Will Moldovan Carabinieri Bring Order to Kosovo?

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Christian RUSSU
Boosting Moldova’s military and political cooperation with NATO countries, including France, is not limited to rearming the country and the participation of our military in alliance operations. The involvement of Moldovan carabinieri, who will be helping to restore order in northern Kosovo, is next in line
The other day, the Interior Ministry announced plans to send members of the Inspectorate General of Carabinieri to the international peacekeeping operation in Kosovo, in the Mitrovica district. It is worth noting that National Army servicemen have long been involved in the KFOR mission under NATO auspices. Early this year, another, already the twentieth, contingent of 40 peacekeepers left Chisinau for Kosovo. For ten years, our soldiers have been deployed at the military base Camp Vilaggio Italy in Kosovo’s Pejë/Peć. There they perform tasks together with soldiers from NATO countries as part of the multinational combat group “West”, and the Moldovan military have always been supervised by Italians and Americans. However, the participation of Moldovan police officers in NATO international missions is brand new in the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. It goes without saying that Moldova does not have any international obligations to be present in such military-police operations. References to UN norms or requirements within the framework of the forthcoming negotiations on accession to the European Union are nothing more than a diplomatic disguise. The real basis for such decisions is agreements with specific NATO member states. We can recall the recent visits of the President and the Minister of Defense to Paris, where they agreed to expand Moldovan-French military cooperation. Apparently, in exchange for military and political support from France, our authorities were offered to expand their military presence in Kosovo and to join efforts to restore order in the northern part of this region. Which, coincidentally, is not only traditional zone of French responsibility, but also a major source of tension in recent years. Kosovo’s Mitrovica, with its small Serb population, regularly pops up in news reports as the site of constant conflicts that threaten a new major war in the Balkans. Pristina’s main objective is to gain full control over this territory and to thwart any attempt by local Serbs to self-organize. The Kosovo Special Forces have not been very successful so far, forcing the KFOR leadership to regularly deploy its forces and assets to help “restore order”. It is clear that military methods are ineffective for suppressing street protests and demonstrations and for controlling administrative facilities, but the capabilities of special police units, such as the Carabinieri, are the best option. Our enforcers will be entrusted with the task of strengthening or replacing local Kosovo police forces “to maintain, ensure and restore public order”. And thus, they will participate in police operations to suppress Serb civilian activity in Mitrovica and other towns where Kosovo Albanian political power is still weak. To officially cover such activities, one can always refer to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which stipulates that KFOR forces are engaged in “ensuring public safety and order until the international civil presence can take responsibility for this task”. It is therefore possible to assume scenarios in which either the NATO Mission in Kosovo builds up its capacity through the involvement of police from partner countries, or there is a gradual redistribution of responsibility in favor of other structures, for example, the European Union Rule of Law Mission. In any case, the fulfilment of such plans requires the advance training of relevant personnel. The announced opening by Paris of its permanent military mission in Chisinau and much more fits into such plans. Back in mid-February, representatives of the National Gendarmerie agreed with the leadership of our Interior Ministry that Moldovan carabinieri would participate in international missions involving French security forces. Following the logic, the staff of the Inspectorate General of Carabinieri should first be trained for their respective tasks, with training and education to be provided by their Fifth Republic counterparts. However, our leadership is clearly being rushed, as evidenced by the Government’s decision to dispatch our Carabinieri to Kosovo as early as 1 April. Such haste can be explained by the need to quickly replace the French military in Kosovo, which has other tasks to fulfil. In the light of statements by politicians from Paris about the deployment of military to Ukraine (in addition to the instructors and other personnel already there), it is easy to guess that KFOR military personnel will be among the candidates for such a specific job requiring relevant experience. Extending the area of operations in Europe has always been an important political milestone for our leadership and law enforcers. This can be used to gain a status in the European gendarmerie structures FIEP and EUROGENDFOR and proudly declare that Moldova has shifted from being a security recipient to a security supplier at the regional and international level. But apart from the obvious image bonuses, the Carabinieri’s participation in various law enforcement actions in the northern regions of Kosovo also has a purely practical purpose – to gain valuable experience in restoring constitutional order on the territory of a country with similar problems. Let us be frank, the authorities, after the events of the 1990s, have no record of cases when law enforcement agencies were successfully used to ensure and restore public order. The events of the spring of 2009 and many other episodes instilled fear in the law enforcers for involvement in any actions related to the suppression of mass riots, be it outright adventures of politicians or direct duties to protect critical facilities. However, the ambitions of politicians, first of all from among the ruling government, have increased manifold over the past two years, which requires the availability of proper power resources, including keeping the Transnistrian issue in mind. Now there is increasing talk in Chisinau of extending the legislation to the left bank and the phased reintegration of this territory without granting any political status. Given this and the adopted amendments to the Criminal Code which expand and tighten sanctions for actions against the statehood and sovereignty of the country (separatism), as well as the pause in the negotiation process, the scenario of restoring constitutional order in Transnistria using the Carabinieri forces seems quite realistic. The dual status of these units will allow claiming, if necessary, that the restoration of order in the eastern parts of the country is taking place without the involvement of armed forces, i.e. almost peacefully. Such experience would be helpful, given the constant threat emanating from Gagauzia. No matter how ironic it may sound, but it is the Kosovo separatists, not yet recognized by Chisinau, that Moldovan security forces will have to help in order to practice the skills of restoring “law and order” in the east and south of our country in the near future.