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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Moldova Toward Definitive Break With Moscow — How Will Putin Respond?

Chairman of the Parliament of Moldova Igor Grosu has announced the nation’s withdrawal from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Will Moldova succeed in making a final break with Russia?

photo of arch of Chisinau

Downtown Chisinau, the capital of Moldova

Anna Akage


Ever since the war in Ukraine began, diplomats have warned of the risk of Moldova being “next” in the Kremlin’s sights.

A series of well-orchestrated pro-Moscow protests earlier this spring in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, demanded the overthrow of the country's democratically elected president, Maia Sandu, who has taken a firm pro-Western stance.

Since its attack on Ukraine, the Kremlin has sought to destabilize the ex-Soviet country. The small republic of 2.6 million inhabitants is sandwiched between Ukraine and NATO member Romania and has few military resources to oppose Moscow.

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What it does have are trade and diplomatic arms at its disposal. On Monday, Moldovan Parliament Chairman Igor Grosu announced the country’s imminent exit from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which today also includes Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.

The move makes official what has been the country’s de facto distancing from the CIS, which was created in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

For more than three decades, the CIS has served as an essential Kremlin lever of control and influence over the former Soviet republics. Thus, no doubt, Moldova's withdrawal from the Commonwealth would sure to be met with strong resistance from the Kremlin, as well as from pro-Russian forces inside Moldova itself.

In 2009, Georgia withdrew from the CIS in response to Russia's aggression in 2008. Ukraine, for its part, never signed the founding Charter, so was not a full member of the Commonwealth; nevertheless, in 2019, the International Monetary Fund removed Ukraine from the list of its participants.

The CIS question

Grosu, chairman of the Moldovan Parliament, said the decision to leave the CIS came after consultations with President Sandu, the ruling party and ordinary citizens. The reasons he laid out for the decision were a blunt assessment of his country’s status vis a vis Moscow.

"After 30 years, it became clear that the presence of Moldova in CIS structures did not help us solve the Transnistrian conflict, withdraw the Russian army from the territory, or protect us from economic embargoes in the most difficult times.

“Being in CIS did not protect us from the energy blackmail in the middle of winter, from threats and official statements hostile to the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Being in the CIS did not protect the member states from military attacks, war, and illegal occupation of sovereign territories.

Moldova's withdrawal from the CIS is more of a symbolic step.

After one of its founding states, the Russian Federation, barbarically attacked another founding state, Ukraine, occupying territories and killing its citizens, this organization can no longer be called a community," Grosu said. "We can no longer sit at the same table with the aggressor state."

Still, the withdrawal process will be long and politically charged, as there is in fact no singular national position on the issue in Moldova — and on relations with Russia in general. The Socialist Party of Moldova has condemned Grosu's statement and promised to start a campaign for the preservation of membership of Moldova in the Commonwealth.

Grosu has spoken clearly

Gavriil Grigorov/TASS/ZUMA

Reaction from the Kremlin

Grigory Karasin, a Russian CIS committee member, condemned Moldova's intention to leave the CIS Assembly. "The current administration is playing a political game called "I pledge allegiance to the West,” said Karasin. "We will take serious decisions, but not through public interviews and statements."

That of course raises the question of what action Moscow will take. It may continue to agitate through pro-Russian forces in the country, Vladimir Putin could decide to launch direct attacks on Moldova or could opt for economic pressure.

Experts in Russia and Moldova note that Moldova's withdrawal from the CIS is more of a symbolic step, compared to the ties between member states — particularly on the trade front.

Alexander Slusar, the former vice-president of the Parliament of Moldova said untangling the web of agreements will be complicated. “Unfortunately, Russia "privatized" many processes in the CIS,” he said. “Besides, we have separate agreements on free trade with Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. They were signed back in the 90s, and many were useful because Russia was still weak and did not politicize these issues."

Indeed, politics has overtaken economics across much of the region. The winds were changing in Moldova with the 2021 election of Sandu, who wanted to distant the country from Russia. Moscow’s Feb. 24, 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which shares a long border with Moldova, hardened the divide and raised the stakes.

Just last week, European Union foreign ministers approved funding for a civilian mission to help Moldova resist interference from Moscow. The EU says the mission aims to send a “political signal” to Russia that the EU supports Moldova.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Turkey-Israel Relations? It's Complicated — But The Gaza War Is Different

Turkish President Erdogan has now called on the International Criminal Court to go after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for war crimes, as the clash between the two regional powers has reached a new low.

Photo of ​Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walking

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Elias Kassem

Since the arrival two decades ago of now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s relationship with Israel has been a mix of deep ideological conflict and cover-your-eyes realpolitik.

On the one hand, Erdogan has positioned himself as a kind of global spokesman for the Palestinian cause. His Justice and Development Party has long publicly and financially supported Hamas, which shares similar roots in the 20th-century Muslim Brotherhood movement.

And yet, since 2001 when Erdogan first came to power, trade between Turkey and Israel has multiplied from $1.41 to $8.9 billion in 2022. Moreover, both countries see major potential in transporting newly discovered Israeli natural gas to Europe, via Turkey.

The logic of shared interests clashes with the passions and posturing of high-stakes geopolitics. Diplomatic relations have been cut off, then restored, and since October 7, the countries’ respective ambassadors have been recalled, with accusations flying between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, over the past 48 hours, Turkish-Israeli relations may have hit an all-time low.

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