Last week, a visit to Chisinau was made by the President of the European Council Charles Michel. One of the subjects discussed during the visit referred to the additional military support promised to the Republic of Moldova by the European Union. The statements made by the high-ranking European official generated unequivocal reactions, especially among representatives of the political class, from categorical approval to categorical rejection. The experts invited to a public debate hosted by IPN News Agency discussed why this additional support is necessary, who and why it satisfies or concerns.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, reminded that the Association Agreement is the main document signed by the Republic of Moldova with the European Union. This envisions and develops cooperation in all the areas of mutual interest, including external and security aspects, such as domestic reforms. The objectives of this agreement include the political association and economic integration of the Republic of Moldova into the EU, strengthening of peace and stability in the region and the world, promotion and strengthening of cooperation and dialogue on international security, etc.
According to the expert, the neutrality, including of the Republic of Moldova, is a complex international law concept, as in the political sector. In essence, this means that a neutral state does not take part in wars between other states. But it has yet the right to legitimate defense and the strengthening of the security of the neutral state is therefore a problem related to the obligations of the authorities.
Igor Boțan said the notion of “lethal weapons” is a generic name as all the types of arms used to destroy people, especially during a war, are lethal. These include small arms, munitions bombs, grenades. The non-lethal weapons are protection munitions, bulletproof vests, helmets and camouflage equipment, military communications, drones or other targets in which there are no people.
Natalia Stercul, programs coordinator at the Foreign Policy Association, made reference to important documents that regulate the Moldova-EU relations in the security sector, including the High-Level Political and Security Dialogue launched on March 18, 2022, the European Peace Facility and the Agreement with Frontex signed on March 17, 2022.
According to her, the international legal framework comes to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between the EU and Moldova, including military one. The signed or recently launched documents of this sector point first of all to particular changes, dynamics related to the security issue. Even the provisions of the Association Agreement refer to the security policy and cooperation between the sides, envisioning mutual support, primarily for the population. They also refer to crisis situations and their management.
The agreement with Frontex is very important in the current conditions as it goes to border control. This agreement provides for an instrument and opportunities of cooperation between Moldovan border police officers and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. “It is an extremely important component now that the regional security context changes. Most probably, it will change in the future too, given the constructive or destructive effects of the conflict in Ukraine. I refer here to who will be the winner and to what risks all the key subjects will be exposed, primarily those from the Black Sea region,” stated Natalia Stercul.
Ștefan Gligor, president of the Party of Change, said the subject is important in the context of Russia’s unjustified, illegal military aggression against Ukraine and also because Moldova ignored its army for almost three decades, despite having had a military conflict in which hundreds or even thousands of people died. “We had been held in a socioeconomic and political impasse for three decades and we now ultimately started to discuss and analyze what should have been done 20 years ago. The Republic of Moldova not only needs this assistance. This aid, assistance is critically insufficient,” stated Ștefan Gligor.
According to him, Moldova’s army is very weak and is poorly equipped, with small exceptions, such as the explosive ordnance disposal engineers and troops trained for peacekeeping missions. “I seriously doubt it that the Republic of Moldova’s army can cope with a more or less serious military invasion. We have about 6,500 people in the armed forces of the Republic of Moldova. A large part of them are conscript soldiers doing their military service. The professional component of the army is modest and the salaries there are low. We are unable to close our airspace. We are unable to protect ourselves from eventual air attacks at least at the level of Ukraine. We do not have tanks. We have few antitank weapons. Moreover, we even have few automated firearms, according to unofficial sources,” said Ștefan Gligor.
He noted he is surprised by the mediocrity of the political narrative in Moldova as regards the armed forces and security. According to him, a neutral state is not a state that is militarily impotent. “A neutral state does not form part of military collations, does not resort to aggression, does not join other states that are involved in military operations or wars, but this does not mean that a neutral state has an impotent, powerless army that cannot defend the own territory and people. I repeat, the quality and content of the political narrative in the Republic of Moldova as regards the armed forces is absolutely mediocre,” concluded Ștefan Gligor.
The public debate entitled “What does it mean, why is it necessary and who is bothered by additional military support provided by EU?” was the 244th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.