Will the National Army Be Outsourced to Bucharest?

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Sergiu CEBAN
The gradual integration of the Moldovan armed forces under Romanian command is underway. The creation of a common military grouping is also possible in the future
Recently, the National Army appeared in the epicenter of a major scandal due to a number of publications in foreign media. They alleged that the former chief of the General Staff, Igor Gorgan, was cooperating with Russian military intelligence. It is hard to imagine that in any other country one of the top military chiefs spied in favor of another country, but in our reality, given the weakness of state institutions, anything is possible. The other question is why they decided to release such information now? It is rather possible that someone tries to persuade the society that the situation in the Moldovan army is rather deplorable. Therefore, it is necessary to tighten belts and allocate resources to support the defense sector, or to take decisive political measures. It is rather clear that since the beginning of the year, the National Army has participated in permanent military drills and trainings. These exercises test mobilization capabilities, methods and forms of operational response, and maneuvering of available forces and means. Special operations, mainly of an airborne nature, with the participation of US units and contingents from NATO countries, are also practiced. From 17 to 28 June, another multinational exercise, Peace Shield 2024, is to take place on our territory. The stated objective is to assess the level of preparation of the 22nd Blue Helmets peacekeeping battalion for participation in international missions. This time our specialized army unit is being watched by representatives of not only their own, but also foreign commanders. In particular, Alliance military specialists will assess the battalion’s actions in order to make a decision on its compliance with OCC requirements and standards. At the same time, constant efforts to reinforce the army’s potential are in place. Thus, last week, the EU Council allocated an additional 9 million euros from the European Peace Facility to support our armed forces and modernize Moldova’s air defense system. The main idea is to contribute to Moldova’s military-technical harmonization with the European standards, with a view to the country’s possible participation in the EU military missions and operations. By the way, over the last 2.5 years, 137 million euros have already been allocated from this facility for Moldova’s military support. Yet, even these sums are obviously not enough to pull the Moldovan army at least to the average European level. In 2023, our authorities adopted the National Security Strategy for the next six years, which prescribes a gradual increase in budget allocations for national defense to the level of 1% of GDP. Over the last decade, the defense sector has been financed at around 0.3% of GDP. Last year that this figure rose to 0.5% and this year - to 0.65%. However, given the poor state of the country’s economy, it is hard to imagine that we will be able to reach 1% on our own if the budget is not even able to cope with social obligations and index the same pensions to the inflation rate. Therefore, there are just couple of options: either it will be foreign aid, which is very volatile and unsystematic, or we should think about cutting other government expenditures in favor of the military. In fact, we can rely on partners, because direct involvement of NATO, the EU and the USA in the process of modernization and inclusion of the National Army is evidence of a targeted policy. At the same time, they are interested in the operational and tactical opportunities opening up from the conditional Moldovan bridgehead rather than the effect and result of such work. The transition of our armed forces to new standards provides for the replacement of weapons and equipment, which means new contracts and burden on production capacities of the US defense industrial base. Our leadership is concerned about building military facilities to strengthen the potential of the army and in general rebuilding military infrastructure, despite the fact that it can be used not only by our military, but also, if necessary, by the Alliance contingents. Against this background, the news about the intent of the government to approve today a draft law on the ratification of the second Protocol amending and supplementing the Agreement on Military Cooperation between Moldova and Romania stood out. Some media outlets have warned for several days that the document provides for common training and joint participation of Moldovan and Romanian servicemen in military missions and operations under the aegis of the UN, OSCE, NATO or EU. The cabinet meeting was eventually postponed to Friday for unclear reasons. However, before the draft law reaches the deputies, it is time to ask our authorities a few fundamental questions. From the point of view of current legislation, the commander-in-chief is the president. Therefore, it is unclear how our military personnel and relevant units, even if they consist of 100% soldiers with dual citizenship (Moldovan and Romanian), will obey the orders of commanders of a foreign state. Bucharest is in an even more sticky situation, since, one way or another, it has to regulate the status of Moldovan military personnel within Romanian units. In fact, our armed formations, nonnative for Romania, must somehow be legally formalized: either by transferring them to the status of “temporarily Romanian” or by forming joint paramilitary structures. Therefore, we may be witnessing only the first phase of a much more serious joint military project. On the other hand, it is rather logical given the main process of transferring not only Moldovan strategic objects, but also key state spheres to Bucharest. It is worth recalling that three Romanian officials have already been appointed to important state posts. Former finance minister Anca Dragu has been appointed to lead the National Bank, former head of the National Office for Combating Money Laundering Marius Staicu as a chief of a similar agency in Moldova, and diplomat Cosmin Dinescu is in charge of the EU Civilian Partnership Mission. As has been repeatedly mentioned, it is very important for Chisinau and Bucharest in the current geopolitical circumstances to have a mechanism for coordinated actions in case of the need to carry out any military operations, especially in case of a radical change in the Ukrainian conflict. In any such unfavorable scenario, such forces and means will have to be deployed to create a reliable shield against Russian troops. It is still hard to say in what way all this will be materialized. However, as we see, an approximate model is already gradually emerging, and we are witnessing the integration of the Moldovan armed forces into Romania’s unified military management system. It should be admitted that in the absence of resources to enable a sharp increase in the capacity of the Moldovan armed forces and the persisting external military threats, the creation of a common military grouping and the gradual transfer of our army units under the military command of skilled Romanian officers is inevitable and absolutely natural.