Shoes That Have Not Yet Dropped

Someone asked me earlier today what I thought of the ongoing political unrest in Moldova. I didn’t have anything especially to say, but I was able to make the observation that there’s always the outside chance that Romania will try to intervene in the situation. Moldovans are Romanian-speaking and their territory was part of the Romanian state in the past. The protests are being characterized as “anti-Communist” in nature, but also reflect disagreement about whether Moldova should be oriented toward Bucharest or to Moscow. You can see this reflected in the fact that the party line is that this agitation is all being masterminded by Romania:

“We know that certain forces from Romania masterminded these riots,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Mr. Voronin as saying. “Romanian flags which were planted on state buildings in Chisinau prove this.”

You could imagine Romania and Russia both intervening in this situation as part of a regional tug-o-war. And Romania’s in NATO, so next thing you know maybe it’ll be nuclear war. But obviously that’s unlikely.

Still, the larger issue is that political instability in former Soviet Republics embeds a lot of potentially problematic international conflicts. And the recession is fostering a lot of political instability. Not only in Moldova but also (via Ezra Klein) in Ukraine where, again, domestic political conflicts are tied in with geopolitical struggles between Russia and the West. And there’s also, it seems, trouble in Thailand.

This sort of thing is probably the most fundamental danger in the economic crisis. Given enough time and calm, the policies the major countries have put in place should lead to a recovery sooner or later. But if “sooner or later” takes too long, the calm starts to go away and there are big risks of downward spiraling.