NATO’s Patronage over Moldova

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Victor ENI
The West’s increased attention to strengthening the national army and Moldova’s defense capabilities is clearly beyond the scope of its usual support 
So Moscow has crossed yet another line. In negotiations with Kyiv, the point of no return has been reached; the feeble hopes for dialogue have effectively been left behind. And the things will escalate, which is almost unpredictable, since it can unfold in completely different directions. Including, for example, towards Ukraine’s western borders, to come close to the NATO’s zone of responsibility. Following the Kremlin’s decision to annex new territories, Vladimir Zelensky defiantly signed an application to accelerate Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Alliance. The West’s moderate reaction to this, mocked by Russian experts, cannot be seen as a complete reaction. At the very least, the fact that it was the NATO Secretary General who expressed the common position of Western capitals should be taken as seriously as possible by Moscow, as well as the likelihood of even closer involvement of the bloc in Ukraine’s case. Just a few days later, about ten countries, mostly associated with Washington and London, jointly spoke in support of Ukraine’s accession to the alliance. They even brought up the decision of the Bucharest summit of NATO in 2008 on the future membership of Ukraine, during which, as it is known, there were even expressed intentions to provide Kyiv with the Membership Action Plan. Although the U.S. did not sign this declaration, but at the level of the Pentagon chief it reiterated its commitment to provide all kinds of assistance regardless of the course of the conflict with Russia. Our authorities are also counting on Washington and, especially, Brussels to help soften the stranglehold of the economic and energy crises. Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, who visited us last week, unfortunately did not bring anything encouraging. If the first months of the war in Ukraine the meaningful words of European officials inspired optimism, now, not supported by financial incentives, they only cause undisguised irritation. Although there is nothing surprising about it: the European Union is focused on its internal problems, and the main concern of the European commissioners right now is surviving the coming winter. And the EU candidates, apparently, must prove their ability to overcome crises on their own, without turning to Brussels all the time. But the European partners spare no money for strengthening Moldova’s defense capacity. Each time they promise us more and more assistance. After communicating with Hahn, Maia Sandu announced that our country will receive financial support from the European Peace Foundation next year. It will be used to strengthen the national army, as well as to speed up the modernization of the security and defense sector. In general, the Moldovan army now enjoys the most increased international attention in its history. Last week, for example, two defense ministers paid us a one-day visit: Vasile Dincu (Romania) and Christine Albrecht (Germany). The talks with the Romanian Minister did not attract much media attention, since they focused on general issues of cooperation and the regional situation. With Berlin, however, the prospects for military-defense cooperation look more exciting. A round of consultations between the Moldovan and German defense ministries is expected to be held in Chisinau in the near future, where joint projects are planned. Besides, as Albrecht assures, Germany will provide us with military drones and other equipment. The Germans are also ready to help with the training of our troops. This year, about 500 soldiers of the national army have already been trained in Germany in logistics, geodesy, artillery, medical care, etc. All this is added to the already allocated 40 million euros from the EU, which will be used to improve the defense system against cyber-attacks, purchase drones, non-lethal military equipment, and other elements of logistics. And back in early September, the United States allocated more than a billion dollars to Eastern European countries at risk of a Russian-Ukrainian conflict to bolster their defense capabilities. Moldova is among them. In other words, no one is hiding the fact that Moldova, along with other countries, is engaged in active rearmament and re-training. Maia Sandu urges us to get ready to defend ourselves against the Russian invasion, for there is a great risk of breaking Moldova’s neutrality and dragging our country into a military conflict. Analysts argue that further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine will almost inevitably lead to NATO’s increased involvement. That said, it is highly likely that Washington’s closed-door diplomatic consultations are already underway to secure a general consensus among all 30 alliance members on initiating the procedure for Ukraine’s admission to the bloc or granting candidate status so as to force Moscow to stop. In this case the risks are incomparably higher, but the example of the EU candidacy shows that the West is ready to disregard principles to serve its geopolitical interests. What is in store for Ukraine to satisfy its security needs is not as important for us as the fact what Moldova will face under such circumstances. Based on the European candidacy experience, it is likely that a one-package decision will be made, with no one going deep into the Moldovan specifics, the constitution, neutrality and the Transdniestrian factor. As we can see the adjustment to NATO standards and the retraining of our military is in full swing, but we are informed about it only post factum, and obviously only in the least detail. One may be surprised or even alarmed by the recent visit to Chisinau of the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy. But we must get used to he idea that patronage over our regional space, including Moldova, will only increase, and the visits of NATO officials will soon become routine.