Why US and NATO Need Military Exercises in Moldova?

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The US continues to strengthen its military presence in the Black Sea region with the help of NATO structures. At first glance, Washington’s actions look like planned measures to protect the US military infrastructure in Romania. At the same time, the Alliance does not hide that the motorized infantry units deployed in early March, which include a large number of military equipment, will take part in the exercises scheduled for 2019 in the Black Sea, Moldova and Ukraine. The number of troops and the level of supply make these military maneuvers one of the most large-scale. It is noteworthy that the US activity in the region did not cause, as it happened before, particular protests from Moscow. There is a feeling that Russia got used to the “scheduled” exercises of the geopolitical opponent near the Black Sea coast. It is worth paying tribute to Washington, which avoids straightforward provocations and seeks to give legitimacy to its military presence. The latter became much easier after the Kerch incident, which contributed to the growth of anxiety in the capitals of Eastern Europe. For instance, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis explicitly stated the need to increase NATO forces in the Black Sea. Then came the Declaration of the Bucharest Nine on the threat from Russia, consistent strategic response of NATO and the approval of the US military presence in Europe. It is unlikely that Washington plans to be directly involved in possible conflict incidents in the same Sea of Azov. Rather, it will use them as an excuse to increase its presence in South-Eastern Europe. Since it gives the US an obvious strategic advantage-both in terms of the development and strengthening of the hypothetical theater of operations, and as an additional tool of geopolitical bargaining with Moscow. It is crucial for Americans to maintain the leading role in uniting the countries of the Black Sea region under the slogan of counteracting Russia. This is also the aim of efforts in the information field, supporting rumors of further aggressive plans of Moscow and representing all its actions in a negative way. Therefore, the statements of the same former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen about the possible Russian annexation of Belarus should not surprise, as reinforce through the media a targeted policy of ousting Russia from the region. This is also the main point of Washington’s military cooperation with Chisinau and Kyiv, which the US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison directly said in the context of preventing further Russian presence on the Left Bank of the Dniester. The operational group of Russian troops (OGRT) in the unrecognized Transdniestria is labeled by the United States as the main threat to regional security. At the same time, the joint military maneuvers of NATO troops with formally neutral Moldova are explained by the need to resist the Russian troops, which earlier official Chisinau declared as “occupation forces”. All this allows them to consistently legalize the US military presence in a country that is not a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. This way they may form an alternative to the Russian-led peacekeeping operation on the Dniester, which in the future will try to replace the Russian military presence in the region. In parallel, Moldova is creating the necessary infrastructure for removal of ammunition from the storage in Cobasna, located in Transdniestria. Thus, Washington is ‘washing out soil’ from the operational group of Russian troops in the region, the main stated purpose of which is precisely to guard these depots. If both peacekeepers and the operational group are removed, Russia risks completely losing its military influence on the Dniester. There is no doubt that the US and NATO will try to fill the ‘power vacuum’ as soon as possible.