The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

22 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL crime, brought a measure of prosperity and restored a modicum of previously shattered national pride. As a witness to the eco- nomic and psychological devastation brought to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when formerly content Muscovites were reduced to selling their own possessions on street corners in order to eat, I understood the growing optimism among everyday Russians as Putin reasserted a sense of order and power. Although this optimismwas overshadowed by the war in Chechnya, domestic terrorism, the persistence of corruption and continued poverty outside themajor cities, thousands of Russians had a taste of Western products and lifestyles. For the average Rus- sian, this was enough; but for Putin, the attraction to theWest was a source of shame, jealousy and anger. Coupled with this resentment was anger toward any kind of domestic resistance. His near destruc- tion of the Chechen capital of Grozny foreshadowed how he would deal with any resistance to his dreamof a newRussian Empire. Meanwhile, Ukraine and Moldova had significantly different experiences after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I served as dep- uty chief of mission in Kyiv from 2007 to 2010 and saw the flower- ing of an empowered Ukrainian identity under President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Although Kyiv and most of eastern and southern Ukraine at that time (and, to be honest, even today) were largely Russian-speaking, the Orange Revolution and government policies fostering Ukrainian language and culture took root and had a great impact, especially on the new post-Soviet generation. Alas, Yushchenko was horribly poisoned and disfigured by probable Russian agents and might well have been physically unable to see through his transformative policies of a new Ukraine fully. Yushchenko’s illness, as well as unproductive infighting with an overly ambitious prime minister, pervasive corruption and a struggling economy, led to widespread disillusionment and the shocking election of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to the presi- dency in 2010. As I accompanied our new ambassador, John Tefft, to his introductory meetings with the new Yanukovych Cabinet, our Ukrainian interpreter and I were flabbergasted as nearly each new official made their remarks in Russian rather than Ukrainian. Ukraine’s trajectory toward a pro-Western, European future would have ended there if not for the more violent 2014 Euromaidan Revolution that led to Yanukovych’s ouster and flight to Russia. This experience led to a solidly pro-Western and, more important, completely Ukrainian reality. Different Paths In Moldova, things were more complicated. A violent civil war that resulted in establishment of the breakaway territory of Transnistria in Moldova’s eastern region posed a significant challenge for the future political development of the new Repub- lic of Moldova. While Russian troops took charge as sanctioned “peacekeepers,” a multinational forum chaired by the Organiza- tion for Security and Cooperation in Europe known as the “5 plus 2” (OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Transnistria, plus the U.S. and E.U. as observers) was eventually established to work toward a resolution of the issue. To date, almost 2,000 Rus- sian troops are in Transnistria. As happened with the Budapest Memorandum (which estab- lished Russia as a “guarantor” of Ukraine’s security once the latter renounced its nuclear arsenal) and the Minsk Agreement (which includes Russia in any resolution of its 2014 seizure of Crimea and occupation of the Donbas), Russia has remained in the bizarre role as a guarantor of the peace in regions it occupies and threatens. This has helped Putin cultivate his desired image as an important global, or at least regional, player and gives him leverage against the West on issues close to his heart. Why did Transnistria opt out of Moldovan independence?The answer is twofold: Unlike the rest of Moldova, Transnistria was not part of the interwar Kingdomof Romania; and it had a larger con- centration of ethnic Russians. There was a significant Moldovan/ Romanian population in the breakaway territory, but many fled during the post-Soviet conflict. Meanwhile, the rest of Moldova struggled with creation of a national identity. In this regard, the challenges were far greater than in Ukraine, where a sense of Ukrainian identity had existed for centuries. InMoldova, national identity was inextricably linked with Romania. While I was ambassador in Moldova (2015-2018), Romania actively participated in a wide range of Moldovan edu- cational and cultural efforts to instill a strong sense of Romanian historical, linguistic and cultural identity. When I once suggested on a Moldovan radio program cel- ebrating the nation’s independence that Moldova had its own unique historical and cultural legacy that argued for its continued independence, I experienced a fierce backlash (more in Romania than in Moldova) by Romanian nationalists who to this day insist that the Republic of Moldova is properly part of Greater Roma- Putin’s anger with NATO encroachment is not based so much on a perceived security threat as on an embrace of Western values over Russian ones.