Is Moldova for Ukraine an Ally or an Untrustworthy Neighbor?

Home / Analytics / Is Moldova for Ukraine an Ally or an Untrustworthy Neighbor?
Sergiu CEBAN
Our authorities’ strange behavior trying to please everyone and not to quarrel with anyone hardly add to Moldova’s credibility, both on the part of Ukrainian and Western partners
With the outbreak of military events in Ukraine, Moldova was talked about as one of the first states that began to host Ukrainian refugees on a mass scale. At the same time, “getting into the swing of things” and following in Kyiv’s footsteps, our country applied for membership in the European Union and now has a good chance of acquiring the status of a candidate country. As for the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, our leadership immediately declared its neutrality and refusal to join the system of sanctions imposed by Washington and Brussels. In such a set of ambiguous circumstances and actions, experts and the public have a reasonable question: what is Moldova really like for Ukraine? In March, there were increasingly unpleasant statements from Kyiv that Chisinau took advantage of the Ukrainian events to satisfy its foreign policy interests and did not follow the letter of the “alliance relations”. It is obvious that initially everything was done to avoid Moscow’s aggressive reaction, to avoid attracting unnecessary attention or to irritate the Kremlin in any way. Because of this, certain misunderstandings and mutual resentments began to accumulate between Chisinau and Kyiv. However, a significant decrease in the pace of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, in fact, removed the direct military threat to Moldova, expanding the objective space for maneuver. At the same time, pressure from certain Western partners, whose delegations are visiting Chisinau perhaps more often than ever, was growing. Therefore, over time, our authorities were forced to look at the situation somewhat differently and begin to reformulate their position in the direction of a more pronounced support for Ukraine and solidarity with the Western partners. The pressure that Kyiv itself has been exerting all this time has also played a major role. One can recall the confiscation of cargoes belonging to Moldovan companies, but the most prominent tool was the spinning of the Transdniestrian threat. There were regular reports from Ukraine about military preparations on the left bank of the Dniester River, hinting that Kyiv might also invade the region we do not control. All these factors combined apparently forced Chisinau to reconsider the situation, because it became clear that it would no longer be possible to wait on the sidelines. Chisinau may have made the change in its policy on the conflict that Kyiv wants, as indicated by some détente with our neighbor. Last week, in an interview for a Moldovan newspaper, Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to the president of Ukraine, spoke very positively about Moldova, emphasizing that Kyiv has confidence in us and also understands why we did not join the anti-Russian sanctions. The Ukrainian representative also suggested that Moldova’s fate depends very much on the outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, because it is Kyiv that can discourage Moscow from continuing its expansionist policy. In addition, just yesterday the Ukrainian General Staff unexpectedly eased its statements regarding the armed formations on the left bank of the Dniester. In particular, it noted the low probability of involving the operational group of Russian troops in the Transdniestrian region in the armed aggression against Ukraine. Moreover, as a result of inspecting the Transdniestrian paramilitary structures’ combat readiness, Russian Federal Security Service allegedly recognized their inability to take part in the offensive combat operations. Kyiv’s demands didn’t seem to be that stringent, and the Ukrainian partners are not going to expose our country to a direct attack from Moscow because of joining the sanctions. Most likely, the Kyiv authorities are counting on completely different assistance. Under the maritime blockade, the geographical position of our country could significantly help Kyiv in terms of supplying Ukraine and strengthening the defense capability of the Odessa Region. While Poland has paved the northern transit route for Ukraine, Moldova together with Romania can organize a southern transport corridor for Ukrainian goods and import supplies. Apparently, it is for this purpose that last week our railroad workers discussed with their Ukrainian colleagues the increase of throughput capacity at border crossings. Romanian railroad in turn intends to rehabilitate as soon as possible the broad-gauge part of the railroad bed with the distance of 4 km near Galati. Despite the preparatory work, apparently, the supply channels have already been opened, as evidenced by the photos, posted by the Moldavian users in the network, of fuel railroad trains, which go to Ukraine to cover an acute shortage of fuel and lubricants. Also, in recent weeks, Chisinau has been speaking out more boldly against Moscow and holding strong, condemnatory opinions about what resulted from the invasion of Ukrainian territory. Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu accused Russia of trying to recruit Moldovan citizens in Transdniestria to take part in armed actions on Ukrainian territory. The main challenge to the Kremlin was posed by Moldovan deputies, who introduced several legislative initiatives, including a ban on the use of the St. George’s ribbon in Moldova and symbols of the Russian “special operation”. Moscow’s initial reaction could be assessed as rather restrained. The speaker of the Russian Foreign Ministry only expressed the hope that our leadership would “stick to common sense” in order not to damage relations between the two countries. In response, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry called on the Russian side to refrain from interfering in the internal and democratic processes in Moldova. A curious story has also happened to the well-known Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who is reportedly close to certain Kremlin offices. According to Ukrainian law enforcement officials, last week he was supposed to enter Moldova through an uncontrolled section of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, but was eventually caught. It is possible that our side contributed to the success of the Ukrainian special services by transmitting the relevant data to Kiev. Nevertheless, all this strange floundering by our authorities in an attempt to please everyone and not to quarrel with anyone while the entire regional configuration is being destroyed hardly adds to the trust and confidence of both our Ukrainian and Western partners in us. Sadly, our political class, due to its natural indecisiveness, seems simply unable to take responsibility for making any important decisions on any of the fateful topics for our state, including relations with our Ukrainian neighbors, whose future no longer looks so bright after the conflict is over.