All Eyes on Moldova

, by Konstantin Chopov

All Eyes on Moldova
Tank in Transnistria, Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 4.0 <> , via Wikimedia Commons

Alarming tidings from Moldova: Earlier today the Congress of Deputies of the unrecognized pro-Russian entity “Republic of Transnistria”, which is located in the eastern Moldova, has made an appeal to the Russian authorities to provide Transnistria with "protection” “amidst increased pressure from Moldova.” This appeal also emphasized that the protection is required not for Transnistrian population or authorities, but rather for 220 thousand Russian citizens living in this unrecognized entity. To me current events in Transnistria strongly resemble the situation that took place during the days leading to the start of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict on 24 February 2022 due to the following reasons:

Firstly, one of President Putin’s primary ostensible motivations for starting the Ukraine conflict was precisely the desire to protect Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population of from “oppression” by Kiev’s “fascist-Bandera junta" (how Russian propaganda refers to the current Ukrainian government under President Zelensky).

Secondly, according to the Kremlin, the official trigger for Putin’s decision to deploy troops were requests from the leaders of the unrecognized republics in eastern Ukraine, which in which they called on Russia to recognize them as independent states and come to their defense.

However, the most important similarity between the two cases is the fact that both Moldova and Ukraine are governed by pro-Western political forces, that have replaced pro-Kremlin politicians and who been consistently opposing the Kremlin after their accession to power. For instance, last year Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused the Kremlin of plotting a coup against her government.

For context, it is also necessary to mention that Russia has always been heavily involved in eastern Moldova. Transnistria since its very establishment in 1990, with Russian assistance, is a de facto Russian satellite state, with Russia maintaining a significant military presence in the republic over the past decades. Nowadays, this presence is arguably the main factor preventing Transnistrian reunification with Moldova and also preventing Moldova itself from increasing its level of integration with the West by joining NATO.

Consequently, considering the significance of Russian military presence in Moldova, alarming level of contextual similarities with Ukraine in February of 2022 and concerns expressed by some European and NATO officials regarding Putin’s future plans, current developments in Moldova is certainly something to cautiously keep an eye on over the next days, months and years. Only time will tell whether this Russian provocation is merely a rhetorical move or a prelude to an incursion which will test European unity and solidarity.

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