That is the question that haunted millions of Romanians after World War II. Soviet troops had entered the country, Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina had been recaptured by Stalin, SovRoms were draining national wealth and political and cultural elites had been exterminated, but the Romanians continued to entertain this hope for many more decades.
It was only after 1989 that the Americans came, when President Iliescu substituted his pro-Soviet servility with a policy meant to promote Euro-Atlantic values.
In Bessarabia, only a few waited for the Americans after the war. I must confess that the gap between the options and standards existing within the same, albeit divided nation have always confounded me.
We Bessarabians were taught that the United States is the imperialist enemy, the embodiment of evil on Earth, a greedy beast that wants to devour the homeland of triumphant socialism. The same things were being repeated in communist Romania, but they never seemed to strike a chord with our brothers across the Prut River. In Bessarabia, however, where Russification policies permeated everything like acid rain, we hated the Americans as passionately as we hated ourselves.
Unfortunately, this schizoid perception continued after the USSR dissolved. The Moldovan people and the “new” political class were suspicious of Americans, whom they did not consider enemies per se (as they no longer had any reason to), but whom they saw as being synonymous with absolute otherness, as being different from them in spirit and education.
This “education” also remained in place during the country’s independent years, through Moscow policies and Russian mass-media, which were dominant over here. The Bessarabians’ scant sympathy for NATO, which could be accounted for by ignorance and decades of manipulation, says a lot about their dependency on Cold War clichés. Nevertheless, the Americans and their values have managed to reach Bessarabia.
For instance, the fact that Moldova did not go through another war on the Dniester is primarily owed to the U.S. and their policies aimed at discouraging Russian expansionism. Moreover, the Moldovan civil society and NGOs appeared and developed due to American support, the most obvious proof of which is the SOROS Foundation, whose contributions to the emergence and strengthening of our independent press were substantial.
Beyond the reticence of a hesitant political class that often has a double agenda and beyond the skepticism of a confused society that does not know what is in its best interest (i.e., a life lived in freedom), Joe Biden’s visit to Chişinău — a first-time event at this level — shows that Moldova’s relationship with the United States has registered progress.
I do not know whether the Bessarabians will also be graced with a rainbow over Opera Square in Chişinău, where the American Vice President will give his speech, as it happened in Bucharest in 2002 during George W. Bush's visit. In the end, we can do without a metaphor! Nevertheless, I would like to hope that our American friend has arrived just in time and that we have made a decisive choice for our destiny.