We Can Teach Trump How To Fight Putin's Russia | Opinion

Here in Europe’s east, in Russia’s shadow, we are watching the gradual uncovering of Russia’s interference with U.S. politics closely. How does the United States, the world’s greatest power, deal with such an intrusion?

We have dealt with Russia’s intrusion for years—ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union—and we are constantly adapting and finding new ways to push back on this undue influence. Having recently hosted my counterparts from Ukraine and Georgia for a security conference, I can say with confidence that those of us in the region are becoming more successful in our efforts, but that Western support is more critical than ever.

The largest differences between our situation and Washington’s are Russia’s proximity to us and the physical Russian military presence occupying portions of all three countries. Looming large is the significant and ever-present threat that our neighbor’s appetite for land will grow. In Moldova alone, Russia controls 11% of our territory with its decades-long occupation of Transnistria. If that were the United States, it would be roughly equivalent to Russian troops holding Texas and California.

We also speak the same language as our hegemonic neighbor. Here in Moldova, most of our citizens speak Russian as well as Romanian (with Moldova dialect), and 75% of our television programming originates from Moscow. If Russian trolls were pretty good at fooling English-speaking Americans, they are even better in their native tongue.

In response, our parliament has banned Russian propaganda and disinformation from certain Russian TV outlets over the Moldovan airwaves. It is a significant step in rooting out Russia’s influence over our politics and population.

We also continue to push Westward in our ambitions and partnerships while developing a constructive, respect-based relationship with Russia. We will never be able to shut ourselves off completely from Russia culturally, politically or economically, but we are putting our focus on deepening our relationships with the European Union, NATO (through the Partnership for Peace Programme) and the United States.

Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are all active members of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, a program launched in 2009 by Poland and Sweden to foster political association and economic integration for newer democracies on Europe’s eastern flank. It was a compromise between the EU member-states’ interests and the strong voice of Eastern neighborhood supporters, but I suspect that most now would consider it a success.

GettyImages-810240458 U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

While there is no timeline or clear path for accession to the EU, the process alone has led Moldova, as well as Ukraine and Georgia, to implement reforms that help open markets for trade, align legislation with the EU, achieve visa liberalization and, most importantly, provide real impetus for domestic democratic change.

The push for positive change, both from external pressures of the West and domestic ones from citizens demanding a better life, will help our security as well. As our institutions and rule of law become stronger, we will have more spine to stand up against illegal activities in my country originated by our large neighbor.

The United States is blessed by strong institutions built over 200 years, which has allowed it to deal methodically with Russia’s digital incursions. Our democracy dates to just 1991, so our institutions aren’t nearly as established.

Still, because of this deficit we are able make great strides in a short time. These are measures that, regardless of when or if we successfully integrate into the EU and NATO structures, will help us become a better, more prosperous country for the benefit of our citizens. We still look to the United States for inspiration and assistance, and that will never change.

The U.S. rarely needs lessons from countries as small as ours, but given our shared threats and Moldova’s proximity to the source, perhaps we can help. While the U.S. continues to sort out the Russian threat to its democracy, know that we are on the front lines for Russia’s hybrid campaign for influence and sowing discord.

As such, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia pledge closer cooperation with our Western partners to share information about—and fight against—this common threat. After years of benefiting from the help and generosity of the West, we are glad to give back.

Andrian Candu is the speaker of the Moldovan Parliament.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​

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