The severe crisis in European security forced the Moldovan authorities to leave the comfort zone that the neutral status of the republic had been creating for years
The tension in Eastern Europe has apparently increased the attention of the Moldovan leadership to defense and security issues. The other day, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu visited Brussels, where he discussed the priorities of cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance. And on the eve of this trip last week, the government approved an individual action plan for the partnership between Moldova and NATO for 2022-2023.
In Brussels, the Minister stressed the importance of decreasing the regional tension and preventing a military escalation, considering the security crisis in Europe. He also remembered to thank the NATO leadership for their commitment to further developing partnership with our country and for respecting Moldova’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional neutrality.
Experts believe that a visit to NATO headquarters is a long overdue necessity. Such a diplomatic move demonstrates that Chisinau is not just passively observing, but carefully analyzing the ongoing processes and is morally prepared to take measures to protect national interests. The main efforts, it seems, should be focused on ensuring that Moldova is not drawn into the hot phase of the Kiev-Moscow military confrontation.
A visit to Brussels may also indicate that the authorities have developed their own foreign policy stance and a set of priority steps, deciding to convey them to the leadership of the alliance. It should be understood that the effectiveness of countering the Kremlin’s attempts to impose an agenda on Western partners in relation to the post-Soviet space depends, among other things, on the countries of the region themselves and their proactive measures. Therefore, confidential communication with the NATO central office can be considered as a clear signal that Moldova will pursue a sovereign foreign security policy, despite the fact that such contacts cause serious irritation in Moscow.
Basically, the reaction was swift, and just yesterday Russian court experts began to say that Moldova was being dragged into the orbit of the North Atlantic Alliance in order to bring it under maximum control. At the same time, Moscow thinks that our country has practically no chance of joining NATO in the foreseeable future, but the West will do everything to keep Chisinau under its political control.
Moscow’s sharp counteractions have forced the elites of many states to seriously consider security issues. The same thing, apparently, happened with us. It should be recognized that this sector has never been among our state policy priorities, despite the unsettled Transdniestrian conflict, which in itself has jeopardized many spheres. Besides, even the 2014 Russian-Ukrainian conflict did not trigger any actions to transform security policy.
There is nothing to be surprised at: over the past 30 years, the constant struggle of various political groups for access to limited state resources has left many strategically significant topics on the periphery. The lack of the necessary intellectual potential and qualified personnel to form a holistic view of the military defense strategy predetermined the most comfortable choice of our elites in favor of a neutral status. Such passivity has atrophied any attempts by the state to show at least some initiative and stop being an inert consumer of regional security and a silent spectator of everything that has been happening in the post-Soviet space for three decades.
Yet, serious geopolitical shifts, primarily caused by Moscow’s moves against Ukraine and Georgia, did involve our country in dynamic transformation processes of the defense sector. The North Atlantic Alliance’s openness and readiness to intensify partnership development with the three post-Soviet republics have created conditions for a rapid breakthrough in its development.
As a result of 2014 events, our country, together with Ukraine and Georgia, managed to agree with NATO on a new package of assistance within the framework of the Defense Capacity Building Initiative (DCBI). This project provided for two phases: the first - updating strategic documents, the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Military Strategy, and the second - providing aid by the alliance to modernize the armed forces.
But as usual, our experts are quite successful in putting strategies on paper, but when it comes to their implementation, a lot of obstacles and problems arise. However, as can be seen, the NATO office opening in Chisinau as follow-up to the DCBI program created the necessary incentives to significantly intensify work and to receive, among other things, concrete aid to reform the defense sector. One of these elements was staffing the defense department with a US expert adviser to facilitate the national army reform process.
Despite the peculiarities of each of the Association Trio participants, the difference in the depth of cooperation with the alliance, as well as the objective existence of their own foreign policy objectives, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia should still think about preparing a common Euro-Atlantic strategy to jointly lobby for integration not only with the EU but also NATO. The cumulative effect of such a collegial policy does not guarantee significant breakthrough but, nevertheless, can contribute to much greater results than individual promotion of their issues in Brussels.
The acute crisis in the European security dimension seems to have forced our leadership to leave the comfort zone, which for many years was enabled by the specific status of neutrality. Of course, the current state of the defense sector has been inherited by the current generation of Moldovan politicians who face an urgent need to take effective measures at this turning point in the history of our region. Consultations in Brussels being launched is an important stage for careful preparation and subsequent adoption by our politicians of important strategic decisions on the national security, which are becoming more pressing and, strictly speaking, inevitable.