What is Moldova Being Prepared For?

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Sergiu CEBAN
The domestic situation is changing rapidly, and not for the better. There were too many security-related events in just a few days to speak of mere coincidences
Some details of the Russian plan to destabilize our country were uncovered the other day. According to Maia Sandu, groups of saboteurs with military training (from Russia, Belarus, Serbia, and Montenegro) allegedly intended to attack state institutions in order to overthrow constitutional order in Moldova. After these accusations, Serbian fans who arrived in Chisinau for a football match between Belgrade "Partizan" and Tiraspol "Sheriff" almost immediately became the target of our special services. As a result, they were deported back and the game itself was held without fans due to security threats. Later, an entry was denied to a group of Montenegrin boxers on their way to an international competition. The foreign ministers of Serbia and Montenegro reacted rather painfully to the accusations against them and asked for explanations. Indeed, how can there be any diplomatic curtsy with such a level of danger at stake. An insidious plan must be neutralized, and all means are good for this. At first, many people did not pay much attention to yesterday's cancellation by Air Moldova of a number of March flights. But towards the afternoon, the country's airspace was closed as a matter of urgency, as we later learned - because of some warning messages from our Romanian counterparts. Initially, there were hypotheses about Russian reconnaissance drones, then about unidentified flying objects (presumably aerostats) which appeared over Moldova and then moved to the south-east of Romania. Bucharest even put combat aviation in the air, and American reconnaissance aircraft operating as part of NATO missions were sent to patrol near the Moldovan-Romanian border. Many people have a reasonable question: what was all that about? There are at least two versions. Either it was a kind of a drill to practice protocols for operational coordination of our actions with Bucharest and NATO in case of urgent airspace closure. Or someone is checking our strength, and testing the Romanian air defense systems and the way Bucharest reacts when any objects, ranging from balloons to missiles and aircraft, appear in the national airspace. By the way, it should be noted that Ukraine's public release about Russian missiles over Romanian territory last week was left without any clear response from the Romanian authorities. Meanwhile, there is still a theoretical possibility of a Russian attack on the Odessa region, and this issue was discussed the other day at the Munich Security Conference. According to Deputy Secretary General Mircea Gioane, today Moscow does not have enough forces to use Transdniestria to attack Ukraine from the rear, nor to conduct an operation to build a land corridor to the left bank of the Dniester. Yet, today, at the meeting in Brussels, the NATO defense ministers agreed to "step up support for the defense potential of Moldova." Against this backdrop, experts are once again revisiting the most radical hypotheses, predicting the further course of events. One thing is clear: even during the winter-spring period of last year, with much higher threats to Moldova, there was no such impulsive and decisive behavior of our authorities. Once again there are speculations among experts about the need to conduct some targeted joint operations with Ukraine to neutralize threats on the left bank of the Dniester and to seize objects of strategic importance. Apart from that there are talks about a possible preventive operation in Gagauzia to demonstrate firm intentions to counteract any intra-political destabilization attempts. It is quite possible that limited contingents of the Romanian special units or separate formations of the US armed forces deployed in Romania may be introduced into the territory of Moldova to implement such plans. On the one hand, such proactive actions can provoke questions in terms of the lack of present threats of direct confrontation with the Russian army. However, according to some experts, in light of the events in Ukraine, nothing should be ignored, and early preparations are needed. All the more so because Moscow's plans for the Black Sea area of Odessa (Southern Bessarabia) appear to be still part of current military planning. The unidentified surface drones in Zatoka, the bombs dropped on Zmeinii Island, missile overflights from the sea through Ukrainian, Moldovan and Romanian territory all combine to make us keep our eyes open and bear in mind that the southern direction is still one of the probable targets of the Russian offensive. It is also possible that the Kremlin will dare a military operation in response to aggravations in Gagauzia and Transdniestria, as well as appeals of regional politicians and the population to "save from Chisinau's pressure". Given the silent position of Bucharest and the slow response of the Romanian Air Defense Forces, Moscow may well decide that it is realistic to redeploy several airborne groups through the territory of Romania to Moldova, bypassing Ukraine's air defense systems. In all this uncertainty, the need for security guarantees for Moldova becomes imperative. A frozen conflict, including Gagauzia, can be quickly activated, which is why our authorities are confronted with a difficult dilemma: how to avoid being caught between the hammer and the anvil and not to be torn "in a geopolitical fight of bulldogs". The outcome of the visit of the OSCE chairman to Moldova gives some hope that our state can be kept more or less stable and conflict-free. It is up to the politicians in Chisinau, as well as in Tiraspol and Comrat to choose: either all of them will take the path of conscious aggravation of the situation to strengthen their positions through the conflict and weaken ambitions of the opposite side, or Moldova becomes a space for dialogue, not only local, but also international.