Moldova and Ukrainian Military Transit

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Anton ŠVEC
Due to its geographical location and the political views of the ruling elite, Moldova becomes an important transit hub for military supplies to Ukraine
The Black Sea grain initiative suspended, Moldova’s transit role for Ukrainian exports has increased, both by sea through the port in Giurgiulesti and by land. Despite the fact that Ukraine’s basic logistics is formed mainly through the EU border countries Romania and Poland (recently Bucharest commended the transit of military cargo to Ukraine through its territory), the importance of Moldova is steadily increasing. Russia has not just stopped participating in the grain deal, but has been actively attacking the coastal areas of southern Ukraine for the past week. Missile and drone attacks in the Odessa region (and in the city itself) have been recorded every night, which our leadership has consistently condemned. Russia tries once again to cut Kyiv off the Black Sea corridors, for the first time shelling even the Danube ports of Chilia, Izmail and Reni (on the very border with NATO member Romania). By destroying the port infrastructure, the Russian armed forces do not only smash the equipment and personnel locations, complicating Ukraine’s further counteroffensive, but also deprive Ukraine of access to the sea, the cheapest route for export supply and import of weapons. Under these circumstances, the Moldovan authorities cannot demonstrate indifference, as this would contradict the current mythology, according to which only Ukraine restrains Russia from attacking Moldova. Thanks to this, we have to resist only hybrid warfare so far, but not direct armed aggression. It seems that Chisinau simply does not realize that for the Kremlin, which thinks in geopolitical terms of reformatting the unipolar world order and major deals with the West, Moldova does not exist on the map. And even the threat to Transnistria is not a topic as significant as the situation on the Ukrainian military and political front. Either way, Moldova may become only an insignificant part of the future agreement, if it is reached at all. Nevertheless, the current government condones the context of supporting Ukraine in every possible way, without paying attention to the consequences. Moldova actively develops its military infrastructure, building and reconstructing military facilities - military units and warehouses for equipment and weapons. For instance, last week a group of German specialists in hazardous goods storage audited the military warehouses of the National Army. Given its geographical proximity and relative security, Moldovan territory is seriously considered as a suitable location for the deployment of military equipment, ammunition and weapons for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as for the temporary stay and training of personnel. Moreover, Moldova is included in the European Union’s Military Mobility project, hence it develops relevant logistical possibilities. The construction of a narrow-gauge railway to connect with Romania is under discussion. Pontoon crossings built by the military operate already, linking the two banks of the Prut. It is obvious that Western influence dominates the military doctrines and policy of the National Army’s modernization. The numerous US, EU, Romanian and NATO military and civilian advisers, permanently stationed in the country, deal with this issue. Moldovan military contingents participate in NATO-led combat training both within the country and abroad. The planned delivery of air and even missile defense equipment funded by the EU will make the republic’s territory less vulnerable to possible attacks from Russia, which will allow to deploy military infrastructure useful for Ukraine in a formally neutral state. Neither the political elite nor the parliamentary majority will raise any objections in such circumstances. Especially since Chisinau can receive an ultimatum implying the rejection of the policy of non-interference as a premise for advancement on the European integration path (without EU funding and demonstrative European integration successes, the current regime may collapse within a few months - it is well understood both in Chisinau and in Washington and Brussels). Moldova is actively transforming into a military and logistical appendage of the warring Ukraine. The airport in Chisinau can be used for military cargo deliveries (US military aircraft landed there many times in previous years), that is why the current government refuses its concession and insists on keeping the facility in public ownership. Initiatives to modernize the Marculesti airfield to accommodate civilian aircraft have not been discussed at all recently, i.e. the facility, close to the Ukrainian border, retains its exclusively military profile. The question is how far our political elites are ready to go in transit or arms supplies to Ukraine, and whether Chisinau will revisit the discussion around the Russian military depots in Cobasna in the north of the Transnistrian region. The planned reduction of the Russian embassy’s staff, the strengthening of the Security and Intelligence Service powers, the filtering of Russian citizens coming to Moldova, the creation of numerous cybersecurity and propaganda centers, i.e. control of information flows, suggests that the government has something to hide. However, due to the small territory, the local and provincial nature of internal policy, the constant leaks and war of kompromat, the authorities will not be able to conceal the movement of military equipment and weapons, especially in the conditions of monitoring by the Russian military located in Transnistria. Even among members of parliament, there will be deputies ready to accuse the ruling party of violating the constitutional principle of neutrality. Whether this position will be a “red rag” for the Kremlin and a reason for formidable warnings or actions, we will soon find out. Despite all the complaints and lamentations of aggression, Moldova, fortunately, has not yet faced a real Russian threat, for instance, from the air.