Three months ago, the simple uttering of the possibility of a Russian military intervention in the Republic of Moldova would have been described as sheer speculation. But the war in Ukraine destroys the old perceptions of the geopolitical realities based on the observance of international law in the interstate relations. The earlier predictableness of the international relations is shaken dangerously, with Moscow being attributed the role of destabilizer of the old world order. They even reached the situation when, on the state Russian TV channel Rossia 1, they discuss in an easy and even relaxed way the potential nuclear attack on the United States, the context being the recent successful test launch by the Russians of an intercontinental ballistic rocket “Satan 2”. According to the Russian propaganda, one rocket of this type can fully destroy New York City Against such a background, the real cost of the security of a state like the Republic of Moldova, in light of the revanchist Russian policies, is catastrophically devalued.
Do they invent a reason?
Amid the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities organized a large-scale rally in support of the military intervention in the neighboring country, which involved President Putin, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022. There, it was sung a patriotic song that contained the following words, translated into Romanian: “Ukraine, Crimea, Belarus and Moldova – this is my homeland!” This message, packed in an alleged artistic form of a famous song performed in the presence of the political leader of the Russian state, suggests that Moscow’s ambitions do not stop at Ukraine and go much further. The confirmation for the case of the Republic of Moldova came from a high-ranking Russian official, general Rustam Minnekayev, a deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, who said that Moscow wants to gain full control over southern Ukraine and Donbas and intends to create a land corridor to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, and also a corridor to the self-proclaimed Transnistrian republic on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. “The control over southern Ukraine is another path to Transnistria, where there is also evidence that the Russian-speaking population is oppressed,” said the bellicose Minnekayev, being quoted by TASS.
Russia oppresses the Russian speakers in Transnistria
In accordance with the diplomatic law, Russia’s Ambassador in Chisinau Oleg Vasnetsov was invited to Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration to provide explanations over the content of these statements made by the Russian general, these being described by the Moldovan officials as unfounded and contrary to the Russian Federation’s official stance of recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders. As the Reintegration Policies Bureau of the Moldovan Government specified, given the Russian military presence in the Transnistrian region, namely the Russian side effectively exerts control over this region of the Republic of Moldova and this fact was ascertained by the multiple judgments passed by the European Court of Human Rights. It means that general Minnekayev accuses the Russian side of oppression of the Russian-speaking population in Transnistria. There is evident nonsense in the Russian general’s logic, but in this case not the form of expression, but rather the necessity of inventing a casus belli with regard to the Republic of Moldova matters.
The recent statement of the first deputy chairman of the State Duma committee on CIS affairs, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots Victor Volodatsky made the situation even tenser. This didn’t hesitate to underline that Russian citizens live in Transnistria and they, as those from Luhansk and Donetsk, want a safe future alongside Russia. “The inhabitants of the Transnistrian region are our citizens. They want the same thing as those from DPR and LPR and from South Ossetia. They realize that only together with Russia, they, their children and grandchildren can continue to live in safety and peace. Given that the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu banned the Ribbon of Saint George on Moldova’s territory, this will be a repeat of the Ukrainian scenario. We should not allow Sandu and her Romanian backers to cause now a new war on the territory of Transnistria. This Nazism that caught roots near us should be only destroyed, rooted out and forgotten for many years to come,” said Vodolatsky.
The Brits anticipated provocations in Moldova
On April 22, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) of the UK published a special report titled “Operation Z: The Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion” in which it describes in detail the “special military operation”, which is the official euphemism of the Kremlin for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the report, Moscow’s plan is to ensure effective control over Ukraine until the May 9 victory day. One of the four subchapters of the report is devoted to the Republic of Moldova and to the Russian influence in our country. The report authors said the Russian secret services plan to provoke a new political crisis in Chisinau against the background of the banning of the symbols of the invasion in Ukraine through the agency of mass protests. The report notes that after Chisinau banned the public use of the Russian military symbols and of the ribbon of St. George, the Ukrainian intelligence services started to receive information that major general Dmitry Milyutin of the 5th FSB Service, who is responsible for the Republic of Moldova, was considering the organization of a protest movement in Moldova, which would intentionally use the banned symbols, stirring things up and destabilizing the internal political situation this way.
In fewer than three days of the publication of the mentioned report, the mass media in the Transnistrian region on April 25 reported that the so-called state security ministry in Tiraspol was attacked with grenade launchers even if the building was empty at that moment. Later, in the morning of April 26, two blasts occurred and two radio transmitters of Mayak center were damaged. An attack on the military airdrome in Tiraspol was also announced. As if by order, the TV channels in Moscow started a real propagandistic tsunami over the necessity of a Russian military assault detachment in Transnistria, simultaneously with the recognition of the independence of the Transnistrian secessionist enclave by the State Duma. One of the top propagandists of Putin, Sergey Makcov, told the Russian daily Pravda that Romania intends to attack Transnistria with the assistance of NATO and with the participation of the Ukrainian army so as to later annex the Republic of Moldova. Earlier, the former defense minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Strelkov sad that according to his information, Romania was getting ready to occupy the Republic of Moldova.
Theoretical and practical, declared and undeclared invasion risks from outside
Judging by the manner of the behavior precedent in Ukraine, we can deduce that at propagandistic level, Moscow is already prepared for the military invasion of the Republic of Moldova. However, at least for now, no other necessary preconditions appeared, such as that of military logistics. The situation in Odessa remains the decisive condition for the calculation of a military operation in the Republic of Moldova. But the resistance of Odessa requires an adjustment of the Russian plans concerning the junction with Transnistria. At least on TV channels in Moscow, they actively discuss the plan of a Russian assault on the Black Sea seaside in Bugeac, bypassing and enclosing Odessa. The destruction with Russian rockets of the bridge in Zatoka, which is the only Ukrainian railway connection with this area, is a confirmation of such a plan. On the other hand, secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev insinuates that the policies of the West and the regime in Kyiv lead to the division of Ukraine into a number of states. In this connection, we should remember an old secessionist plan for creating the so-called republic in Bugeac, which failed in 2015, but can generate an additional danger of reinvigoration of the Gagauz separatism in the Republic of Moldova if it is put into practice today.
However, at official level, Moscow’s position in relation to the Republic of Moldova is expressed in conciliatory terms by the Russian deputy minister of foreign affairs Andrei Rudenko, which at this stage of developments shows that Russia sees no risk in the separatist region of the Republic of Moldova - Transnistria – and wants the situation there to be solved peaceful. But this appeasing attitude of the Russian official should not mislead anyone given the recent statement about the impossibility of a war against Ukraine made at the senior level in Moscow, which turned out to be ordinary cheating. Not even the difficulties of supplying a Russian military operation in the Republic of Moldova can serve as a guarantee against an eventual aggression. Let’s remember the fundamental fault in the calculation of the Kremlin’s strategies concerning the war in Ukraine. Moreover, in light of the military blockage in Ukraine, Putin needs a military success story for selling it to Russian public opinion during the May 9 festivities. The Republic of Moldova, with a national army that has been ignored by the Moldovan political class for 30 years, with a society that is not united in terms of identity, with a strong pro-Russian fifth column, is an easy, but not ideal target for the revisionist plans of Putin. In such conditions, it would be a big political and civil irresponsibility to ignore all these imminent risks of a Russian military invasion of the Republic of Moldova.
Urgent support for the army
It’s true that Chisinau’s potential to riposte to these risks is extremely limited. Therefore, all the possible responses to the existing security challenges should be activated. It is categorically contraindicated for these responses to be limited only to the official decisions announced by the Supreme Security Council on April 26 this year. The Republic of Moldova needs not only calls for vigilance, but also practical measures to militarily discourage potential external aggression, in particular on the part of the Russian military forces and Transnistrian paramilitary forces from the left side of the Nistru. The National Army urgently needs to be equipped with a sufficient number of antitank and anti-aircraft rockets like Javelin and Stinger – defensive armament – that turned out to be efficient in the war in Ukraine. It is inacceptable to ignore the presence of tens of tanks and attack helicopters in Transnistria at a time when the National Army fully lacks such armament.
A state can be protected only by its citizens who are aware of the cause they defend
The escalation of tensions in Transnistria risks being complemented with possible internal conflicts on the right side of the Nistru for the reason that different segments of Moldovan society perceive equivocally and sometimes in a diametrically opposed way the historical significance of the May 9 holiday. This fact can be easily used by Moscow as an argument of alleged violation of the rights of the Russian citizens in the Republic of Moldova and, consequently, as a pretext for a military intervention for defending these. In such conditions, the political opposition of the left must definitely give up staging large-scale public events to celebrate the May 9 holiday this year, for national security reasons. The ignoring of such absolutely unjustified requests would be equal to complicity in causing the war and to treason. The absence of such a request was an omission, as was the respective appreciation of the refusal of the opposition of the left to comply with the request formulated in the decisions of a recent meeting of the Supreme Security Council.
During the last few days, the risks of extension of the war to the Republic of Moldova grew exponentially. In such conditions, the attempts to present these risks as press speculations aimed at generating panic in society categorically become counterproductive and even dangerous. At this stage, we need the massive mobilization of Moldovan society, especially energetic measures to strengthen the state’s defense capacities. A state can be protected only by its citizens who realize the just cause they defend. Therefore, public communication, alongside other measures to strengthen the defense capacities of the state, becomes a major priority of the government.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.