Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 231

An artificial political scandal in Moldova has exposed the fragility of the governing coalition, some of members of which sometimes join forces with the communist opposition in undermining the president and government. This has just recurred in the Popular Front, a self-declared pro-Western group, spearheading an investigation against President Petru Lucinschi and the government over the sale of Moldova’s MIG-29 fighter planes to the United States. The communists and other rivals of the president seemed only too glad to join in the move.

An all-party investigative commission, led by Popular Front leader and parliamentary vice chairman Iurie Rosca, has just issued a report describing Moldova’s 1997 sale of 21 MiG-29s to the U.S. Defense Department as unlawful and damaging to Moldova’s state interests. The commission turned its report and the alleged evidence over to the General Prosecutor’s Office for investigation against the president, the prime minister, the foreign and defense ministers, and other officials. Having concluded that the officials committed “grave violations of the law,” the Rosca report asked the prosecutors and the courts to “determine the level of culpability” of each of those officials and their possible “personal interest” in the aircraft sale. The communist representative on the investigative commission, Vadim Mishin, lost no time supporting the Rosca report. The report also incriminates the sale of five civilian TU-154 passenger airliners to a Russian company, but no one doubts that the MiG sale is the real target.

Moldova received high marks from Washington last year for selling those twenty-one planes to the Pentagon for US$40 million, though several rogue countries including Iran had offered greater sums. The Rosca report’s claim that Chisinau should have held a tender in order to earn more from the sale seems therefore especially doubtful. In addition to the cash, the Pentagon delivered some assistance to the Moldovan military as a reward for the MiGs. According to Lucinschi, “[Moldova] could have sold these fighters to those countries with which such deals are banned. We would have profited financially in that case, but we would have hurt relations with the United States” (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, December 9-14).