Eastern Europe may be facing an Orange Revolution

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

To paraphrase Marx and Engels, a specter is haunting the tyrannical former communist regimes of Eastern Europe - the specter of the Orange Revolution.

Once safe ruling their impoverished enclaves of repression and corruption, the ex-communists, who go by such euphemisms as "moderate centrists," are now facing massive popular revolt and a spreading demand for freedom and real democracy.

Beginning in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, the orange tide spread to Ukraine, where it engulfed the former nomenklatura and apparatchiks of the Soviet era and forced them from power. Now the revolution spreads, on its own as they all do, to tiny, oppressed Moldova.

Email newsletter signup

Born in infamy by a provision in the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, Moldova was split off from Romania and given to the Soviet Union, where it languished as a "people's republic" until 1991. But this battered and oppressed land of 4 million mistook the democratic promises of former communists who turned out to be controlled by the Russian mafia. Their leader became the richest person in the nation through unfathomable corruption.

The stench became so pervasive that, in 2001, a desperate electorate turned the mobsters out and put the unreconstructed communists back in charge. The repression that followed was predictable. Free media was snuffed out, opposition politicians were "investigated" and, in local elections, opposition parties had no access to the media and were denied permits for their meetings and rallies.

But the birth of freedom in Ukraine has inspired the tiny Christian Democratic Party, under the charismatic and tireless Iurie Rosca, to aspire to create a genuinely free Moldova. Symbolically backed by the Ukrainian democrat Viktor Yushchenko, Rosca is battling to make the voice of democracy heard despite the state-controlled media that won't cover his party except to defame it.

Unfortunately, he gets no support or even sympathy from the diplomatic dunderheads in our own State Department who profess, and unfortunately practice, a neutrality that removes the United States from the side of those fighting for freedom. They pretend any election in which opposition parties are denied access to the media is somehow fair and free.

There seems to be a disjuncture between the Bush Freedom Doctrine and the policies and activities of his own State Department. There, officials seem not to have read the second Bush inaugural address or internalized its commitment to freedom.

In Moldova, the communists, for once refreshingly candid, still go by the name of "communist." But they find themselves locked in a close three-way battle against the Russian mafia party - the so-called Moldova Democratic Alliance - and Rosca's Christian Democrats (with the small but growing Social Democratic Party, a pro-democracy leftist party, as a potential surprise). With the election scheduled for March 6, the possibility that the orange momentum will sweep all before it has the power structure terrified. Only our own State Department seems to be, at best, ignoring the developments and, at worst, rooting for the wrong side.

The Moldovan communists, now cut off from Russia by a democratic Ukraine, say they have broken with Putin, but their Titoesque independent communism may be falling in the face of the Orange tide.

Meanwhile, Putin backs the party controlled by the Russian mafia, which ruled the country in the '90s. His troops occupy Transniestria, the easternmost part of Moldova, which they "encouraged" to break away from Moldova, and have set up a mafia-dominated regime.

Moldova bleeds under its repression. One-third of the population has left. Human trafficking in body parts and in prostitutes of both sexes is ubiquitous, and university professors earn $30 per month.

But this tiny nation has assumed a geo-strategic importance that only our State Department seems to ignore. If the Orange Revolution can capture a third former communist state, the wave will be strengthened, perhaps enough to topple repressive regimes in Belarus and even to kindle the fires of freedom in Russia.

The regime will undoubtedly try to steal the election, but Western exit polls - more accurate there than here - may make their chicanery obvious. In the meantime, Rosca will flood the streets with thousands of young people waving orange banners imported from Ukraine and demanding freedom. Then it will be up to the United States and Europe to help the people achieve the democracy they covet.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faces her first test. Will she go with the cautious, Moscow sympathizers of her bureaucracy or with the forces of freedom fanned so eloquently by her president? The world waits.

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. E-mail Morris at dmredding@aol.com