Expert: Clear Security Guarantees for Moldova Needed

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While the war hysteria around Moldova is on the rise, the authorities should demand that the major geopolitical and regional players officially fix the immunity of Moldovan territory to any armed conflict
Vladimir Rotari, RTA: Several years ago, when the regional situation was not completely out of control and the country was not yet run by a pro-Western majority party, then-President Igor Dodon tried to foster a model of Moldova’s behavior on the world stage based on two core principles. This was primarily an international recognition of the neutrality of the republic, as well as a balanced foreign policy involving parity of cooperation with both the West and the East on the basis of benefit, rather than geopolitics. While the latter seems almost utopian, given the events of the past year and the current configuration of power, the first idea, in my opinion, is still relevant. I would even say that this issue is more acute for Moldova now than ever before. The first months of this year were probably the most turbulent since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war. During this short period of time, several scenarios were offered to the public that had the potential to turn our territory into a war zone. Notably, these scenarios were voiced by both sides of the conflict. For example, Kyiv disseminated widely the reports of some Russian plan to destabilize Moldova intercepted by its intelligence service. The plan allegedly included attempts to seize administrative buildings and overthrow the government by imported Russian saboteurs, with the support of local opposition forces. Later, it was Russia’s turn to accuse Ukraine of preparing a provocation in Transdniestria to justify the subsequent invasion and occupation of the region. These statements were accompanied by a series of alarming reports and incidents: strange closures of Moldovan airspace and cancellation of flights, deportation of foreign soccer fans, constant movement of military equipment around the country, panic about the “Ukrainian invasion of Transdniestria” on February 24, etc. The government’s response to all these events, which ultimately put society in a state of constant agitation and uncertainty, was in most cases rather weak and overdue. It is clear that the unresolved Transdniestrian conflict and the plans to unfreeze it, which the military and political leaders of the West and Ukraine certainly have in mind, remain the most obvious Achilles’ heel of our country. It is difficult to say how realistic these plans are and when they might be implemented. Right now, however, the threat of using the Transdniestrian region for destabilization purposes is particularly tangible. In quite official reports, Kyiv acknowledges the fact of concentrating its troops and conducting engineering and fortification works on the Transdniestrian border section. Amplifying the power component unambiguously increases the risks of various provocations, armed incidents, etc., which can have devastating ramifications. However, our officials do not seem to pay much attention to these developments, making routine statements. The official Kyiv government seems to be either afraid or unwilling to ask any uncomfortable questions. Instead of clarifying the situation and reassuring the population, the authorities continue their military affairs, demanding air defense and other equipment from partners to bolster the country’s defense capabilities. Along the way, the ground is prepared for a rapid change in the constitutional status of neutrality. Replacing the name of the state language from Moldovan to Romanian by a simple organic law has become a precedent, showing that PAS does not even need to have a constitutional majority in parliament to make similar decisions on the neutral status. The main obstacle for the ruling party so far is not the legal procedures, which are easily trampled, but the population’s stance. Despite the efforts of state propaganda, more than 70% of citizens still hold the view that neutrality is the best solution for the security of the republic. Although many people think that the situation around Moldova has more or less calmed down, this impression is deceptive. Things can “explode” at any moment. For example, today, the Transdniestrian administration suddenly spread the news that an attack on the Transdniestrian leader, Vadim Krasnoselsky, was allegedly prepared at the behest of the Security Service of Ukraine. Later tonight, an investigation with all the details will reportedly be released. I am sure that many of our experts and politicians will question the news about a “Ukrainian terrorist attack” coming from the left bank, but in light of all the recent events, I do not completely rule out that all this really took place. After all, Tiraspol, which is in an extremely vulnerable position, would hardly make such an anti-Ukrainian demarche without solid reasons. All this again brings us back to the need for urgent and decisive action to ensure the country's security. And I agree with my fellow citizens that the most effective way to do this is not by importing old German armored cars and other weapons, but through diplomacy. The authorities should immediately address all major geopolitical and regional players with a demand to officially guarantee the immunity of Moldovan territory to any form of armed conflict in conformity with the republic’s neutral status. Such a “guarantee document” could at least be signed by the United States, Russia and Ukraine, and, if necessary, by other interested stakeholders, for example, Romania. Despite the fact that the authorities have frozen all contacts with Russians, and intend to join the sanctions regime against Russia and contribute to military supplies to the AFU, I have no doubt that Moscow would react very quickly to such a proposal. After all, strong security guarantees for Moldova would absolve the Kremlin of the risks of opening a “second front” in Transdniestria and the need to allocate some resources to protect its military contingent and citizens with Russian passports in the region. Washington and Kyiv have repeatedly stated their desire to maintain peace and stability in our country and could thus confirm their words in practice. It would be very difficult for our partners to find a pretext for refusing to sign agreements on guarantees for Moldova. Drafting such a document would not be an easy task: one would have to think about the content of these guarantees, what military mechanisms they would include in the event of attempted aggressive actions against our country. There are also objective complexities associated with the fact that the signatories must be the countries that are directly or indirectly at war with each other. Nevertheless, none of these problems seems insurmountable. Not to mention the fact that no one is hindering our government from putting forward this initiative, there would be a desire. It would help calm down the population, at least a bit, and show that the country’s leadership does not actually have any military plans. But, unfortunately, so far there are no actions in this direction at all.