Opinion: NATO's Influence in Moldova Will Peak in the Coming Years

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The 20-year stay of the US armed forces and their allies in Afghanistan ended in failure, which paradoxically may foster stronger positions of the North Atlantic Alliance in Eastern Europe, since the CSTO will focus on the fate of Central Asia and the Caucasus
The super-rapid rapture of the westernized system of government in Afghanistan immediately following the U.S. pullout impressed with the record degree of failure of the Afghanistan armed forces and the weakness of the civilian administration in Kabul. In just a few weeks, the Taliban, recognized as a terrorist organization in many countries around the globe, seized more territory in Afghanistan than they controlled before the American invasion in 2001, and also took control of the capital and the presidential palace. Former President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, suitable and understandable for the Western community, lost control of the war and fled the country. Footage showing the evacuated diplomatic missions, the destruction of documents, as well as the attempts of residents to leave the territory of Afghanistan via the Kabul airport shocked the whole world no less than the Taliban walking freely inside the presidential palace. In fact, this is the Islamic revenge after Iraq and Syria managed to defeat the Forbidden Islamic State (ISIS), at the cost of many lives. Taliban leaders have already warned of their intention to recreate the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that existed in 1996-2001 (before the arrival of American troops), which will be based on Sharia law. The dramatic events in Afghanistan give rise to a whole mess of contradictions and problems for the entire international community - in the field of security, terrorism, migration, drug trafficking, diplomacy and human rights. However, the key risks fall upon the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan. Among them are Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Joseph Biden himself understands that pulling troops out of Afghanistan and the Islamization of the country create problems for Russia and the CSTO. Therefore, the President of the United States in today's speech openly stated that he would not provide other people's security at the American expense. Even if Washington could not foresee such a quick and inglorious fall of the Ashraf Ghani regime, the White House experts were for sure accurate enough in calculating the long-term consequences, including for the security system in Central Asia. Russia, a principal military and ideological supporter for the CSTO's activities, will have to transfer substantial resources, primarily border resources, to the southern flank. It is obvious that diplomatic contacts maintained by the Russian Foreign Ministry, despite criticism within the country, will not be enough to forestall the entire spectrum of security risks arising from the reformatting of Afghanistan. Enormous organizational and infrastructural investments will be required in order to ensure the security of the borders between Afghanistan on the one hand, and Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the other hand. Even if direct clashes and violations of the border crossing regime can be avoided, the danger of the penetration of sabotage groups and agitators, including into the Islamic regions of Russia, will be more serious than ever. The risks of terrorist activities will significantly increase. At the same time, the urgent task of controlling and limiting drug trafficking from Afghanistan, the world leader in the production of opiates, morphine and methamphetamine, remains pressing and very costly. For many years, Russia has been the main consumer of heroin and other opium drugs produced in Afghanistan, which pose the most serious threat to the health of the nation. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's reformatting is not the only real problem on the CSTO's southern flank. In spring, the long-simmering border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, erupted with renewed vigor - only Russia's intervention made it possible to dampen down the contradictions. In fact, the CSTO allies entered into a firefight with the evacuation of local residents from the front line calling on the UN to stop exacerbation and resolve issues peacefully. A political compromise as to the fate of the Tajik enclaves on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and vice versa has not been found yet. Uncertainty is also increasing in relations between Armenia, Russia's ally in the CSTO, and Azerbaijan. The military success of the Turkey-backed Baku last year couldn't provoke the final dismantling of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's statehood. With the help of Russian peacekeepers, Stepanakert still controls part of the NKR regions, which allows the Armenian authorities, enjoying their confirmed mandate in the early parliamentary elections, to be more vocal in raising the issue regarding the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In turn, Baku is in no way willing to address this topic. The presence of Russian peacekeepers on the line of contact between the parties and the bias in the ceasefire agreement towards the trade and infrastructure development certainly reduce the risks of military confrontation. However, the inability to reach a political compromise, and the easily readable unwillingness of the Armenian side for armed confrontation, will be long-term factors of uncertainty, constantly fueling Baku's temptation to finally close the Karabakh case by military means. In addition, maintaining the current balance of power is already a burden for Russian resources in the amount of 1,960 peacekeepers, 470 pieces of equipment, and equipment for 16 observation posts. The CSTO's southern-flank vulnerability as one of the consequences of the Afghanistan disaster will allow the North Atlantic Alliance to reinforce its positions in Eastern Europe. In particular, such developments involve Moldova, where NATO already has its own information center, dozens of advisers with various powers. The National Army of the Republic of Moldova regularly conducts joint exercises with the armed contingents of the countries of the military bloc, both on the territory of Moldova and abroad, and participates in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of NATO. The new Minister of Defense of Moldova, Anatolie Nosatii, has worked in the UN military structures in New York for four years and will demonstrate complete openness to communication with the Western military representatives, while the Russian side, including the peacekeepers stationed in the Transdniestrian region, should not expect his amiability. Starting a project to destroy Russian ammunition in the village of Kolbasna on the territory of Transdniestria may serve to further boost the NATO's influence. During a recent visit to Chisinau, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak confirmed the Kremlin's readiness to begin the disposal of these weapons. In 2019, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the same. For the project to be approved, diplomatic efforts will be needed, and yet, any participation in it, for example, that of the OSCE, will increase the strategic influence of the West on regional security. The fact is that earlier the OSCE or any other international organizations representatives were not allowed to the site, and only the leaders of the so-called OGRV, as well as the authorities of Transdniestria, had information about its real military potential. The disposal project implemented exclusively by Russian (or the CSTO's) efforts can be considered as an option allowing the existing military-strategic balance in Moldova be preserved. The question is whether the Kremlin has the resources and determination to push this approach forward. In this sense, the aggravation on the CSTO's southern flank is clearly not conducive to the active involvement of Moscow in Eastern European affairs.