Will Moldova “Just Fight”?

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The tension around Moldova is rising again. The military stalemate in Ukraine and the fragile position of our authorities multiply the risks of violent scenarios on the Dniester
Semen ALBU, RTA: It is easy to notice that Moldova has started to appear more and more often in the discussions of the Ukrainian conflict. The topic of the Transnistrian conflict thawing, which seems to have subsided after February 2023, is once again flickering in the news feeds. In many ways, we should thank our “wise” leadership for this, which, firstly, increases the intensity of anti-Russian hysteria and declares the threat of aggression and hybrid war, secondly, continues to import weapons into the country, and, thirdly, has a very odd roster of international contacts. Two particular events excited everyone the most: the visit of the new British Foreign Secretary David Cameron to Kyiv and Chisinau, where he met with Maia Sandu and Nicu Popescu, and Sandu’s trip to Ukraine, allegedly for the anniversary of Euromaidan. There, of course, she talked to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, formally - about all kinds of protocol nonsense like European integration. However, it seems that the subject of their conversation could have been on a completely different plane, especially since at that moment, coincidentally, the US and German defence ministers were in the Ukrainian capital. A week earlier, the head of the CIA visited Kyiv. A little earlier, the heads of the British and Romanian intelligence agencies visited Chisinau.  Interesting, isn’t it? And we cannot ignore the essentially sensational interview with the head of the faction of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, Davyd Arakhamia, who provided extremely curious information about the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in April 2022. In general, he did not say anything particularly new - this information has been circulating on the web for a long time. However, it is one thing when it is written about by anonymous Telegram channels, and quite another when it is confirmed by one of the high hierarchs and a direct participant in the negotiations. So, according to Arakhamia, Russia agreed to peace on the terms of Ukraine’s neutrality. At the same time, Moscow would withdraw its forces from the occupied territories, return the territories of Donbas with the status of autonomy, and start some discussions about Crimea. In other words, the Russian Federation was in fact ready to admit its military defeat and “settle” for Ukrainian neutrality and the phantom possibility of legalizing the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in the distant future. Kyiv would return almost all of its lost territories without a fight, which would definitely be its resounding victory. As we recall, the parties had already initialed the agreement and Vladimir Putin once even demonstrated it. However, the Ukrainians rejected it and withdrew from the negotiations, after which the war flared up with renewed vigor. Now Arakhamia admits that one of the reasons for this was... Boris Johnson, former British Prime Minister, who flew to Kyiv and said not to sign anything with the Russians and the incredibly cynical phrase “let’s just fight”. That is to say, at the behest of the United Kingdom, Kyiv has abandoned the most favorable to itself peace treaty. Arakhamia’s justifications for the reasons for rejection are frankly ridiculous. It is obvious that the West, which provoked this war, simply needed it to continue and to drain the resources and forces of one of its geopolitical adversaries. Of course, at the cost of Ukraine - but we can now realize this particularly clearly - who cares about the interests of satellites? We can only guess how the situation would have unfolded if that treaty had been signed. However, at the very least, there would not have been hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded on both sides, there would not have been large-scale blows to Ukrainian energy and industry, and there would not have been such demographic losses for Ukraine. Most of the refugees would most likely have returned home, and now, after almost two years of emigration, there are hardly half of such “returnees”. Kyiv could have set off on the path of European integration in much more convenient conditions and glorified as a winner and “defender of Europe”. The hostilities continue, and there is no end in sight. And so far, despite enormous losses, even the territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson have not been liberated, not to mention the “LDPR” and Crimea. Great “just fighting”, I think. A military stalemate has now been established on the Ukrainian fronts. Both Kyiv and Moscow are capable only of some localized operations, but they are obviously unable to break through each other’s positions with access to operational space. At the same time, no one is going to negotiate. This creates an extremely dangerous situation - since the war can neither be ended nor won under the current conditions, what is needed? That’s right, to change these conditions, to turn the game around in own favor. Now we get back to our meat. So, we need an event that would bring international attention back to the war in Ukraine, that would become a “game changer”, as our Prime Minister Dorin Recean would say. Is it any wonder that the topic of Transnistria is now back in circulation? Let’s compose a string of logic. Ukraine and, above all, its US and UK supervisors need to raise the stakes, complicate Moscow’s strategic disposition, and need a bright victory, especially amidst the latest and potential – Avdiivka – failures. And this victory can be obtained only in Transnistria. Naturally, Moldova’s objective interest is to avoid such a scenario. However, here the factor of the current government comes into play. Probably, Maia Sandu and her regime did not need the option of a riot on the left bank for a while either. Therefore, all proposals from Ukraine “to come together and solve the issue with separatists” were politely rejected. Nevertheless, the situation is changing. The PAS power is “bankrupt” not by days, but by hours, which was once again confirmed by the local elections. But hell with them – the appalling economic situation is far more important. The regime is forced to lend at such a pace that the foreign debt has simply blasted into the stratosphere, and more money is spent on its servicing. It is an actual vicious circle. The situation is so deplorable that the authorities cannot allocate money for farmers and for compensations to the population at least at the last year level. It turns out that Maia Sandu needs some event that would turn the game around. Now the prospects of becoming the power that will reunite the country seem very alluring, as well as all possible flows of aid, the volume of which has recently decreased considerably. Now we recall that, according to rumors, contacts between our president and Zelenskyy’s office, closely coordinated by the British, regarding a joint operation in Transnistria have been going on for several months. Sandu’s visit to Kyiv, together with the defense ministers of key NATO countries, could allow discussing this issue one-to-one and in depth, perhaps evening finalizing arrangements. Against this background, anti-Russian rhetoric has sharply intensified, which looks like the formation of a casus belli. Russia in the new draft of the National Security Strategy of Moldova is directly named as “threat” No. 1. Moreover, it is stated that the Russian Federation intended to create a corridor into Transnistria - that is, the left bank in its current form threatens the statehood of the country. That’s quite a reason to “urgently resolve the issue”. Next, let’s consider Igor Grosu’s statement that political efforts will be made to withdraw Russian troops from the country’s territory. That’s easy to do - it is enough to withdraw from the 1992 agreement, which would return the situation formally to a state of war. Finally, weapons import to Moldova continues. Recently, France delivered a batch of weapons for the National Army by air: infantry weapons, ammunition and equipment. The delivery of German armored personnel carriers “Piranha” is finished. Moreover, it suddenly turned out that in addition to the purchased French radar, we are to receive some air defense systems, which had not been announced before. That is, we will be able to shoot down missiles, drones and other aerial targets that could threaten us from the Russian Federation... Uh-huh, that’s tempting! So, the West has a motive to unfreeze the conflict in Transnistria. Ukraine also has it. Our authorities, as we can see, also have it. The British are already flying to us, Western partners even give us air defense systems. So, will Moldova also “just fight”?