Opinion: NATO Won’t Let Moldova In

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The Moldovan leadership promotes country’s integration into the North Atlantic Alliance, but they are not particularly welcome there, says RTA permanent expert Anton Shvets. On November 19, the report “Countering Russian Hybrid Threats. An Update” appeared on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly website. Among other things, it says about the need to provide Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkan countries with clear prospects for joining NATO and the EU. According to the authors, such a measure would solve the problem of gray zones in Europe and limit the area of the Russian hybrid war. Just a week ago, the issue of cooperation between NATO and Moldova was reflected in the resolution of the European Parliament, which assesses successes of the Republic of Moldova in implementing European reforms. However, through this extremely critical document for Moldova European parliamentarians nevertheless expressed support for its cooperation with the Alliance. These movements promote the idea that unlike the stalled process of European integration, Moldova’s rapprochement with NATO is going quite successfully, and full membership in the organization is close. Anton Shvets thinks this is an illusion, pointing out that Moldova is further from joining NATO than it seems. “Moldovan authorities failed the European reforms and completely ruined relations with the EU, and therefore cooperation with NATO is one of the few ways to prove the viability of the European vector of development. Therefore, the leadership of the Republic of Moldova is pushing the country’s integration into the North Atlantic Alliance to the best of its power. Moldovan officials consistently attend Western military forums and initiate construction of NATO facilities in Moldova, like the recently opened liaison office in Chisinau. In addition, Moldovan training grounds are always ready to host joint exercises with the countries of the alliance. These ‘maneuvers’ allow the leadership of the Republic of Moldova to draw a picture of idyllic relations with NATO, which is waiting for Moldova with open arms. However, the current geopolitical realities are such that Moldova will not be let in the organization,” the expert argues. NATO’s better keep Moldova in the gray zone According to Anton Shvets, the value of Moldova for the North Atlantic Alliance is much higher, as long as it is not its full member. “Paradoxically, NATO receives much more dividends, not giving the Republic of Moldova unequivocal prospects for membership in the organization and keeping it in a limbo. The consideration is simple: as long as Moldova has a non-aligned status, it remains a valuable asset in a big geopolitical game, primarily in confrontation with Russia. Moldova is not the least important for Russia because of the presence of the Russian military contingent there and several hundred thousand citizens of the Russian Federation in unrecognized Transdniestria. Moscow will certainly be ready to make serious concessions in order to ensure their security and other interests in Moldova,” says Shvets. The expert explains: Chisinau’s inclusion into NATO will immediately remove the Moldovan lot from the “big deal” with Russia. “To date, there are no precedents for the complete withdrawal of NATO member states from the organization. If we hypothetically assume that Moldova will still join the Alliance, then for Russia it will prove to be a clearly lost asset. An eaten pawn cannot be returned on a checkerboard, and in this case other issues will be the subject of geopolitical bargaining. Moreover, they are more sensitive for NATO than the loss of Moldova, which tactically is not highly significant,” adds the analyst. The Republic of Moldova already performs some duties of an Alliance member The expert also notes that today Moldova already performs many duties in the framework of cooperation with NATO, and its armed forces are indirectly subordinate to the Alliance. “For a long time, the Moldovan army has been reorganized to NATO standards, and is gradually preparing to switch to a professional service. Moldovan servicemen regularly attend retraining in the USA and Europe, and participate in KFOR operations. The process of military integration of Moldova and NATO is going at a rapid pace. In addition, Chisinau concluded a number of intergovernmental agreements on military cooperation with Bucharest – a member of the Alliance – which provide Romania with ample opportunities to control the Moldovan forces and give the right to use military infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova,” said the expert. Thus, Shvets says that the Alliance has found itself in a comfortable position: on the one hand it can give Moldova duties as any ordinary member of the organization, and on the other it is not burdened with any guarantees of its protection and associated risks. “NATO has already received all the possible profit from Moldova without special costs for itself. From a tactical point of view, the value of the territory of Moldova is minimal. In the event of a conflict in the NATO region, it is easier to use the existing bases and military formations in nearby Romania, which will quickly cross Moldovan territory if good infrastructure is ensured,” the analyst stresses. At the same time, according to Shvets, it is important for NATO not let its Moldovan catch off the hook, and therefore the rhetoric of a comprehensive deepening of relations between Moldova and the North Atlantic Alliance will continue. “NATO will continue to ‘fasten’ the Republic of Moldova to itself and provide it with some support. This situation is beneficial for the ruling authorities, who use the fact of cooperation with the Alliance for domestic political purposes. The problem is that the leadership of Moldova in this matter does not think strategically, relying on short-term narrow corporate interests. This creates quite tangible risks for the Moldovan state: NATO, dealing with political elites of this quality, which depend on the support of the organization, can do whatever it wants with these elites. Including disavowing previous promises,” the expert believes.