Republic of Moldova: fear of war


Threats of war appear to be the favorite tool Russia believes it is using to keep the Moldovan leadership in check. But the Republic of Moldova is protected by Ukraine, say experts in Chisinau.

Tiraspol is the capital of separatist region of Transnistria

A new Russian scaremongering has startled the people of Moldova. This time the mechanism was triggered by the so-called “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” in Tiraspol, the capital of the separatist region of Transnistria.  The website of the Transnistrian pseudo-institution published an official statement about the “concerns” expressed by the head of the agency, Vitaly Ignatyev, during a virtual meeting with several Russian officials. Ignatiev lamented the “increased pressure” on Transnistria as a result of the expansion of the Moldovan national army's defense capacity. This is happening “against the background of the Transnistria conflict that has not been finally resolved”. There is also increased “repression of everything Russian” in Moldova – an old pro-Russian separatist narrative that Russia usually uses to justify its military aggression against independent states such as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.     

Ignatiev complains to Russia

Ignatiev also complained that the leadership in Chisinau had significantly increased the budget for the army in 2023 – including for arms purchases from the West.

He also complained about the “technical and financial assistance” to the Moldovan army from the EU and the US. According to the Transnistrian politician, Chisinau would thereby improve the military interoperability of the national army with NATO systems. In addition, there were attempts by the Moldovan leadership “to achieve the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria and the dissolution of the Russian peacekeeping mission at international level”. 

Because of the security threats posed by Russia's war against Ukraine, Chisinau is increasingly speaking of the need for a modern defense system. The German offer of the Piranha infantry fighting vehicle is part of this strategy.   

According to current surveys, more than 70 percent of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova are now convinced that the modernization of the national army is essential.

Fear of jail for separatism

Ignatiev also expressed his irritation at the law recently passed by the parliament in Chisinau, which provides for criminal sanctions, including prison terms, for separatism and subversive actions against the state. 

The head of the so-called Transnistrian representation in Moscow, Leonid Manakov. He proposed the creation of a group of experts to develop a mechanism to defend the rights of what he called “the Transnistrian people” and Russian citizens living in the Transnistrian region.

Dangerous attempt at intimidation

Oazu Nantoi, an MP for the ruling pro-European Action and Solidarity (PAS) party in the Chisinau parliament, told DW that the information published on the separatist institution's website is “part of a standard technology that Russia is using to try to calm fear among to incite the Moldovans in order to obtain new concessions from Chisinau”. These reactions, according to Nantoi, underscored the hypocrisy of the Kremlin regime, which he described as “a fascist regime” characterized by “a personalized dictatorship that destroys everything that means political democracy and human rights”.

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It was a clear attempt to intimidate Moldova's leadership: “Russia's fifth column in Chisinau feeds on these narratives – we expect their representatives to accompany this hysterical campaign,” Natoi commented. According to him, the Kremlin controls a center that generates this fear-mongering. Fear of war is the weapon with which Russia is now strengthening its fifth column in the Republic of Moldova, because it believes that this will subjugate the government in Chisinau. But the Kremlin does not understand that Moldova is now protected on the battlefield by Ukraine and that the degree of subservience to Russia is therefore not an issue. “We remain in solidarity with Ukraine and are working on the legal basis for the peaceful dismantling of the separatist regime in Tiraspol,” said the Moldovan MP.

Everything depends on Ukraine's victory 

The decision-makers in Chisinau have repeatedly pointed out that the solution to the Transnistria conflict depends on Ukraine's victory in the war started by Russia in February 2022. The conflict over the separatist region, which broke away from Moldova with Russian support in the early 1990s, can only be resolved peacefully and with respect for Moldova's territorial integrity. 

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Regarding the fate of the Russian soldiers stationed illegally in the Transnistrian region, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said in a recent interview that the Republic of Moldova would seek peaceful means to evacuate Russian troops from Transnistria: “The illegal presence of Russian troops on the The territory of Moldova is a factor of instability both for Moldova and for the region as a whole. The only mechanism we want to use to get these soldiers out of our territory is diplomacy, negotiations and dialogue with the Russian and Transnistrian side,” said Popescu.  

“Destruction of Moldova”

Meanwhile, members of the Russian State Duma threatened Moldova with destruction as a state if it decided to join NATO.

The threat was issued by the head of the CIS Affairs Committee in the Russian parliament, Leonid Kalashnikov, after Moldovan President Maia Sandu said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that her country was giving up its neutrality in favor of integration into a “bigger alliance”. could. Kalashnikov noted: “If Moldova wants to destroy its own state, this is the best way. If they think that like Finland or Sweden, they can secretly and quickly take advantage of the situation and join NATO and nothing will happen to them, then they should do it remember that Finland has two state languages ​​and respects its people.” Moldova has two regions, Gagauzia and Transnistria, inhabited by Russian speakers who expressed their will long ago – in the early 1990s.    

One a similar reaction came from Svetlana Yurova, the first deputy chairwoman of the Russian State Duma's committee on international affairs. She said Moldova had angered Russia several times recently with the decisions it had taken, and called on the Russian Foreign Ministry to respond.

Adapted from Romanian: Robert Schwartz