Expert: The Ukrainian Conflict Can Destroy Moldova

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Sergiu CEBAN
Besides the ongoing influx of refugees, Moldova is increasingly experiencing the impending wave of crisis in a wide range of economic and other sectors
The Russian-Ukrainian military conflict, which has been going on for two weeks, is getting more and more bogged down in various negotiations that do not give many grounds for encouragement yet. Instead, what is happening in the neighboring country is increasingly alarming both the leadership of our republic and ordinary citizens, primarily because of the possible further deterioration of the situation and the intensification of armed confrontation. Yesterday’s meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Russia on the sidelines of the diplomatic forum in Turkey did not lead to any breakthroughs. Both ministers recorded a complete failure of negotiations, even on the opening of humanitarian corridors. Sergey Lavrov, unlike his colleague, apparently expected such an outcome and used the meeting rather as an excuse to talk to international journalists and convey Moscow’s position in the conditions of Russia’s information isolation. The real international context of the war in Ukraine becomes more and more clear. By the evening, French President Emmanuel Macron made several important statements that it would not be quite right to open the procedure for joining the European Union for a country at war. Besides, he drew attention to the vulnerability of Moldova, which depends on Russian energy resources and has the Transdniestrian issue. By the morning it became clear that Kiev was politely refused a request for fast-track integration, being left with only expressions of solidarity to Ukraine and verbal support for its commitment to the European path of development. The United States, in turn, has been declaring almost the same position for several days that it cannot provide Ukraine with heavy weapons and aircraft. According to Washington, this step is not likely to change the situation in any way, and attempts to ensure a no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory may provoke a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. There is a feeling that the West has exhausted the acceptable volumes of both military support for Kyiv and the sanctions impact on Moscow. Kyiv understands this, already hinting at a possible referendum as a way to settle the status of the so-called LPR and DPR, as well as willingness to abandon the course of joining NATO. But, apparently, Russia continues to make excessive demands, accepting which Zelensky risks repeating the fate of Viktor Yanukovych, and at the same time calling into question the continued existence of the country. By the way, yesterday one of the authoritative Ukrainian publications posted a list of conditions put forth by Moscow that, according to the editorial board, the current Ukrainian politicians won’t be able to accept. At the same time, detecting some signs of a possible compromise between Moscow and Kyiv, European leaders, Israel and Turkey are making serious efforts to effect at least some intermediate agreements that suit both sides to end the fighting and further bloodshed. However, now one on one with Moscow, Kyiv may decide out of total despair to fight to the bitter end and not to yield to blackmail, even at the risk of much greater damage from a long war. Though the price of such a decision may be too high not only for ordinary Ukrainians, the country’s economy and territorial integrity but also for Europe as a whole. Unsuccessful negotiations threaten the EU countries with further escalation of the conflict which is rapidly approaching the NATO borders and can easily spread to the territory of one of the alliance countries. Such course of events will raise the question of activating the notorious fifth article, that is, everyone will be faced with a tough choice – to get involved in a broad military confrontation with the risk of using nuclear weapons or not to resort to the collective defense regime. The letter, however, will seriously undermine the alliance’s reputation and unity. Meanwhile, as Macron rightly put it, Moldova is in the most vulnerable position, and in the current context it can rely solely on itself, with the “moral support” of the European community. Should the war enter again into an active phase, one of the most likely directions of the Russian troops’ offensive will be the Odessa region, where the construction of deeply echeloned defensive positions is already underway. In addition, once hostilities are launched, the Ukrainian military will be much more tempted to drag Moldova into their conflict under the pretext of the “Transdniestrian threat”. This idea was stirred up in media by Kyiv strategists already several times over the past two weeks. We must admit that tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, as well as an array of other negative factors caused by the armed conflict in Ukraine have revealed the fragility of our state system, which is already working at the limit of its capabilities. This is only worsened by attempts to use the current crisis to “make money”, for example, artificially over-reporting the number of Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. In recent days, the government is growing increasingly susceptible to the impending wave of crisis in a wide range of economic sectors. Thus, due to the increased fuel prices, as well as interruption of transport corridors through the territory of Ukraine, the Association of International Transportation, whose representatives threaten to suspend export-import operations, has requested urgent support measures. Agricultural producers are facing an equally critical situation ahead of the sowing campaign. All this is added by an inevitable increase in gas prices, uncertainty with the electricity supplies, the growing panic among the population who have rushed to urgently prepare travel documents. Therefore, should the Ukrainian crisis further escalate, our authorities risk losing their grip on the situation, which will have disastrous socio-political consequences.