The New National Security Strategy: Dust in the Eyes

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Christian RUSSU
All the details aside, the paper that Maia Sandu unveiled yesterday is only needed to secure Moldova’s place in one geopolitical camp with the West
“Favouring all the good and opposing all the bad” A year after the public announcement, the draft of the new national security strategy was finally introduced to the public. Maia Sandu personally presented it right after the Supreme Security Council meeting, which probably should have added additional solemnity to the event. The president’s carefully prepared and rehearsed speech contained the already well-worn passages about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the unprecedented threats to Moldova and the entire civilized world, and the need to counter this through more defense spending. The head of state proclaimed that the authorities’ mission, as outlined in the Security Strategy, has three key objectives: to create a strong and respected state, to protect and guarantee the security of all citizens, and to join the European Union. These points were believed to resonate positively with the domestic public, as they were in line with their demand for peace and a rejection of bellicose rhetoric. The declared gradual and peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, as well as the involvement of the residents from the left bank in programmes to improve their well-being in the process of European integration could also have appealed to the public. In fact, the leitmotif of Sandu’s speech was the idea that “we support everything good and oppose everything bad”: we want to participate and develop security partnerships with the most advanced and prosperous democratic countries, to promote regional and international security. But how is it possible without justice reform and the struggle against corruption? However, a careful reading of the document gives us much more food for thought, since quite a lot of crucial provisions were not voiced during the presidential speech. By the way, I must say, the already restrained optimism and the hope of not being on the barricades of another armed conflict is slowly fading away. As I predicted, the ruling party, in its endeavor to impress the collective West, which it desperately wants to be part of, did more than just “rewrite” the previous national security principles concerning the course of integration into Western structures. In addition, new provisions about solidarity with Ukraine and the need to support it appeared, and, most importantly, there was no mention of neutrality. Instead, the section devoted to the current security context refers to the tendency of Russia’s neighbors to abandon neutrality in favor of NATO membership. Together with the declared “intention to boost cooperation with this collective defense alliance”, all this can be understood as an undeclared rejection of the neutral status, which in the coming years is likely to be excluded from the Constitution in one way or another. It goes without saying that our big eastern neighbor was excluded from the strategic partners, as it was in the last national security strategy. Instead, it received a lot of accusations and the role of the main enemy and constant source of threats for Moldova. There is the factor of military aggression against Ukraine, and “the Russian government’s desire to create a land military corridor into Moldova”, which would create a direct prerequisite for “violent change of the constitutional order and elimination of the country’s statehood”. Russia’s “hybrid operations” to undermine the European course and to ruin the state, as well as the illegal military presence of the Russian Federation in Transnistria and its control over this region were also mentioned. After reading these clauses, you begin to perceive differently Sandu’s words at the briefing about creating a “strong and respected state” (the sovereignty of which, apparently, should be respected only by the Russian Federation, not by Western partners) “exercising full control over its internationally recognized territory”. At the same time, the authorities don’t see the contradictions in referring to two national interests together, such as “defense of independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country” and “full accession to the European Union”. Presumably, “full independence” should be, again, only from Russia (meaning the withdrawal of its troops from the eastern parts of the country), to be followed by the transfer of sovereignty to the EU and the “country’s integration into the EU’s defense structures and initiatives” mentioned in the strategy. Then what about Popescu’s and Sandu’s statements that European integration and reintegration are not mutually conditioned processes? The same section of the reintegration strategy sets the goal to “link accession to the European Union with the gradual reintegration of the left bank and increasing the role of the EU in conflict resolution”. Is it about the intention to parallelize the two processes while strengthening the Brussels’ status in the Transnistrian settlement? The mention of replacing the Russian presence by an international civilian mission along the administrative line with the Transnistrian region also fits into such a wretched logic (or just a set of foreign policy wishes from the past). But why plan the deployment of some observers along the Dniester instead of Russian peacekeepers, which can be achieved only by continuing the negotiation process involving Russia, if we become an EU member as promised by the authorities? Perhaps the answer to this question lies right there, in the text of the strategy. For instance, my attention was drawn to the provision that Moldova faces a number of vulnerabilities, including a not fully reformed judicial system, endemic corruption, poor integration of national minorities, limited transport and energy infrastructure and communication with immediate neighbors, economic and social inequalities, low efficiency of state institutions, etc. In my opinion, it is not an enumeration of vulnerabilities but a comprehension of the real situation and prospects. The only purpose of this strategy is the recognition of the fact that Moldova is a remote province on the periphery with a tiny chance of joining the EU. Our country will be used by the European Union mainly as a tool for anti-Russian propaganda and as a transit link in the emerging logistics to continue the military and political confrontation on the European continent. In fact, the new strategy, if we set all the nuances aside, is designed only to consolidate several main principles: Russia is a threat, neutrality is obsolete, military expenditures will increase, and Moldova’s future is integration with Western defense structures.