THE BLOG

Putin's Next Steps In Moldova and Georgia

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Co-authored by William Witenberg a contemporary artist focused on abstract painting

Moldova and Georgia are apparently ignoring Russian warnings not to sign an economic pact with the European Union. This despite the extreme turbulence in the Ukraine that has occurred since Ukraine ignored Russian objections to Ukraine's handling of its relationship with the European Union. The parallels between Ukraine are eerie and suggest there is trouble looming once again in both of these former Russian republics.

Both countries have the same type of separatist ethnic Russian cities that Ukraine is still dealing with. Georgia fought a war with Russia in 2008 and the areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia could easily be annexed by Russia as they did with Crimea. In the middle of Moldova is an area known as Transdniestria. It is home to significant Russian military forces and stockpiles. South Ossetia, Abkhazia or Transdniestria could easily be used by Putin to send a message to the world and to other former Russian republics that there is a cost to be paid for leaning to the West.

As usual Putin's response to the inevitable June 27 signing of this agreement with the European Union is impossible to predict. However, we feel that the template is written in his behavior in Ukraine. There will be consequences for former Russian republics that embrace the European Union. Whether it is economic in higher gas prices, visa restrictions on cross border workers in Moldova, the banning of imports from Moldova or less likely the annexation of Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Importantly, the Obama administration has been silent on this issue. It appears the Obama administration has learned the lesson from the chaos in the Ukraine that the threatening of sanctions does nothing to deter Putin.

Naturally, Moldova and Georgia are aware of all of the above possibilities and they are moving forward under the belief that whatever Putin does the benefits will outweigh the cost. The world hopes they are right.

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