U.S. Moldova Relations: Working together to build a democratic, prosperous, and secure future. Ambassador Kent Logsdon at Moldova State University

U.S. Ambassador Kent Logsdon
U.S. Moldova Relations: Working together to build a democratic, prosperous, and secure future.
May 10, 2023
Moldova State University

Good morning! It’s wonderful to be back at the State University and talking once again to such a dynamic group of scholars. Rector Sharov and Dean Solcan, thank you for once more welcoming me to your campus. We’re proud of our long partnership with the State University of Moldova, including our work together to bring Mediacor to life.

A little more than a year ago, I came to the University to give my first major speech as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova. I had arrived here just a few short months before. I had already begun to realize the significant challenges Moldova faces, but also to understand the enormous opportunities available to Moldova.
When I spoke to you last year, we were celebrating our first 30 years of diplomatic relations. At that time it seemed appropriate to lay out a vision for where we believed the next 30 can take us.

Today I want to give you my thoughts on where we stand one year later. I’m going to talk about how the United States and the Republic of Moldova are working together to build a democratic, prosperous, and secure future for both our countries.

Keep those words in mind: democratic, prosperous, and secure. They’re the key to everything the United States and the Republic of Moldova are doing together. You might wonder how we came up with these three words. Last year, the embassy’s top leaders came together to think about what we are trying to accomplish here. And these were the words that we came up with. I hope after my speech today you will look on our embassy Facebook page at some of my earlier remarks this year at events around Moldova. You should see these three words!
I’ll share some thoughts on the successes we’ve had working together as well as what our priorities will be going forward.

But I’m also very curious to hear from you about where you think things are headed and what role you expect to play. So, when we get to the end of my prepared remarks, I’ll be glad to answer some of your questions, but I’ll also have some of my own.

A smart professor of mine once told me that you should give students a chance to prepare if you want them to fully participate, so let me give you a couple of hints about what I might be asking you:

  • What do you think of the current state of democracy in Moldova, and what can your generation of Moldovans do to strengthen democracy here for years to come?
  • What does Moldova need to do now to build a more prosperous economic future that encourages young Moldovans to stay here?
  • What security challenges do you see for Moldova, and how can international partners help to address them?

Let me share my thoughts with you now, and then I’m eager to have a discussion.

We find ourselves at a unique moment in Moldova’s history today. Because of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and Moldova’s compassionate response to the many refugees who came here, the world knows the story of this small country with a big heart. But it’s about more than just compassion for the plight of refugees.

Today, the world also knows the story of Moldova’s decision to cast off decades of entrenched corruption and choose a Euro-Atlantic path where democracy and the rule of law are built up for the benefit of all citizens.

Today, the world knows the story of Moldova’s candidate status for EU membership and the hard economic and other reforms this country is going through to build that brighter future.

And today, the world knows about Moldova’s decisions to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine while investing in its security to strengthen itself against those from outside who wish to do it harm.

For too long people outside of Moldova have thought of this place as a former Soviet country. More and more people realize that that’s an out-of-date way of looking at things.
Today, the world knows that Moldova is a future EU country, and that’s how we should be talking about it.

President Biden had all of this in mind when he met President Sandu in Warsaw earlier this year. As he said there, the United States is proud to stand with the freedom loving people of Moldova as you strengthen your democracy, build your prosperity, and invest in your security.

Moldova’s democracy has never been stronger than it is today. After years of mismanagement and corrupt leadership, Moldovans chose a path of integrity and honesty, and the results are impressive.

In October, the U.S. government announced sanctions designations against Vladimir Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor for their attempts to destabilize Moldova using the money they have stolen from the Moldovan people. The UK also announced sanctions against both men in December, and we hope that the EU will soon be acting as well.
But building a democratic Moldova isn’t just about sanctions against corrupt oligarchs. The United States continues to support your country as you pursue the crucial reforms that are necessary to secure your democratic future and to prepare for entry into the European Union.

Progress on rule of law and good governance is not just about meeting EU benchmarks—it is about improving lives of everyday Moldovans and helping them restore trust in government.
We are helping Moldovans build a strong and effective civil society. And we are supporting independent media and professional journalists to emphasize media literacy as a tool for citizens to discern between factual reporting and propaganda.

Sometimes we are asked what the difference is between our support for independent media and Russia’s efforts to flood the media market with propaganda and entertainment shows. The difference is transparency – you will always know when we are supporting a station or a production because you will see a US flag or a USAID symbol. The other difference is that we don’t ask independent media to only air reports that are favorable to the United States or even the Government of Moldova. Sometimes our media partners can be quite critical of us or our actions. And that’s okay.

Moldova’s democratic reform and anti-corruption agenda has been an inspiration as you seek to reform institutions, protect human rights, and counteract decades of state capture by corrupt oligarchs.

We are working with your government and civil society to support judicial vetting and build capacity to investigate and prosecute corruption. Moldova deserves a strong independent court system that treats all citizens equally under the law. That’s why we and the EU and the Dutch are supporting the government’s efforts on judicial reform. We are supporting the international pre-vetting commission, which even includes a retired American judge, to help get honest people into Moldova’s top judicial bodies. And we are committed to support the vetting commissions that will start later this year with the goal of an honest and independent Supreme Council of Magistrates, Supreme Court of Justice, and Supreme Council of Prosecutors.

Only with a judiciary that inspires confidence will we begin to see the investment and flourishing of new businesses that Moldova needs. Democracy and rule of law are the foundation for economic prosperity. And we know that building Moldova’s economy is crucial to this country’s future.

When I travel around Moldova I hear from so many people about their economic anxieties. How can I pay my utility bills? How can I afford to retire? What future is there here for my children? These are all fundamental questions, and the United States is working with the government to help build a brighter economic future for all Moldovans.

We recognize the severe economic impacts on Moldova from Russia’s war against Ukraine and Moldova’s economic resilience and recovery remains a priority of our assistance.

We are partnering with your government and business sector to increase productivity in key sectors, deepen market integration with the West, and unlock new export markets. Just last week, Amazon Web Services signed an agreement with the Government to investigate cloud-based computing and data storage.

We are also helping Moldova’s technology and communications sectors be more competitive on the international market. We’ve invested through USAID’s Future Technologies Activity in new majors in Moldova’s universities and robotics clubs in Moldovan schools.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has shown how reliance on Russian sources of energy threaten national security and economic stability. This is not a new problem – for 30 years, little was done to avoid dangerous energy dependency on a country that disregards the sovereignty of its neighbors.

We are supporting Moldova’s efforts to diversify energy supplies to help build a more resilient country.

The United States is providing $220 million dollars to help Moldova make a leap forward in energy self-sufficiency through buying industrial-grade battery storage and completing key interconnections with Romania to further connect Moldova with the European electricity grid. Last winter, for the first time, Moldova purchased natural gas from non-Gazprom suppliers, a historic event that the United States was proud to support through our assistance to build the capacity of Moldova’s energy sector.

European integration is key to your democratic development, but it’s also key to your economic development. As Moldova continues its EU accession process, the United States will keep working with your government to improve the business environment, invest in a sustainable economy, build energy security, and protect the rights of workers.

If Moldova is going to build its democracy and become more prosperous, it must also be secure. Of course, we know the greatest threat to Moldova’s security comes from Russia.
As I have said since Russia began its brutal war of aggression in Ukraine more than a year ago, the United States continues to see no direct, military threat to the Republic of Moldova.

But we know the Russian government is interested in seeing Moldova on a different path. We know leaders in Moscow are working actively to undermine Moldova’s democratic development and European trajectory. That is happening through hybrid warfare – by spreading mis-, dis- and mal-information on television and online. It is also happening through Moscow’s support of political forces who attempting to destabilize Moldova.

We said so very clearly from the White House earlier this year, and we continue to work with the government of Moldova to share information about the threats it faces. We also continue to have confidence in the government of Moldova to manage these threats. We have worked to equip and train the Police, Border Police, and Customs Service to strengthen internal and border security to keep Moldovans safe.

We are also encouraged to see Moldova’s leaders acknowledge that a country must be able to defend its neutrality. That’s a conversation that’s happening in Moldova for the first time in its more than 30 years of independence.

We applaud the government’s decision to significantly increase its investments in security to catch up after years of neglect.

The United States is proud of our defense partnership with Moldova. We have several security cooperation programs to help Moldova build its capacity to defend its constitutional neutrality.

The United States has provided over $123M in Foreign Military Financing and $36M in humanitarian assistance through our defense partnership over the years.

Since Russia began its brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, our annual defense assistance to Moldova has grown from $3 million to more than $30 million. We are pleased to see the European Union making similar investments in Moldova’s security.

We are also supporting Moldova’s efforts to build up its cybersecurity infrastructure and expertise and are working closely with our EU colleagues on cyber law and strategy development. Do you remember the reports of a Russian Killnet attack on Moldova’s government infrastructure last August? We just provided more than $600,000 of assistance to help strengthen cyber security. We are providing this kind assistance at the request of the government of Moldova as it works to bolster its ability to withstand cyber threats.

Security is a key component of our relationship, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation.

And I can’t leave today without mentioning the importance of our exchange programs.

In March at the U.S.-Moldova Strategic Dialogue meeting here in Chisinau, we launched a new People-to-People Working Group. We now have over 6,000 alumni of our U.S. Government-funded exchange programs. Perhaps some of you were FLEX students or are thinking of studying in the U.S. We have an educational consultant at America House if you want to talk to someone and get more information.

Some of you have also met Peace Corps volunteers here in Moldova. We have had more than 1,500 volunteers in Moldova over the past 30 years and they’ve changed lives. Just last week Minister of Labor and Social Protection Buzu told me that he met a Peace Corps volunteer as a high school student and that friendship encouraged him to go to university and study abroad before returning to Moldova. As some of you know, our Volunteers left Moldova at the beginning of the pandemic. However, in August, our first Volunteers will be back and we should have a full program up and running by the end of the year!

And one small commercial message. Many of you know about America Days – and some of you might have attended last year here in Chisinau or in another city around the city. Well America Days are back – and we’ll be in Chisinau the afternoon of Thursday, May 18, and in Balti on May 19, and in Cahul on May 20. Please come out and see us – we’ll have a band from the U.S., a chance to meet some Americans and to learn about our programs here in Moldova, and as many hot dogs as you can eat!

Over the last year, my wife Michelle and I have gotten to visit so many parts of Moldova and met so many wonderful people. We were in Cedar Lunga last week for the Hederlez horse festival and in the last few months have been in Causeni, in Soroca, in Taraclia, and in Ungheni to name just few places.

We have served overseas all over the world, but I don’t think either of us has ever seen a country so ripe with opportunities as Moldova is today.

I am convinced that our work together to build a democratic, prosperous, and secure future for Moldova is putting it on the path to be the country we all want it to be.

By the way, I’ll be in Chicago this weekend attending a meeting of the Moldovan-American diaspora. I’m excited to tell Moldovans living in the United States about all the exciting things that are happening here – and I’m going to tell them about this conversation today as well.

You, as this country’s next generation of leaders, will be responsible for continuing to guide it along that path.

With that in mind, I want to hear from you. As I said at the top of this, I have a few questions to ask you, but I’m also happy to answer your questions.
I’ll start us off, but feel free to come up to the microphone to ask me a question just as I’m asking things of you.

  • What do you think of the current state of democracy in Moldova, and what can your generation of Moldovans do to strengthen democracy here for years to come?
  • What does Moldova need to do now to build a more prosperous economic future that encourages young Moldovans to stay here?
  • What security challenges do you see for Moldova, and how can international partners help to address them?

Thanks for hosting me today!