The recent information made public by the Presidents of Moldova and Ukraine - Sandu and Zelensky – about Moscow’s intention to destabilize the situation in the region of the Transnistrian conflict, generated a public reaction in Oleksii Arestovych, a former high-ranking adviser to the Office of the Ukrainian President, about the Ukrainian army’s capacity to annihilate the Russian military forces and separatist forces in Transnistria. Arestovych admitted that Moldova, as a sovereign country, has the right to decide by itself who to seek support from in this case, but Kyiv can easily cope with such a task during three days. But Moldova hasn’t yet decided to request Ukraine to help solve this problem, Arestovych noted, not without regret.
Who disseminates speculations and who uses them
Meanwhile, there appeared press reports saying that military units of the Ukrainian troops – infantry and armored vehicles - are being mobilized on the border with Transnistria, on the Ukrainian side, towards the territory where the Kobasna ammunition depot is situated. The press also speculated that the whole scenario of invasion of Transnistria by Kyiv is aimed at ensuring Ukraine’s access to the arsenal of Soviet munitions and other valuable weapons that weigh over 20,000 tonnes and are stored in the Transnistrian village of Kobasna, being guarded by a contingent of Russian troops. These speculations spread even if the largest part of the content of the ammunition depot has the period of validity expired and cannot be used or transported. The speculations weren’t also stopped by the reasonable expectation that if the depot in Kobasna is seized by the Ukrainian army, those weapons can be easily dynamited by the Russian soldiers. Apropos, the same scenario will be applied by the Ukrainians if the Russian side intends to use the munitions from Kobasna in the war in Ukraine.
But all these obvious reasons were fully ignored by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that last Friday issued a statement, accusing unequivocally Ukraine and also the United States and the NATO member states of planning a military operation against the Russian military contingent staying in Transnistria. The content of this statement, alongside multiple accusations and threats, contained also an anguish call of Moscow “to solve any problems by political and diplomatic ways”. It is hard to imagine a more conspicuous example of political hypocrisy when the Russian army solves the problems of interest for the Kremlin in Ukraine by open military aggression, ignoring any political and diplomatic ways.
Nevertheless, even if the international community already got used to the double standards policy of the Russian diplomatic service, many experts wonder what Moscow’s real intentions are behind the Russian diplomatic approach about Transnistria. In this connection, the statement of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Moldova, according to which the Moldovan side does not possess information about the preparation of an offensive in Transnistria by Ukraine and does not approve of such actions, was welcome. The adviser to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, also assured that Ukraine will never dare to take actions on the territory of the Republic of Moldova without coordinating these with the authorities in Chisinau and with the European Union. A rumor in public opinion was also caused by the most reliable ally of Putin, the President of Belarus Lukashenko, who involuntarily compromised the Kremlin’s manipulation about the intention to open the second front in Transnistria, publicly and clearly declaring that “such an action for Ukraine is detrimental”.
Why are these used?
Normally, a question appears, why does Russia need to escalate the situation around Transnistria? There are a number of responses to this question and these are all based on logic. According to one of the explanations, Russia itself intends to stage a military provocation against the Republic of Moldova, hiding this operation behind the alleged military aggression of Ukraine against Transnistria. Against the background of the military failures of the Russian army in Ukraine, Moscow needs a case of military victory and the Republic of Moldova, which is economically and politically vulnerable and lacks consistent defense, is the most suitable object for scoring a propagandistic victory that is so important for the regime of Putin.
Another explanation shows the Russians Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement about Transnistria is a gesture of despair on the part of Moscow. A significant grouping of the Ukrainian army is indeed concentrated on the border with Transnistria and the task of this is to prevent a possible attack by the Russian forces concentrated in the separatist enclave. Ukraine has to keep a military grouping in that area, even if this is so necessary on the eastern front. The Ukrainian army is confident that it can swiftly and without significant losses defeat the Russian military contingent in Transnistria, if it is ordered to stage an attack. Judging by the tone of the Russian statement, which urges “to solve any problems by political and diplomatic ways”, Moscow does not have any doubts about the fate of its military contingent in Transnistria in case of a military clash with the Ukrainian army. The Russians’ humiliating call to use diplomatic methods to alleviate the situation around Transnistria derives from here, even if the Russian statement also contains threats with the use of military force. But these threats are not addressed to the Ukrainian side, which can no longer be scared with such methods, but rather to Chisinau without whose content Kyiv cannot launch a military operation in Transnistria.
The necessity of provoking a reinvigorating effect for the pro-Russian forces in Moldovan society so as to destabilize the pro-European government in Chisinau is another subsidiary task attributed to the most recent Russian statement about Transnistria. As a result, as if by order, political forces stage street protests and demand that the government should not engage Moldova in the war without saying anything about Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. This way, the political forces in Moldovan society, by their public behavior, acquire all the necessary elements of the phenomenon called the fifth column, which is associated all over the world with an act of national betrayal.
Unplanned effects of speculations
Another unforeseen effect of Russia’s statement about Transnistria led to the issuing of an additional warning by the Western states about the security problems of the Republic of Moldova. This reaction by the Western partners shows that after the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, the West will no longer allow the military adventures of the Kremlin against sovereign European states to take place with the same ease as earlier. On the other hand, the irresponsible sword spinning by Moscow does nothing but strengthen the public narrative in Moldovan society about the necessity of abandoning the status of neutral state, which does not secure at all Moldova’s protection from external aggression and also widens the ranks of the supporters of unionism as the most efficient guarantee against the imperial revenge of Putin’s Russia.
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.