Georgia and Moldova: Comparative analysis of state resilience and risks of Russian origin. Analysis of Dionis Cenusa



In the conditions of the current Russian war against Ukraine, any signs of weakness in Georgia and Moldova, or in other words a manifestation of limited resilience, may create fertile ground for some possible interventions by Russia...


Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor

Sparked by Russian aggression against Ukraine, the geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe poses threats to other countries in the region, where the presence of the Russian factor is stronger than local resilience. Considering the militaristic and revisionist nature of Russia, especially in the former Soviet space, the existing dependencies in relation to the Russian state must be perceived as risks to national interests. Such risks are highlighted in the case of Georgia, but even more acutely in that of Moldova. Both states have a weakened degree of resilience, due to traditional internal weaknesses, the still unresolved effects of the pandemic, and more recently as a result of Russia's geopolitical actions. The resilience of Moldova and Georgia is comparable in many respects. One of the main differences between them is related to geography and, respectively, the proximity and national preferences towards Russia or its geopolitical alternative: the European Union (EU).

Above all, resilience must be perceived as an internal condition of states. This is necessary to overcome internal or external crises by absorption, adaptation or transformation, in order to return to the previous balance or create a qualitatively new one. Thus, the effects of interruptions can be limited, which can be measured in political, socioeconomic, technological, environmental or security costs. State resilience is also of great importance for foreign policy and relations with other international actors. However, the lack of resilience in certain strategic areas or their weakened character may constitute an “invitation” for states with hostile intentions to interfere. Instead, by building and demonstrating resilience, target states can deter hostile demonstrations by adversaries. Therefore, strengthening the resilience of the state may end up being an additional measure to support, in no way replace, national security. In the same vein, strengthening resilience contributes to raising the level of civilian preparedness against certain imminent (detectable) or unpredictable (unknown) risks and to the development or updating of current crisis management tools.

Resilience of Georgia and Moldova - in comparison

When measuring the level of state resilience, a series of parameters are used to determine the functioning of the state in conditions of partial or total disruptions. In accordance with NATO's vision of resilience and civilian preparedness for crises (which represent risks in the materialization phase), seven main elements of resilience can be highlighted: 1) ensuring continuity of government and critical government services; 2) uninterrupted (resilient) supply of energy resources; 3) the ability to effectively manage the uncontrolled movement of people; 4) uninterrupted (resilient) access to food and water resources; 5) the ability to manage a large number of casualties; 6) resilient civil communications systems; 7) resilient civil transportation systems. All of these elements are unlikely to be completely dysfunctional, except in the case of "failed states".

Analyzed through the prism of the seven elements of resilience, the situation in Moldova and Georgia looks different. Moldovan circumstances predispose to greater risks compared to those experienced by the Georgian state. The latter may face some anti-government protests, but they have already become repetitive and do not entail significant political costs, even if, against the will of the general public, the government does not move towards EU candidate status. Things are completely different in Moldova, where the government has yet to face large-scale anti-government protests.

In Moldova, public discontent with the implementation of certain reforms (university optimization), worsening socio-economic conditions (inflation) or pressure from the pro-Russian opposition (protests by the Socialists and the Shor Party) have so far been insignificant and/or have taken place outside the capital. The effects of the drought on agriculture and access to drinking water from the Dniester River (the worst data since the country's independence), as well as the possible interruption of the gas supply or suspicious and persistent false bomb alerts at the country's main airport, may worsen the situation. These facts limit citizens' access to critical public services and increase the level of public frustration. According to the pessimistic scenarios, after the confluence of political and socioeconomic motivations, the anti-government protests may acquire a geopolitical connotation, with significant risks for the discontinuity of the current government. These negative developments may also be possible if Russian military forces reach Odesa (something unlikely at present due to Ukrainian defenses) or if Russia decides to use its military presence in the Transnistria region, consisting of some 1,500 Russian soldiers from the Operational Group of the Russian Force illegally deployed in Moldova. In total, four of the resilience parameters show serious deficiencies in Moldova, while in Georgia, only one and partially (see Table below).

Table. Resilience parameters necessary to guarantee the training of civilians in line with the NATO approach

Elementele de reziliență



1) Ensure continuity of government and critical government services;

- Predisposition to anti-government protests in the capital, for reasons of political governance and pro-Russian foreign orientation;

- Predisposition to anti-government protests in regions (with a majority Russian-speaking population), for reasons of political, socio-economic governance and anti-Russian foreign orientation;

2) Uninterrupted supply of energy resources;

- Ensuring the security of natural gas supply as a result of the dominance of Azerbaijani imports over those of Russia;

- Significant risks of natural gas supply disruption due to total dependence on imports from Russia and worsening gas debt problem;

3) The ability to effectively manage the uncontrolled movement of people;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

- Adequate management of the refugee crisis (from Ukraine) due to the involvement and assistance of external actors, including the EU (Frontex, etc.);

4) Uninterrupted access to food and water resources;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

- The effects of drought on food security and access to drinking water from the Dniester River;

5) Ability to manage a large number of casualties;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

6) Resilient civil communications systems;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

- No urgent problem detected in the field;

7) Resilient civil transport systems.

- No urgent problem detected in the field.

- Interruption of air traffic (from the main airport) due to the high frequency of false bomb alerts.

Source: Author's compilation with reference to, green: manageable resilience parameter, orange: problematic parameter, yellow: parameter with no major problems identified.

Resilience and risks of Russian origin

In addition to the resilience aspects related to the functionality of the institutions and systems for providing critical services to the population, suggested by NATO, the geopolitical factor also plays an important role. The way in which Georgia and Moldova position themselves vis-à-vis regional international actors, and more precisely toward the EU and Russia, can accelerate the generation of state resilience or, on the contrary, slow it down.

From this point of view, the Georgian authorities show an interest in maintaining and even intensifying socio-economic ties with Russia. Fourteen years after the Russian aggression against Georgia, the government is increasing the country's dependence on socio-economic ties with Russia, which are worth a total of around $1.2 billion (, August 2022). Specifically, wine exports and wheat and flour imports remain at a high level, representing 58% of total wine exports and 95% of wheat imports, respectively. Money transfers also increased more than 6 times, reaching 678 million dollars, as a result of the influx of Russian citizens (caused by the Western sanction of Russian aggression against Ukraine). The latter contributed to doubling the number of Russian companies operating in Georgia (13,500 in total).

At the same time, the exponents of the Georgian government continue to use an aggressive discourse against the representatives of the European institutions. In the latest incident, ruling Georgian Dream party leader Irakli Kobakhidze accused former EU ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell of playing a "strictly negative" role in the bilateral relationship (, July 2022) . Contrary to the public drive for unity around meeting the requirements for EU candidate status and building resilience through proximity to the EU, the Georgian decision-makers appear to be prioritizing the political fight against the opposition, erroneously portrayed as instigating a military confrontation with Russia (, August 2022).

Processes diametrically opposed to those in Georgia are taking place in Moldova, which is doing its best to use European aid to build resilience in the most deficient areas. In this sense, in the energy dimension, Moldova requested loans from European banks to carry out the energy interconnection with Romania (Isaccea-Vulcănești-Chisinau) until 2024 (for some €260 million), as well as for energy efficiency projects (€75 million). Another loan of €300 million was requested from the EBRD to guarantee natural gas reserves for the winter of 2022-23 (Reuters, June 2022). Thus, the Moldovan side is preparing for the disconnection of the supply by Russia due to geopolitical considerations or as a consequence of the non-payment of Moldovan debts for Russian gas, which could exceed the initial amount of $700 million due to the current increase in gas prices to up to €1,500 per thousand m3.

In addition, the Moldovan authorities compensate for the shortcomings of the state's resilience by attracting other available resources from European agencies and funds. Thus, the Frontex mission helps to manage the flow of Ukrainian refugees. In addition, recently launched by the EU, the Support Hub is to facilitate border management and public order. European Peace Facility assistance enables Moldova to make the necessary purchases to improve military medical services and secure new civilian emergency transport capabilities. In parallel, the government uses the geopolitical context and the EU's openness to the states affected by Russian aggression to integrate Moldovan transport services and export flows into the European market. Therefore, Moldovan carriers will be exempt from the obligation to hold a permit to carry out transport and transit activities on the EU territory (IPN, June 2022). Likewise, the export of seven categories of agricultural products (plums, table grapes, apples, tomatoes, garlic, cherries and grape juice) received approval for liberalization for one year (benefits estimated at €55 million). Generally speaking, the Chisinau government has an impeccable cooperation with the EU, which in turn treats it credibly and leniently. Probably for these reasons, the EU measures of conditionality requested in exchange for the macro-financial assistance of €150 million are lax, repeating some reforms that were already expected to be implemented.

In lieu of conclusions…

Under the conditions of the current Russian war against Ukraine, any signs of weakness in Georgia and Moldova, or, in other words, a manifestation of limited resilience, may create fertile ground for some potential Russian interventions. A central place in the register of Russian geopolitical motivations is occupied by the maintenance or conditioning of the installation of friendly or minimally tolerant governments with the attributes of the Russian State (language, culture, narrative, citizens, etc.). The survival of these elements provides leverage for the exercise of soft power in the former Soviet space. Thus, Russia is trying to oppose the liberal-European civilizational project, which can advance due to the enlargement of the EU to the East by conferring the European perspective to Moldova and Georgia (along with Ukraine).

The decoupling of socio-economic dependency linkages with Russia is in the best interest of the resilience and national security of Georgia and Moldova. While Moldova is already actively engaged in developing resilience capacities by identifying and attracting European resources, the Georgian authorities are trying to capitalize on the economic potential of relations with Russia, regardless of the risks related to maintaining and deepening dependency. At the same time, compared to Georgia, which has stronger resilience capacities, the Moldovan side faces high risks related to government discontinuity due to possible mass protests, if the management of socio-economic crises fails and the pro-Russian opposition take full advantage of it (with or without the direct intervention of Russia). Both the economic dependence, in the case of Georgia, and the pressing socio-political tensions in Moldova are based on risks of Russian origin. These can be counteracted by preventive prophylaxis and the development of state resilience through the effective materialization of the European perspective.

This analysis is published for the German Hanns Seidel Foundation and the IPN News Agency.

Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor
Dionis Cenușa is a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences at Liebig-Justus University in Giessen, Germany, MA degree in Interdisciplinary European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw.
Areas of research: European Neighborhood Policy, EU-Moldova relationship, EU's foreign policy and Russia, migration and energy security.
Follow Dionis Cenușa on Twitter

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.

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