average Moldovan makes).
Whatever the reason, there was a big of a stumbling block: Moldovan law forbids presidential advisers from getting paid directly by an NGO. So Soros decided to pay off a German “think tank” called IEP to then pay the advisers via an “honorarium” (a rich person word for “one-time payment”) to supposedly write up a paper called “Moldova Strategic Conflict Research”. And so that’s what happened.
Just to show you how egregious this is, in 2014, Eugen Sturza (the PM’s chief of staff) received 159k lei as his salary but 443k lei from the IEP for the “Moldova Strategic Conflict Research” paper. In other words, he got three times his salary for a one-time effort on behalf of a foreign entity, and that was legal according to Moldovan law. What was illegal was that it was secretly re-routed money from Soros, for which IEP prudently took a 6% cut (called an “administrative fee”). Those Germans, always remaining practical! LOL
Soros wasn’t the only one buying members of the PM’s cabinet. According to the same leaked document:
The EU and German and US governments provide other foreign advisors to the prime minister.
So Soros was paying for his men (three men and 1 women), the Americans were paying for their guys, the German government was paying for their guys, and the EU was paying, all for the privilege of “advising” the Moldovan PM on what to do. Only the hapless Romanians missed out (as they still continue to do) due to their chronic bungling of literally everything.
Soros certainly considered it money well spent:
Leanca’s government defied expectations and delivered on all objectives: Moldovans got visa free access to the EU countries in April 2014. Leanca signed the Association Agreement with the EU in June. Despite trade embargo and pressure from Russia, the Moldovan economy registered 8% GDP growth in 2013, among the highest in the region.
That’s because Leanca was the one who signed the official Association Agreement with the EU even though he had little part in getting it passed through parliament, etc. But when they put the pen in his hand, he did like a good servant and signed it.
Storm Clouds Rolling
With Filat out of the way and Plathotniuc now Nuland/Soros/et al’s new golden boy, things were supposed to keep on rolling smoothly. After all, when Ukraine melted down in 2014, Moldova stayed the course. Good job, Moldova!
The problem is that everyone conveniently forgot to ask what it is the people of Moldova wanted. Pesky democracy! Turns out visa-free travel only benefits rich Moldovans who get to go on vacation more easily. Anti-EU-coalition protests have been ongoing since the “pro-EU” coalition narrowly squeaked out a victory in 2014 despite all kinds of shenanigans that included banning an entire party (literally!) on the day before the election.
Shit continued to “get real” as the kids say, and 2015 was a total disaster for Leanca, Plathotniuc and company. A permanent protest began with an encampment in front of the parliament (it’s still there today) and tens of thousands of people regularly marched to call for elections because they’re sick of the corruption, nepotism, and large-scale government theft.
By the beginning of 2016, things were so bad that the parliament was stormed once again by angry protesters and a new prime minister had to be sworn in during a secret midnight ceremony. And still this gang of oligarchs refuses to do the most basic democratic thing possible – hold elections – because they know they’ll all lose their jobs and access to all that sweet, sweet “research” money.
But it’s okay because next month Moldova will be hosting an important donors’ conference where all of the big western backers will meet in Chisinau and decide to give this illegitimate, undemocratic government tons of money as long as they swear on a stack of Bibles never to do anything too pro-Russian. One of the men who will be on hand at the conference will be Vladislav Kulminski, who received a nice chunk of money from Soros in 2013-2014, now working for the World Bank, advising them on how to get Moldova even further into debt.
Meanwhile, of course, Soros’s Open Society Foundation refuses to even admit that what they did was wrong:
The project described in the document you reference aimed to undertake in-depth research and explore possible recommendations on how to make headway towards resolving the seemingly intractable Transnistria conflict, an important provision in Moldova’s Association Agreement with the European Union. Part of the researchers’ mission was to share the recommendations as advice with the prime minister and his cabinet. What you call ‘backdoor bankrolling’ is an effort to work with civil society and governments to boost democratic practice and strengthen human rights.
Yes, paying a researcher three times their salary via a secret channel is a great way to “boost democratic practice”. Balls of brass.
I do have to hand it to Soros though – in a country like Moldova, it costs less than a million bucks to buy off the entire leadership. What a bargain.
10 thoughts on “The Price of Democracy”
Good insight, Sam. Thanks a lot for this. I thought Soros was a scumbag who wanted to denigrate Romania and create the Romanies=Romanians connection but it seems even Sith Lords can inadvertently do some good.
Soros is somebody like Emmanuel Goldstein.
You are mistaken about Soros. He is a force for democracy. He’s done a lot for Romania (and Hungary). An ethnic Hungarian himself he promoted human rights for minorities in Romania.
Any work he does in Moldova is welcome. If he pays people to promote pro-Western democracy, even if they are government employees, that is fine. As you know, salaries in Moldova are about $200/month, hardly enough to live on.