The local secret service warns that Russia will attack Moldova in the spring. And indeed: For a Vladimir Putin who has come under pressure, the bitterly poor country would be an almost perfect victim. Is Russia opening its second front here?
Moldova is: Not a member of NATO. Not a member of the European Union. A divided country where Russian troops and paramilitaries stand. Small, poor, corrupt. A country of emigration. A state without a real army. In short: Moldova is the almost perfect victim.
When Moldovan intelligence chief Alexandru Musteata publicly warns that a Russian invasion is no longer a question of if but only of when, the man says what the entire government fears: if Vladimir Putin unites because of the unsuccessful squad of soldiers in Ukraine If he needs success, he could get it in Moldova.
With a per capita income of around 4,500 euros, Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and the development of the last 20 years has not made it any richer. The country, as big as North Rhine-Westphalia, is predominantly rural, so anyone who is young and wants to do something moves away. Around a million Moldovans have already done so.
But while more than 17 million people live in North Rhine-Westphalia, there are just two and a half million in Moldova. And anyone who complains about inflation of ten percent in prosperous Germany does not know the situation in bitterly poor Moldova – there, inflation is galloping at more than 30 percent.
A third of the labor force works abroad and families in Moldova depend on the money these people remit back home. No country in Europe, neither Germany nor Poland, has taken in as many war refugees from Ukraine as this small country, which borders Romania and shares a border with Ukraine. There were almost 400,000 refugees in total, and around 90,000 Ukrainians are currently living in the country. It would be as if Germany had not taken in one million Ukrainians, but: 13 million.
Moldova could hardly defend itself in the event of an invasion – unlike Ukraine. Ukraine can mobilize far more than 300,000 soldiers, the country has the second strongest army in Europe. Moldova has: A total of 5150 soldiers.
The bottom line is that Moldova’s situation is far more precarious than that of Ukraine before February 24, the day of the Russian attack on its supposed “brother people”. That is why the statements by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock are bold:
“The future of Moldova lies in Europe. We share the same values and hopes. And we share the same fate.” In view of the daily reports of catastrophes about the state of the Bundeswehr, cynics could even say: That could happen. But seriously:
Because Moldova cannot be defended militarily, nobody is talking about military aid for this country. Germany is helping, France is helping, as is the EU Commission. But this aid is civilian – so far around 1.5 billion euros have flowed to Moldova. What is in the German interest:
It is in Berlin’s interest that the Ukrainian refugees who are cared for in Moldova stay there. It is in Berlin’s interest that the Moldovan government fight widespread corruption, which is stated in every paper by the federal government, whether in the assessment of the situation by the Federal Foreign Office or the International Cooperation Agency, which is linked to the development aid ministry. It is in Berlin’s interest to tie Moldova to the West via the European Union – which, given the conditions there, could take decades.
Moldova has actually been at war with Russia for some time, it depends on the definition. Long before the Ukraine campaign, Putin launched a campaign against the pro-European government led by President Maia Sandu.
Moldova relies on Russian gas for 80 percent, and the power plants that supply the country are owned by Gazprom. The prices Moldova has to pay have increased by at least 30 percent in the last two years. Putin, an expert in hybrid, i.e. non-military, warfare, has long been waging a gas war against Moldova. And it works: Moldovans are now forced to spend 70 percent of their income on Russian energy. And winter has only just begun.
But the Russians in Moldova also have a boot in the door militarily. In Transnistria, which is in northern Moldova and shares a 220-kilometer border with Ukraine, there are more than 1,500 Russian soldiers, most of them from the 14th Guards Regiment, but that’s not all: Russia can also count between ten and mobilize fifteen thousand paramilitary troops. Which does ______________ mean:
The military in breakaway Transnistria is stronger than the army in motherland Moldova itself – a precarious situation. For almost ten years, Transnistrian politicians have wanted “home to the Reich” – in Russian. According to surveys, which should be treated with caution, not even the Moldovan part of the Transnistrian population has a majority in favor of “reunification” with Moldova. There are reasons.
Western media write and broadcast that no one in the world has recognized Transnistria as a separate state under international law. That’s true – and yet it’s only half the truth about this piece of land, which is one and a half times the size of Luxembourg. Because just as Moldova, starting with the national language, is influenced by Romanian, Transnistria is influenced by Russian. Which – for once – is not due to Vladimir Putin. When it is said that not a single country has recognized Transnistria’s statehood, then Russia is one of them.
In 1792, the region of Transnistria – located across the Dniester River – became part of Tsarist Russia. Even before Bessarabia, today’s Moldova. 150 years later, in the Soviet empire under Stalin’s industrialization policy, heavy industry was built up in Transnistria – which has survived there to this day. Even the largest power plant that supplies Moldova with gas is in Transnistria. A third Russian, a third Ukrainian, a third Moldovan – that’s the composition of the population there. You pay in rubles – and you speak Russian.
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Regarding the truth, which in Germany, in the West in general, nobody is openly saying: Given the current situation, Transnistria will hardly become Moldovan again – in practice, it never was. Not even one of the opposition parties in Transnistria is demanding that the part of the country be reintegrated into Moldova.
Moldova would not be able to risk a military conflict. And the West has no interest in it either. It is a special kind of “frozen conflict” that can only be explained in terms of history and the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet empire in the early 1990s. Romanian nationalism flourished in Moldova and Russian nationalism in Transnistria.
Sometimes you just can’t get rid of the spirits you once summoned.