Will Romania Come to Moldova’s Rescue?

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Sergiu CEBAN
Bucharest knows what kind of risks Moldova might face if the regional situation changes drastically
As the results of negotiations show, a path to a possible truce between Moscow and Kyiv is still long: it’s about weeks or even months. A ceasefire agreement might be concluded only closer to May – at least, this is what representatives of Ukraine say. Meanwhile, our region is increasingly being drawn into the vortex of military confrontation. Almost all the neighbors of Ukraine connected with it in terms of transit, resource and economy have been affected. By the end of the year, the Ukrainian crisis will have global implications, given the serious shortage of Ukrainian goods in certain sectors of the world economy. Almost all nearby countries have become temporary or permanent shelter for tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. At the same time, the risk of a second migration wave is high, although, for example, Moldova and Poland have almost reached their limits and are barely managing the flows of people who have already arrived. Moreover, the hostilities have become a source of new threats for almost all eastern states of the European Union and NATO. The main burden lies on Poland and Romania as the two strongholds for the United States on the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance. That the region is becoming less safe and extremely restless is evidenced by a series of incidents that, due to the lack of clear explanations, primarily from the military, don’t allow the EU citizens to relax and feel really protected. First of all, we are talking about the mysterious crash of a Romanian military fighter and helicopter. Numerous versions have been proposed in that regard - from bad weather conditions and attacks by the Russian fleet up to the accidental launch of missiles from the air defense of Ukraine in the Odessa region. This was followed by a case when a Ukrainian unmanned aircraft crossed the airspace of Romania and Hungary before going down on the Croatian territory. Just this week, a small reconnaissance drone crashed in one of the settlements of Romania, 100 kilometers away from the border with Ukraine. It is absolutely impossible to rule out that there have been more such incidents and, in order not to create panic, information about them is still covered up. However, the causes for disturbing thoughts are more than enough. The main question hanging in the air is why the air defense systems of NATO countries failed in each of the known cases. This is actually a bad sign, because exactly these situations show how ready the NATO systems are for repelling the air threats and to what extent its eastern flank is vulnerable to external threats. Apparently, in order to forestall possible non-standard situations, the Defense Ministers of Romania and Ukraine had a conference call earlier this week. Bucharest expressed support for the Ukrainian army, as well as for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. In addition, Vasile Dincu told about a logistic center launched in Suceava to store and subsequently distribute humanitarian goods to Ukraine. What the real need for such liaison is will be clear soon. Meanwhile, earlier it was reported that Romania, along with Poland, could become another hub for supplying Ukraine, among other things, with foreign weapons. By the way, such assistance would be quite opportune for Kyiv now more than ever, given the growing tension in the Odessa region, which borders both our country and Romania. It seems that the recent visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to Poland and Romania has accelerated the resolution of this issue. During her trip to Bucharest, she, among other things, stated that the North Atlantic Alliance needs to fundamentally revisit its approach to the eastern flank. Besides that, it was stressed that NATO would not hesitate to defend all allied states, including Romania. Iohannis and Harris separately discussed the issue of assistance. Therefore, it must be assumed that today's arrival of the Romanian president in Chisinau is absolutely not accidental. Formally, he is going to discuss the regional context, the situation with Ukrainian refugees, as well as cooperation between Moldova and Romania. However, the fact that the visit takes place just a few days after the meeting with the Vice President of the United States, most likely may indicate a desire to address other, more "urgent" topics. It should be understood that Russia’s troops entering the Odessa region and the mouth of the Danube and thus approaching the borders of Romania and NATO will be a milestone moment. The existential threat to Bucharest will grow formidable. This state of affairs will actually roll back the situation to the last-century interwar period prompting the Romanian leadership to review all its defensive documents, while enhancing the security of its eastern borders as a matter of urgency. Moreover, Bucharest is well aware what type of risks Moldova might face if the regional context changes, when the eastern border virtually turns transparent and the penetration of the Russian factor into our territory becomes almost inevitable. In the face of such challenges it would be most appropriate to find the earliest opportunity to discuss at the highest level a joint response plan to the rapidly changing environment. Yesterday’s PACE decision to recognize the Transdniestrian region as a zone of Russian occupation is noteworthy. This initiative was authored, among others, by the members of the Romanian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. Perhaps this is exactly that very first step that will bring about serious shifts in the actions of Bucharest and Chisinau, including the transformation of the peacekeeping operation on the Dniester and more effective steps to ensure Moldova’s security by introducing the Romanian military contingent.
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