Moldova to Defy Russia on E.U. Trade Deal

The former Soviet republic will initial EU accord in defiance of Russian pressure

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Moldova is to risk irritating its powerful neighbor Russia by initialing an accord on strengthening ties with the E.U. at Friday’s Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Pressure had been brought to bear on the tiny state by Moscow, which hoped to dissuade the former Soviet republic from signing the deal. But Moldovan Prime Minister, Iurie Leanca, has said that his country’s economic future lies with the West.

“Moldova’s modernization based on the E.U. states’ model is the basis for the development of our country,” Mr Leanca told Reuters, “and there is no alternative.” He tried to reassure Moscow that the decision was not part of any geopolitical strategy. “Russia has no reason to fear Moldova’s European development as it has nothing to do with any geopolitical game of patience,” he said. “We are not a piece on some giant chessboard.”

Moldova has had difficult relations with Moscow in the past. Russia recently imposed an embargo on imports of Moldovan wine, and it has also made thinly-veiled threats to cut off the gas supplies on which Moldova depends. “I hope you don’t freeze,” said Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister, in September.

The resolution to turn West by Moldova comes on the heels of Ukraine’s decision to delay the signing of a trade association agreement with the EU – a move that was widely thought to be a response to Russian pressure. Moscow has been trying to sign up former republics into a Eurasian customs union.