Moldova in the New Eastern European Axis

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Anton Shvec The Polish prime minister arrived in Chisinau to encourage the Moldovan leadership to join the Warsaw-formed ‘Poland-Romania-Ukraine’ axis Yesterday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Moldova and met with his counterpart Dorin Recean. The politicians signed a memorandum on energy security and a cyber-security cooperation agreement, and agreed to increase the number of Polish LOT passenger flights from Chisinau airport, which comes in handy given the crisis of Moldovan airlines and the refusal of several low-cost carriers to provide services in our country. One of the results of the meeting was the joint political declaration which stressed the “strong historical ties” of the two nations, condemned “Russia’s unjustified aggression against neighboring Ukraine and the ensuing hybrid war against Moldova” and expressed Warsaw’s security and Euro-integration support for Chisinau. As Mateusz Morawiecki himself said, Poland and Moldova are “united by the fate of Ukraine.” The phrase is not a word play at all. Earlier this week, the Polish prime minister warmly received the president of Ukraine in Warsaw. The Polish capital witnessed a number of resonant statements by Volodymyr Zelensky, hardly imaginable before the hot phase of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. For instance, speaking about the elimination of historical contradictions and interaction between Ukraine and Poland, Zelensky argued that the two countries will have no borders, political, economic or historical, in the future. It is yet hard to say what exactly is behind these words. Expert estimates are diametrically opposite, starting with Poland’s territorial claims to the regions of western Ukraine and ending with hints at a future confederation of the two states as a new version of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It seems that Warsaw’s diplomatic activity in the region is driven not only by national needs and historical interests in Ukraine. Poles also have serious geopolitical agenda, for the European Union, especially its ordinary voters, is showing weariness of the Ukrainian conflict, which undermines solidarity in terms of financing and arming Kyiv. Hungary has dissociated itself from the mainstream since the outbreak of the war and is pursuing a relatively neutral policy. France is torn by internal contradictions due to the failed pension reform move by Emmanuel Macron, which sparked mass protests in the country. Domestic insecurity makes the Fifth Republic’s president weak in foreign policy, as evidenced by his futile, and in some ways humiliating, visit to Beijing. Xi Jinping’s promise to call Zelensky can hardly be credited to Macron and the European Commission chief who accompanied him. France has even dropped out of the Moldova support platform, although at the previous three sessions it stood as its major driver, along with Romania and Germany. Now Olaf Scholz travels to Bucharest and invites Maia Sandu without involving France which apparently ran out of money or enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Poland, and Romania, key support countries for Kyiv with which Ukraine has long western borders, face a vigorous fronde. Primarily, agricultural producers disgruntled by low Ukrainian export prices are protesting. However, a large part of the Polish population also has historical claims to the neighboring country, which cannot be overcome only by warm relations between Mateusz Morawiecki and Andrzej Duda and the Zielensky family, especially given the widespread Nazi symbols and attitudes in the conflict zone. Washington is closely watching these trends and the popular demand for peace or at least a respite, and is aware of Romania’s and Poland’s growing role amid the contradictory polices of the EU nation-states. Their support will allow Ukraine to fight without worrying about logistics and the rear, while relying on aid in exporting its products and hosting refugees. That is why the U.S. is pushing for an Eastern European ‘Poland-Romania-Ukraine’ axis under the direct command of the Pentagon and the State Department. This was made quite explicit last week during Morawiecki’s visit to Romania where he spoke with Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă. The two sides agreed on a technical committee on the defense industry and production of military hardware, which means joint modernization of the army, joint purchases and drills. The joint session of the Polish and Romanian governments resulted in a declaration and a series of memorandums, as well as statement of unconditional support for Ukraine for as long as needed. Thus, Washington has successfully consolidated the key allies of Ukraine to continue military action. And Moldova, obviously, was invited to participate in the emerging club, with no right to refuse. The endless series of NATO military exercises involving the National Army (JCET-2023, Defender and Air Defender), reservist drills, etc. are only a prologue to further actions. If developments in the Ukrainian military theater require specific moves from Poland and Romania, these countries will send their contingents and NATO units stationed there to Ukraine as part of a new escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. Moldova’s role, unfortunately, is not limited to logistics and diplomacy, either. Our leadership may be at any moment instructed to unfreeze the Transdniestrian conflict in order to justify Romania’s entry into the war and create the broadest possible front line for Russia. There is nothing to suggest that the current authorities, who are under Washington and Bucharest’s operational control, will be able to opt out and act in keeping with national interests. Obviously, Russia will not be indifferent to its peacekeepers and Russian citizens in the region, and will retaliate by available military means. Thus, Moldova could quickly turn into a new theater of hostilities, with the consequences causing irreparable damage and depriving our country of its last prospects for normal development.