At the Munich Security Conference last week, they discussed multiple existential problems of the contemporaneity, which are now overshadowed by the crisis around Ukraine. Towards the end of the meeting, a warning came from The Washington Post, about the order to stage a large-scale operation against Ukraine that was intercepted by the U.S. intelligence services. At the same time, a high-ranking European official stated for The Washington Post in Munich that he does not have any clear evidence of Putin’s determination to invade Ukraine and there are no incontestable proofs in this regard. This dichotomy in the approach to the probability of the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia created additional uncertainty and insecurity in the international political-diplomatic actions taken to counteract the danger of war.
Uncertainty, concerns, risks…
Meanwhile, even if the Russian troops started to be withdrawn from the border with Ukraine, Moscow decided to maintain the Russian troops in Belarus for joint military exercises that were set to end last Sunday. The sounds of expanding shelling are simultaneously heard on the conflict line in Donbas, accompanied by the mass evacuation of civilians from the zone controlled by separatists towards Russia. They insistently created the impression of a humanitarian catastrophe whose goal was to justice the actions to counteract this, including by military intervention.
Against such a background, the Western chancelleries endeavored to maximally realistically anticipate the probability of a war in Ukraine, even if the information they possessed objectively pointed to the existence of massive Russian troops on the border with this country, which could anytime degenerate into a military invasion. The inadvertence over the Russian military mobilization on the border with Ukraine was aggravated by the West’s confusion as to the fact if this mobilization was aimed at intimidating Kiev with the aim of making it abandon the plans to join NATO or represented a real war intention. The receipt of data from the Western intelligence services has been hampered by Russian disinformation campaigns, including Moscow’s statements about the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the area that are disseminated in the public propaganda space. However, even if there was no general unanimity on the imminence of the attack, it was evident that the Russian Federation built up forces, logistic, command and control elements around Ukraine so that these could act swiftly if President Putin ordered to launch the military aggression. The concerns and high risks that the Kremlin’s actions will become really aggressive derived from here.
Amid the febrile diplomatic efforts to stop the escalation of the military danger, Russia staged a large exhibition of military force with nuclear exercises that involved ballistic rockets, submarines and convoys of tanks. The stringent sound of the Russian guns made the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UK Liz Truss to make an emotional call to the whole international community to combine forces so as to respond to Moscow’s aggression. Truss said that if Putin attacks and occupies Ukraine, there will be a precedent and this will be an impetus to use military forces to annex a number of ex-Soviet states, such as Moldova, Georgia and the Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, even if the latter ones are NATO members. The British minister added that: “Putin publicly stated his wish to build Great Russia, to return to the situation that existed earlier, when Russia controlled huge areas in Eastern Europe. So, it is very important for us and our allies to make Putin lose face. It can be Ukraine next week and what country will be next?”
More determination in some of chancelleries
The international community’s distressing expectations about the resolution of the crisis around Ukraine ended with an event typical of the Russian politics of the last few years. On Monday, President Putin signed the decrees on the recognition by Russia of the independence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Convoked urgently on the night of Tuesday, the UN Security Council debated the problem, while the ambassador of Ukraine at the meeting presented the copies of the decrees on the recognition of the “independence” of the Georgian secessionist provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008 to prove that they are identical with the texts of the decrees referring to Donetsk and Luhansk. “The Kremlin literally copied today (Monday) the decrees on Georgia of 2008. No creativity. Word by word. Copy-paste. The Xerox machine of the Kremlin works very well. Who is the next UN member (in the role of Ukraine)? The question is open,” said the Ukrainian diplomat.
The recognition by Russia of the “independence” of the territories that are under the control of the pro-Russian separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk also envisions the entry of Russian troops into these territories that de jure belong to Ukraine so as to ensure “the keeping of peace”. This way, after the suspense that lasted for weeks, after amassing tens of thousands of troops and equipment on the border with Ukraine, which caused fears about Russian invasion of the neighboring country, Russia sent its army to eastern Ukraine in the form of “peacekeeping troops” at the request of Donets and Luhansk. In other words, the international community faced high probability of a large-scale war being immediately avoided at the cost of the permanentization of the danger of a latent war in Ukraine for an indefinite period of time.
Maximum prudence thwarted…
Throughout the Ukraine crisis, the government of Moldova showed maximum prudence in its statements, avoiding the irritating motives of Moscow. Faithful to this line of political conduct, President Maia Sandu, at the Munich Security Conference that ended on February 20, spoke about the Moldovan authorities’ efforts to fight corruption and about the investment opportunities offered by our country, avoiding addressing the Transnistrian settlement process and the relations with Russia. In a day after the Munich Conference already, the developments thwarted the excessive prudence strategy of Chisinau, placing the high-ranking Moldovan officials face to face with the necessity of naming things. Surprised by the dramatic developments, President Maia Sandu said the Moldovan authorities strongly condemn the recognition by Russia of the independence of the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. She noted that such actions go against the international legislation and the Republic of Moldova remains firmly committed to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationality recognized borders. This position was reiterated by the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
After these statements, it became clear that the official Chisinau started to realize that the developments in the region and the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of the regions in eastern Ukrainian will definitely have an impact on the Republic of Moldova, especially on the Transnistrians dimension. Meanwhile, the position of Kiev became more trenchant on the Transnistrian conflict, which turned into a security issue for Ukraine itself. But Chisinau cannot use the Ukrainian factor in the Transnistrian issue as it perfectly realizes that the destabilization of the situation in the area can generate the domino effect of reactivation of conflicts considered frozen, such as the Transnistrian one. For now, a big advantage of the Republic of Moldova in the current regional crisis is geographical in character and Ukraine serves as a territorial shield that separates us from Russia that is now increasingly aggressive against the states of the former Soviet space.
Remedy for “Weimar” syndrome
Recently, in his February 21 speech after announcing the decision to recognize the “independence” of the two Ukrainian separatist republics Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin made an attempt to justify the Russian military aggression against the neighboring state, using data from history. He made reference to the Soviet past as an argument for Moscow’s pretentions to recover the territories lost after the implosion of the USSR, saying that Ukraine was an artificial state created at the discretion of the Soviet leaders Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev. After this speech of Putin, it was confirmed once against that the paradigm “historical Russia” that became generic in Putin’s geopolitical concept, comes from the “Weimar” syndrome of the Russian imperialist elites that were humiliated by the dissolution of their Soviet empire, which was a trauma similar to that of the German Reich that was humiliated by the peace treaty of Versailles and this would be transposed to life by force, including by way of war.
In the past, the “Weimar syndrome” threw the world into World War II. Nowadays, the Western civilization resorts to new military methods in the hope that the revanchist reflexes of the drifting Russian empire can be stopped. But no one can now anticipate exactly the price that will be asked at the future negotiating table at the end of this war. For the Republic of Moldova – a small state with a not really influential voice in the international concert – the categorical detachment from the former Soviet space, especially from what is called the “Russian world”, is the only way for increasing its own resilience before the imperialist claims of Moscow. So as not to miss this chance, we need national political elites able to take it. In the near future, we will find out if such political elites formed inside Moldovan society.
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.