Moldova—Europe’s poorest country—has struggled with the challenges of post-Soviet transition. This transition has become vastly more difficult as a result of the breakdown of Europe’s post-Cold War security order in 2014. It is now caught up in a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia and the West, and is at risk of becoming Europe’s next security crisis, with potential consequences far beyond its borders.
Since gaining independence in 1991, power in Moldova has alternated between the Communist Party, which has traditionally sought stronger ties with Russia, and self-declared pro-European parties, which have advocated membership in the European Union (EU). Since 2009, a series of such parties have held power, each of which has made European integration its goal. Although Moldova has made some progress over the past eight years—including signing an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014—multiple challenges remain.
The most serious of these is corruption. In 2014, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that Moldova’s banks and judiciary had played a key role in a vast money-laundering scheme called the “Russian Laundromat,” in which Russian criminals and politicians moved as much as $20 billion (and possibly more) into Europe, the United States and elsewhere. The same year, an estimated $1 billion—roughly equal to twelve percent of Moldova’s total Gross Domestic Product— disappeared from three of the country’s banks.
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