Expert: Moldova Should Clearly Define Its Pro-Western Course

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Sergiu CEBAN
While talks between Washington and Moscow are only gaining momentum, the country’s leadership needs to decide on the team they want to join, so as not to remain in the “grey area” as a potential “big deal” lot
The week-long marathon of talks between Moscow and the collective West has not yet brought us closer to a clearer understanding of what the sides are ultimately heading for – a semblance of compromise or even greater confrontation. Each of the participants has taken their stand, with no intention to retreat. Perhaps, the first round wasn’t meant to deliver anything specific, and the dialogue will most certainly continue, with attempts to align common points of interest to last the whole year. This provides primarily the post-Soviet countries with some extra time expanding their possibilities, since they should work well so as not to become a bargaining chip in the “de-escalation” of relations with Russia. Therefore, in the coming months it is crucial, including for our leadership, to come up with the vision of our future and how exactly our strategic view should become part of the West’s principled position in further debates with Moscow. Romania, whatever one may say, remains the main conductor of our Euro-Atlantic interests which are closely intertwined with its own. Due to its close proximity to the post-Soviet space both on land and at sea, the future security architecture is of vital importance for Bucharest. The fact that cooperation with our “big brother” has literally been right off the bat in recent months is on everyone’s lips. It seems that with all the attempts of the current government to balance in foreign policy, it gradually comes to realize that betting on the accelerated development of relations with Bucharest is inevitable. A joint meeting of the Moldovan and Romanian governments scheduled for February 11 should be another important and logical step in this direction. Plans for the meeting include the signing of several important agreements, primarily on gratuitous technical assistance in the amount of 100 million euros. As Romanian President Klaus Iohannis stated during the recent meeting with our new ambassador, “the European Union’s enlargement of the area of prosperity, democracy and security is not meant to be stopped at the Prut River”. Noteworthy is also the meeting of the Romanian Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova Daniel Ionita with the Minister of Defense Anatolie Nosatii. They discussed the latest developments in the field of regional security, military reforms and prospects for the increased Moldovan-Romanian defense cooperation based on the roadmap signed by the foreign ministers in Bucharest last November. Cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense is becoming almost inevitable, especially now, when a wave of destabilization in the post-Soviet space threatens to reach our country sooner or later. Military experts say that if Moldova proceeds with its wait-and-see stance, it may well end up in an internationally very challenging situation from an international viewpoint framing Ukraine, which still serves as a barrier from actions of its big eastern neighbor. Moscow, in turn, raises the stakes demonstrating its current capacities and triggering tension in various regional areas. Last week, an operational group of Russian troops stationed in the Transdniestrian region conducted regular fire training drills. Russian military exercised actions on covert movement and the use of fortifications to protect against plane and helicopter raids by a simulated enemy. A powerful cyberattack on government Internet resources of Ukraine on January 14 may also be in the same line. That very day, the Ukrainian military intelligence made an extremely alarming statement that the Russian special services were allegedly preparing provocations in our direction in order to later blame Kiev for this. According to Ukrainian intelligence agencies, the left bank of the Dniester hosted a kind of official meeting on the “expected provocations from Ukraine” in the area of the village of Cobasna, which is known as the site where storages with Russian weapons are stationed. All this suggests that the situation is heating up, and the fire of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation can spread to our country at any moment. This seems to have accelerated the process of adopting a new Government-proposed Individual Moldova-NATO Partnership Action Plan for 2022-2023. Among other things, the document states that our republic will continue to develop cooperation with NATO to advance the process of reforming and modernizing the security sector and national defense in line with new developments and the requirements of the current security environment. The Plan pays special attention to the settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict, the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Moldova, transformation of the current peacekeeping operation, ammunition destruction in Cobasna, etc. Experts quite reasonably say that in today’s extremely tense geopolitical and regional situation the Moldovan leadership won’t be able to continue pretending that we won’t be harmed if we choose not to be excessively active. Such a policy of tacit lack of principles does not seem to be very effective, so, sooner or later, the government will still have to voice the position to be maintained by our country. While the negotiations between Washington and Moscow are only gaining momentum, it is necessary to decide on the team we want to join in order not to remain in the grey geopolitical zone and become the “big deal” subject matter. By the way, Ukraine and Georgia as our Association Trio colleagues came up with their clear pro-Western choice long ago and were granted a privileged partnership without joining NATO. This status allowed them to receive large amounts of aid, special machinery and equipment to strengthen their defense capacity. Therefore, they will have the opportunity to defend themselves at a critical moment, and Western partners will do everything to prevent Moscow from making possible radical moves.