WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Moldova Looks To Europe As Russian Influence Declines Throughout Region.

Add Moldova to the list of countries shunning Russian attempts to establish a customs union to rival Europe’s. And Moscow, appearing increasingly weak in its near-abroad, is furious.

Larger and more prosperous countries like Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Belarus are well on their way to choosing Europe over Russia, despite relentless Russian strong-arming. Armenia looked set to join them last month before its president abruptly gave in to Russian pressure and joined the Moscow-sponsored Eurasian Customs Union over the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.

Now it’s Moldova’s turn to choose. After decades of dependence on Russia and the Soviet Union before it, the tiny republic, by far the poorest on the continent, seems to be heading Europe’s way. Its move westward has provoked the usual warnings and threats from Russian leaders. “We hope that you will not freeze,” Russia’s deputy prime minister said, suggesting Moscow would shut down the pipelines that send Russian gas to the energy-starved country. Not long after that, Russian officials, citing vague health concerns, stopped imports of Moldovan wine, which make up a huge percentage of the country’s exports. There have also been warnings that the tens of thousands of Moldovans working in Russia would be expelled.

“Rather than intimidating leaders of the country’s fragile coalition government, however, Russia’s tactics have only cemented their resolve to complete the political and free trade agreements with the European Union,” the New York Times reported today. “The signing of these agreements,” said the Moldovan president, “is the only chance that Moldova has in order to develop itself as a European country and in the European spirit.”

Hey, just because Vlad was able to roll Barry on Syria doesn’t mean he’s winning everywhere.