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Rising Revisionists
Putin’s Fellow Travelers Elected in Bulgaria and Moldova

The Kremlin’s winning streak continued on Sunday, as Bulgaria and Moldova both elected leaders seeking friendlier ties with Moscow. Rumen Radev, the Socialist Party candidate who promised to lift EU sanctions on Russia, was elected president in Bulgaria, while Igor Dodon won the run-off in Moldova, riding a wave of populist anger and pledging to restore ties with Russia.

Bloomberg explains the wider context:

After the U.K.’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s surprise U.S. election victory, Europe is facing a challenge from anti-establishment forces across the region as five western EU members prepare for elections in less than a year. Radev’s victory, along with a pro-Russian candidate winning nearby Moldova’s presidency on Sunday, adds to the political uncertainty and may play into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he seeks to reverse sanctions imposed over the conflict in Ukraine.

“Any form of uncertainty, any doubts about the path toward European integration and democratic reforms, plays into the Kremlin’s hands,” Joerg Forbrig, senior program director of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. in Berlin, said by phone. “Russia is hoping to capitalize on this outcome.”

Indeed, the Bulgarian election signifies another crack in the fragile European consensus on sanctions against Russia. During his victory speech, Radev reiterated his desire to lift sanctions, and he will surely press that line in the EU. Moldova, by contrast, is not an EU member, but Dodon has come out strongly against the association agreement that the country signed with the EU. His victory is a symbolic rebuke to Moldovans who seek European integration, and a boon those who look to Moscow.

The outcomes in Moldova and Bulgaria contribute to a growing pattern of Russia-friendly political forces strengthening their hold in Europe, following gains in Georgia and Estonia. And of course, this all comes following the surprise victory of Donald Trump, who has said he will consider lifting economic sanctions on Russia and might even recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

If Putin is the big winner this week, Ukraine is the big loser. The EU will probably extend sanctions in December, but beyond that their prospects look shaky. Several EU countries have chafed at upholding sanctions on Russia, especially as they take an economic toll at home. The Moldovan and Bulgarian elections will provide more fodder for the anti-sanctions crowd, and that spells trouble for European solidarity on Ukraine.

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  • Fat_Man

    Putin is the strong horse.

    • Jim__L

      Strong jockey, weak horse.

  • Kev

    Moldova’s new president already recognised Crimea as a part of Russia, this despite the fact that Moldova has a separatist territory backed by Russia. Who says Moldova can’t become a model for Ukraine?

    • JR

      Kev, old buddy old pal. What’s new on RT and Sputnik?
      BTW, what is the Russian take on the US election? Are you guys happy, sad, or what? Do let us know…

      • Kev

        DELIGHTED by Hillary’s downfall, more than a little troubled by the Bolton rumour.

        US is a powerful country, run by angry children! President Trump could easily start US-Russia war, and he doesn’t even realise it!

        • JR

          Sorry you are perturbed by Bolton. I get it, once you get used to losers like Hillary and Kerry it’s hard to imagine somebody with balls across the table. Well, you can’t expect the same easy ride you had for 8 years.
          I find all this talk about US-Russia war to be histrionics. Calm down, take a shot of vodka and relax.

          • Kev

            You’ve got it backwards. The problem is US political establishment, which hasn’t been seriously challenged since the Soviet Union fell. They grew entitled, they think whole world is their playground, hence their rage against Russia, which is just beginning to reassert itself.

            Thank god, Bolton rumour was a fake. Giuliani apprears to be Trump’s choice for secretary of state.

          • JR

            First of all, isn’t it so much better that we stopped pretending you are not a paid Russian troll? Now we can have intelligent cross-cultural conversations.
            Nobody is raging against Russia. See, this is part of your persecution complex. You think the whole world is against you. Nobody really cares. You guys are a gas station, nothing more. You have nuclear weapons, so we have to pay attention to you. Mostly everyone wishes is for you to go away. No offense, just giving you the truth from my perspective.

          • Kev

            Dude, did you even bother watching US presidential debates? Russia was a bigger topic than Israel this time! Do you read American newspapers?

            There is crearly a lot of Russia angst on the part of US elite. There is no point denying that. And no I’m not getting paid to write this, this is just your own paranoid complex.

          • JR

            Of course you’re getting paid to write this. I thought we went over this already. Like I said you’re a gas station with nuclear weapons. Of course there is angst. We need someone with balls to remind you why is it that you lost the Cold War.

          • Jim__L

            Sure, the US establishment has gotten lazy and weak. I’m a little surprised you want that to change.

            Maybe you like that iron sharpens iron, eh?

          • Kev

            Put simply, the problem I see with US global “leadership” is too much power in the hands of people clearly not fit to wield it. I’m talking about both Republicans and Democrats, it’s a bipartisan problem in Washington.

            This cannot last long. I bet we’ll continue see reduction and retreat of US power in the near future. Appointing a buffoon like Bolton, if Trump is dumb enough to do that, is not going to shore up Pax Americana. It will only serve to antagonise US allies in Europe.

          • Tom

            Probably not, given that they’ve been begging us to get more involved.

          • Jim__L

            America has typically solved the “not fit to wield it” problem by distributing the power to Americans through liberty, and allowing us to make our contributions without recourse to questionable “five-year-plan” centralized control. Both are Darwinian to some extent, (I have no illusions that gaining power in Russia is any easier than gaining power in the US industrial sector) but the American approach is far more resilient.

            What will Russia do when Putin makes a misstep? The hardliners who were in charge when the USSR invaded Afghanistan were discredited and (properly) swept from power when that went awry, but the hierarchical, one-party nature of communist rule did not allow the existence of either a competent Opposition or competent subordinates to step up to serve Russian interests. So, the USSR collapsed. (The Democrats are in similar disarray now, from Hillary’s botched “coronation”.)

            Putin — any monarch, really — is vulnerable to the same problem. He is said to be religious, or at least unwilling to reject God and His Word; has he read Ecclesiastes recently? Who is his heir? Could he really expect Medvedev to take the reins if he falls?

            Would Russia not benefit from a system of more freedom, to allow more Russians to independently become strong by gaining experience minding their own business, instead of the State minding it for them? How can anyone become that strong, how can the public discourse become strong, if people are not allowed to disagree and gain strength by vigorously pursuing their own way, independent of the State?

            Would Putin not love to see a Russia full of strong and independent people, with his job simply being to get them to cooperate with one another (like, say, Eisenhower), rather than his job being to pull the country along by the force of his own personality, wasting valuable talent, energy, and insight by shutting down all opposition? Going it alone will exhaust him, and will force him to choose between options that are in Russia’s long-term interests and decisions that are in his own personal short-term interests, because he has artificially built a system where Russia’s short-term interests match his own. That bodes ill for a post-Putin Russia.

            I think the American system, for all its faults and chaos, is a tremendously resilient one, and one that builds strength not just at the top, but at all levels. This is what makes America stronger than its opponents, and Russia could benefit greatly from adopting it.

  • Disappeared4x

    are ethnic Russians in EU member states still classified as non-citizens? Would explain some Putin moves.
    “This text by Vladimir Putin dated February 27 2012 outlines the Russian’s president’s foreign policy objectives…” full text:

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