Home / Analytics / Moldova Readies for War?
Vladimir ROTARI
The participation of Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii in the meeting of NATO members and allies at the Ramstein base in Germany, another increase in military spending in the state budget, a new tranche “to strengthen security” from Washington – all these are links of the same disturbing chain
The hostilities in neighboring Ukraine are once again in full swing. Thanks to the mobilization of the population and economy, as well as large-scale deliveries of Western weapons and equipment, the AFU has built up enough muscle to launch two powerful counterattacks at once. The first one, not very successful so far, was at the southern arc near Kherson, and the second one, on the contrary, was extremely successful in the Kharkiv sector. Many observers believe that Kyiv deliberately timed its offensives to coincide with the next conference at the German Ramstein airbase, where the defense support for Ukraine is being discussed in a broad format at the suggestion of the U.S. The goal is to show and prove to all partners and sponsors that the Ukrainian army is capable of converting incoming weapons and money into success on the front. It is safe to say that this goal has been achieved. Interestingly, our Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii was among the 55 members and closest NATO allies at the Ramstein Group meeting. It was said that he came “to discuss humanitarian aid provided to Ukraine by Moldova, including in the context of managing the flow of refugees.” The presence of a representative of a country with a neutral status officially enshrined in its Constitution at such an event is perplexing in itself. But only to those who have not closely followed the ruling party’s defense policy, even before February 24, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Here's a fact: the defense spending, even in spite of all the crises our country has been through in recent years, has been growing steadily, including in accordance with the Individual Partnership Plans between Moldova and NATO. This year, amendments to the budget have been adopted more than once, increasing spending on the defense sector. The last of them was voted by the Parliament in the second reading just yesterday, symbolically, with a parallel reduction of the health care expenditures. As Anatolie Nosatii gladly says, in 2022, for the first time in the country's history, the Defense Ministry's budget exceeds one billion lei, which is about 0.4% of the GDP. However, our military plans are even more ambitious – to bring the military budget to 2-2.5% of the GDP. Importantly, Western partners willingly help us in spending more on defense (unlike in other areas such as subsidies for the purchase of exorbitantly expensive gas). Back in May, the EU suddenly became concerned about Moldova’s defense potential, deciding to increase military support in logistics, cyber defense, strengthening rear capabilities, etc. After negotiations with Brussels, we were allocated 40 million euros for the modernization of the army – by our standards, enormous funds, equal to the annual defense budget. It is not only the EU that is helping. Washington, which last autumn sent planes with weapons and equipment to Chisinau, is also going to give us money. Yesterday during his visit to Kyiv, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the decision to give over $2 billion in additional military assistance, of which about half will go to Ukraine and the other half to eighteen of its neighbors, as Blinken put it, “potentially at risk of future Russian aggression”. Moldova was on that list. So it is quite obvious that the interaction of our Defence Minister with his colleagues was not limited to the topic of refugees at the Ramstein conference. And there were probably far less “humanitarian” questions discussed, especially given the already publicly expressed desire of our partners from the US, the UK and the EU to bring the National Army fully up to NATO standards – both in terms of training and equipment. Such desires are fully understood by the Moldovan leadership, which this year regularly gives free rein to its militaristic impulses. Here is a quote by the President from a speech on the occasion of National Army Day: “We are a peaceful country, and we do everything to preserve peace. But when the aggressor is determined to disrespect your freedom to build your future, you must be able to defend that freedom. For yourself, but also for future generations. And here the role of a strong army is crucial. We must invest in equipping and professionalizing the army.” In contrast to everything else concerning the country's development, the ruling regime's words and deeds do not differ here. This may be partly because our Western partners now care as much about military issues as they do about our “European integration reforms”. Supplies of small arms and mobile platforms are already being sent to the republic. Mass purchases of artillery systems, helicopters, communications equipment, drones, air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, and equipment for the engineering forces are planned. As we can see, both our politicians and Western ones cover all this militarism with the defense against “aggressive Russia”. But I am far from thinking that anyone seriously considers the prospect of a real “one-on-one” clash between our National Army and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. With all due respect to our military, this is simply ridiculous. If Ukraine, by virtue of its territory, population and experience of the war in Donbass, is capable of pulling off such a confrontation, we obviously are not. At least not on our own. But if our Western friends are willing to provide a security umbrella – so why do we need all this expensive army modernization in a situation where the population has virtually no ability to pay for electricity and heat at current tariffs? Taking into account our geographic location, where both neighbors are friends and strategic allies, the only place where our “modernized and reformed” army can be used is of course the left bank of the Dniester. And in this case I wouldn't discount the idea that at some point the authorities, at the suggestion of the West, intend to make a “small victorious war” here. There are many advantages to such a scenario: you can get more funding, and you can mothball the regime for many years by imprisoning all dissatisfied people according to the laws of “wartime”. In the near future, this scenario does not seem very likely – there is still a need for the Transdniestrian region in a peaceful state in order to get cheap electricity and as a guarantee of Russian gas supply to the country. But when the authorities can truly diversify supplies of both – who knows what they will try to do in general instability in the Black Sea region.