US Congress Buys Time for Moldova

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Anton ŠVEC
The US House of Representatives’ approval of an aid package to US allies in several regions became the top world news of the weekend. The PAS regime reacted to this decision with applause - and here’s why
On 20 April, the lower house of the US Congress voted in favor of a bill entitled the 21st Century Peace through Strength Act, which envisages the allocation of a $95 billion aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The issue of protecting the southern borders of the United States itself (from illegal migration and the actions of drug cartels), which has long been a stumbling block between Republicans and Democrats, remained outside the brackets. The bill was supported by all 210 members of the Democratic Party sitting in the House of Representatives, as well as 101 Republicans (112 voted “against”). It is expected that by the end of this week the bill will be approved in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority, and will be put on the table to be signed by President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the Pentagon says supplies under the new law are ready and pledge to start shipment in the coming weeks. Of the total funding envisaged by the US congressmen, just under 61bn dollars has been allocated for Ukraine’s needs. The package includes 23.2bn dollars to replenish the US military stockpile, over 14bn dollars to purchase new weapons and defense products, 11bn dollars to finance US military operations in Ukraine (Washington has already decided to expand the staff of military advisers formally reporting to the US Ambassador in Kyiv) and almost 8bn dollars in direct budget aid. The chair of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, revealed that the aid package will include ATACMS missiles, which will allow to damage Russian military facilities and infrastructure at significant distances, including deep inside Russia’s territory. The Kremlin reacted nervously to Washington’s decisions (a little earlier, it also passed a bill on confiscating Russian assets, including foreign exchange reserves and property estimated at least 5bn in the USA alone, and handing them over to Ukraine). According to Dmitriy Peskov, “this will further enrich the United States of America and further ruin Ukraine, killing more Ukrainians due to the fault of the Kyiv regime”. In turn, Kyiv thanked the USA and called for the bill to be signed as soon as possible. In Volodymyr Zelensky’s opinion, US weapons and money can help Ukraine to resist this year and resume a counter-offensive in 2025. The reaction in the European Union to the signal from America is also rather important for Ukraine, given the growing opposition to the EU’s budget spending to support Kyiv over the past six months. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has already commented on the decision of the House of Representatives, urging the EU to increase the production of weapons as well. Thus, in the midterm, Ukraine will receive military and technical means to stabilize the front and counter the Russian armed forces, which have had the initiative in recent months. In our region, the news was met with even greater exaltation than in Ukraine. Maia Sandu welcomed the approval of a “vital” aid package, saying that this “crucial support will strengthen Ukraine against aggression and enhance regional security”. Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi called the House’s decision the best conclusion of his visit to Washington and “a testament to the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s victory.” PAS MP Radu Marian noted the direct correlation with Moldovan affairs: “This vote is crucial to maintaining peace and democracy in Moldova. As long as Ukraine is free and independent, a democratic and independent Moldova is safe”. U.S. financial support and increased mobilization under the new law will predictably strengthen Ukraine’s military capabilities, increase air defense capabilities, partially overcome the “shell famine” (the massive purchase of Soviet-style shells initiated by the Czech Republic is also important), and boost the morale of the Ukrainian military and society, which has become an acute problem for the AFU in recent months. Ukraine will have the strength and means to hold the front on the left bank of the Dnieper, resume some offensive operations, and inflict audacious damage on Russia deep in the rear, including in Crimea and the Black Sea. Analysts agree that this aid isn’t enough for Ukraine to gain a decisive advantage and a military victory over Russia by returning to “Soviet borders,” but Kyiv now has the tools to counter a possible Russian offensive in May-June. This suggests another attempt to drag on the conflict, making it a long-term factor in regional and global politics. It is not coincidence that Moldova is watching the Ukrainian case so closely. The PAS regime has scheduled a number of political events for the end of this year, which, as planned by their authors, should significantly transform the local political reality, making the course towards Euro-Atlantic integration irreversible. First of all, we are talking about presidential elections and a referendum on the prospects of the republic’s membership in the European Union. The census of population and households is also remarkable. In its framework the authorities have set the task for themselves to use political tools to change the attitudes and ethnic identification of the country’s population to ensure the dominance of the Romanian factor. It is in the incumbent regime’s interests that this year’s planned events take place amid the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, acting as a bugaboo to mobilize supporters of the NATO, EU and Romanian course, but without the failure of the Ukrainian front, which would pose unmanageable security dilemmas for the authorities. Constant buzz about the war is handy for Maia Sandu and her team. They talk about militarization blaming it for all the failures of their rule but not facing direct risks of running into the Russian armed forces. In this sense, the aid package from the US and the mobilization in Ukraine provide PAS regime with a reserve of time, at least until the end of the year. And if everything goes according to the plan of the Western curators, Moldova will enter the next year in a different capacity, with Sandu’s confirmed mandate for not only the presidency, but also for unconditional compliance with the Euro-Atlantic vector. The prolongation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict with a focus on the theatres of war in Donbas, Zaporizhzhia and north-eastern Ukraine also frees the hands of Chisinau backed by Bucharest and NATO in its relations with Gagauzia and Transnistria. Some of our experts have long encouraged to use a “unique window of opportunity” to eliminate the pro-Russian enclave, which has no land connection with the Russian Federation. That said, preparations to address this task have long begun with the use of customs, economic, infrastructural and informational levers, and plans for the likely measures of coercion are also underway. As long as the Ukrainian front is many hundreds of kilometers from the Dniester, PAS can simply not take seriously the relevant warnings from Moscow which are voiced almost weekly.