Expulsion of Russian Diplomats from Moldova: Ulterior Motives

Home / Analytics / Expulsion of Russian Diplomats from Moldova: Ulterior Motives
Anton ŠVEC
Yesterday’s forced relocation of Russian diplomats from Chisinau is a clear evidence of the new stage of relations between Moldova and Russia, characterized by mutual distrust and unrevealed plans
The government’s noisy PR campaign to demonstrate its disinterest in maintaining normal relations with Moscow has reached its climax. Yesterday, the absolute majority of diplomatic staff and technical personnel of the Russian embassy left Moldova. Now 25 people will work there, of whom only 10 are career diplomats. The “quiet embassy” is turning into a “paralyzed” one, as it is impossible to continue working in all existing areas under the new conditions. There are already rumors about the closure of the trade mission, the Russian Centre for Science and Culture (Rossotrudnichestvo office) and the Consulate General in Chisinau. Russian threats that “the reduction of embassy staff will have a negative impact on the level of bilateral relations and the interests of the people of Moldova”, who risk being deprived of consular services, do not sound convincingly for Chisinau. After all, the actions of the authorities are not merely political, but pursue serious long-term goals. Despite the sluggish media positioning of the Russian diplomatic mission’s activities, it certainly gathered publicly available and intelligence information. The number of available staff allowed to maintain contacts at the official and, above all, informal level, constantly monitor local media and government portals, and keep track of the trends. The public outcome of this activity, as a rule, were statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry about the West’s military-political anchoring in Moldova, about militarization and rapprochement of the latter with the NATO bloc, about the critical situation in the Transnistrian settlement. Obviously, apart from slogans, the Kremlin made certain strategic conclusions and adjusted its plans in the regional space taking into account the facts provided. Now this area of the embassy’s activity will be considerably weakened. Moscow will have to rely on information coming from certain conditionally partner parties and political projects in Moldova, with regard to their narrow corporate interests, as well as on Tiraspol’s stance. Data verification will pose an irresistible cognitive problem. It is hard to imagine that the ambassador, who is at a retirement age by the standards of Russian diplomacy, or his closest assistants will write and send regular reports to the capital. Even if this process could be organized, its quality is likely to be poor. It is obvious that the Western supervisors of the ruling party, who are its main sponsors, provoked this diplomatic crisis. Moldova is about to become a key transit territory for Ukraine. The cancellation of the Black Sea grain deal with regular missile attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure makes us think about the creation of alternative routes for the food and grain supplies. This topic was recently discussed in Galati under American patronage, whereupon Romanian officials announced their intentions to double the transshipment of Ukrainian export cargoes through the country. The Romanian port of Galati is connected with a recently renovated broad-gauge railway running through Moldova, including the left bank (previously, this direction was used to export metallurgic products and for fuel supplies to the region). Besides the railway infrastructure, Moldova keeps open all road border crossing points with Ukraine. The Danube port in Giurgiulesti is also used for Ukrainian exports. All these logistics facilities and, above all, the roads and bridges leading to them from Ukraine can be considered as potential targets for Russian strikes. However, such decisions require a sense of what’s going on, which will be much more difficult to get given the limited expertise. The same applies to the transit of military cargoes. Every arrival of US military transport plane in Moldova is accompanied by the brouhaha in local weblogs. The information simply cannot be concealed. Tracking the distribution of arms deliveries, including their hypothetical shipment to Ukraine, becomes a non-trivial task for the Russians, deprived of informal ties within the established “spy network” and limited in analytical capabilities. However, the main intention of the government and its foreign puppeteers appears to be an attempt to conceal military preparations. The situation on the Ukrainian front becomes more and more alarming for the West. The stalling of the Ukrainian counteroffensive threatens to cause problems for NATO governments in justifying the colossal expenditure on military aid to Kyiv before their electorates. Russia organized an echeloned defense, which makes it impossible to expect the course of war that could be used as a PR asset. The West can distract Russia in Transnistria, assuming that this is a win-win option for it. If Moscow relocates its forces to protect its own military contingent, which controls a huge arsenal of artillery and small arms, peacekeepers and the local citizens, it will weaken its combat capability in Ukraine. This will significantly intensify the conflict and expand its geography. If Moscow ignores the aggravation in Transnistria, the West is confident that the National Army, together with Romanian and American instructors, will easily disarm, capture and dismantle the rebel enclave. Closing the Transnistrian issue by force can also be profitably presented to the public of NATO countries, while replenishing the current pro-Western regime with a historical success and thus cementing its unchallenged ruling status. Even if this scenario is not implemented in the near future, or if events at the Ukrainian front confuse all the cards, Russia’s diplomatic presence in Chisinau could threaten to reveal the Western plans in advance. Who the Kremlin will now rely on to shape its strategy in the regional space is still unclear.