“Military Cooperation with NATO is No Less Important than Democratic Reforms”. Role of Moldova in NATO and GUAM

Home / Analytics / “Military Cooperation with NATO is No Less Important than Democratic Reforms”. Role of Moldova in NATO and GUAM
Semyon Satkovski, Mikhail Bezhenev For many years, the Republic of Moldova was considered to be an informal leader and the most diligent participant in the program of the European Union, known as the Eastern Partnership. This is not the first time when Moldova has acted as a ‘showcase’ of integration projects and a center of attraction. The country has a compact territory, located on the conditional border between Russia and its satellites and continental Europe. It is not surprising that the planned escape of Moldova from the influence of the ‘CIS space’ has always been considered in Washington and Brussels as an important task accompanied with allocation of broad resources: financial, bureaucratic and informational. In accordance with the standard practice of the 20th and 21st centuries, at a certain stage, Moldova’s institutional cooperation and financial support from Europe and the US was organically complemented by the development of Chisinau’s contacts with NATO. The alliance gradually and expectedly incorporated into the sphere of military-political management and planning in the country. Although equating the prospects of European integration and the country’s membership in the North Atlantic Alliance is fundamentally wrong, these processes are interrelated and usually, as in the case of Moldova, proceed in parallel. Today the relations between Brussels and Chisinau are badly damaged because of the stalled reforms and Moldova’s failure to fulfill its obligations within the Association with the EU, the ‘theft of the century’, the usurpation of state power and the interference of the country’s actual leadership in the electoral processes. Many channels of support for Moldova are frozen by the decision of the EU. Once it was different: Brussels granted Moldova a visa-free regime, generously financed reforms in the field of justice and public administration, as well as the country’s transition to European regulations and standards. The European Union provided infrastructural and political support in the Transdniestria settlement process. An institute of permanent EU political advisers was established, and they were delegated to those departments that determined the image and functionality of the Moldovan state. To date, for objective reasons, the focus has shifted to cooperation more related to geopolitics than to state building. This is just about the military-strategic sphere and contacts on the Chisinau-NATO track. It is interesting that in the long term the military-strategic dimension plays no less important role than the democratic reforms in the Republic of Moldova. In the current conditions of the “captured state”, a full-fledged democratic process is difficult to implement, and threats to security in Eastern Europe remain relevant and require an adequate response. It is all the more gratifying that the pace of increasing cooperation in the field of security is quite satisfactory. 12th Rapid Trident military exercises are held in Ukraine in the period of September 3-15. The contingent of the Moldovan National Army takes part in it for the 11th time in a row. 2200 servicemen from the armed forces of the United States, Canada, as well as the GUAM states – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – are involved. These small post-Soviet countries by virtue of geography are of strategic importance for isolating and deterring possible Russian aggression and are approaching the creation of their own functional security system. NATO members have a key directing influence on the process of organization of cooperation within the framework of GUAM, modernization of the armed forces of four countries and strengthening of military potential in the interests of joint opposition to Russia’s expansionist policy. Each GUAM state has its own strong motivation for integration into NATO structures. Georgia was defeated by Russia in the war for its own territories, Ukraine de facto lost the Crimean Peninsula and does not control the Donbass bordering with Russia, Moldova has a massive and well-trained Russian military presence in its eastern region (Transdniestria), which in addition has almost an unlimited supply of weapons. Obviously, limited military capabilities and outdated strategies will hardly allow all these countries to become a real counterbalance to Moscow’s massive pressure. In this sense, NATO’s activity in modernizing national armies and facilitating a multilateral military partnership in the region is purely practical, providing prospects for the future survival of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova as sovereign states in the face of tough confrontation with Moscow over the fate of the European continent. It is important to call things by their own names, which the Minister of Defense of Moldova Eugen Sturza actually did on the eve of the Rapid Trident. He acknowledged that the main threat to the security of the Republic of Moldova is the Russian military, conducting permanent exercises in Transdniestria and potentially capable of launching a large-scale offensive from this territory. In this sense, the intensification of cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and NATO with the parallel deployment of the alliance structures on the territory of the Republic of Moldova is of particular (including ideological) significance. NATO not only has an information center in Chisinau, but also involves Moldovan servicemen in operations and exercises in various countries, including Kosovo. Servicemen of NATO states, on the contrary, participate in military exercises in the territory of the Republic of Moldova and are involved in annual inspections of military units near the so-called “Security Zone” of the Transdniestrian conflict. NATO specialists supervise the processes of reforming and re-equipping of the Moldovan national army, providing it with their equipment, components and NATO instructions, engaging in ethical aspects of the functioning of the RM armed forces. In particular, it is NATO that provides assistance, including financial assistance, in the transfer of military service in the Republic of Moldova on a contractual basis in the next three years. Thus, on June 20, 2018, the Government of the Republic of Moldova approved the Professional Army 2018-2021 program that plans to modernize the army of the Republic of Moldova, its equipping and retraining of personnel. The transition to contractual military service will be phased in until 2021. Along with this, the Implementation Plan for the National Defense Strategy of the Republic of Moldova implies a more than twofold increase in its funding, from 625 million lei in 2018 to 1.5 billion in 2025. It is obvious that the main donors, both financially and organizationally, will be NATO countries, primarily Romania in the framework of the military agreement signed between Chisinau and Bucharest. Exactly NATO will participate in the development of strategies for the modernization of the Moldovan armed forces, in the adoption of military and ideological training programs, rearmament of the national army and development of military infrastructure. The work on risk assessment, identification of possible theaters of military operations and directions for a potential blow will also be conducted with the direct involvement of representatives of the North Atlantic Alliance or its member countries. Judging by the current trends, over time, Moldova is increasingly integrating into the military and information infrastructure of the North Atlantic Alliance, becoming a privileged partner of NATO instead of the window of the Eastern Partnership. In the coming years, Chisinau will organize a compact professional army capable of ensuring stability and security of the country. Ultimately, despite the fact that a part of the Moldovan public denies the very fact of the country’s cooperation with NATO, largely due to the heated division of the country on geopolitical grounds, gradual introduction of advanced standards in the sphere of defense will sooner or later be appreciated by the citizens of the country.