NewsWorldHow long will Moldova be able to remain neutral in the face of war?

How long will Moldova be able to remain neutral in the face of war?

Moldova closed its airspace for two hours this week. The reason, according to local media, was “security considerations” amid the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine and accusations by President Maia Sandu that the Kremlin was seeking to seize power in the Republic.

Article 11 of the Constitution of Moldova states: “The Republic proclaims its permanent neutrality, […] does not allow the deployment of military forces from other states on its territory”.

Following the Russian military action in southern Ukraine in 2022, near the Moldovan border, and given the prospect of Russian missiles violating the Republic’s airspace, Should we expect him to change his stance on foreign policy?

Will Moldova finally follow in Ukraine’s footsteps and will reconsider its status as a neutral non-aligned country in favor of Euro-Atlantic integration and the formation of a strategic partnership with the European Union and the United States?

Moldova and NATO: Brief history

Relations with NATO began in 1992 with the entry of Moldova into the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. In 1997 this forum replaced the Euro-Atlantic Association Council, which brings together allies and partner countries from the Euro-Atlantic region.

Bilateral cooperation began when Moldova joined the Partnership for Peace program in 1994. In 2006, the Republic agreed to its first two-year Individual Partnership Action Plan.

At the Alliance summit in Wales in September 2014, Allied leaders offered increased support, advice and assistance to Moldova under the new Defense and Related Security Capability Development Initiative. An individual package of measures was agreed in June 2015.

At the request of the Moldovan government, a NATO Civilian Liaison Office was established in Chisinau in December 2017 to promote practical cooperation and help support reforms in the country.

However, according to Marie Dumoulin, a former career diplomat and current director of the Wider Europe Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Moldova would have difficulty joining the alliance due to its stance on neutrality.

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“Due to the neutral status enshrined in the Constitution, the country cannot be a member of any military alliance,” he said.

“Therefore, although Moldova has maintained and maintains relations with NATO, it is not a member of this alliance or of the Collective Security Treaty Organization formed around Russia.

“At present, they do not want to join any of these alliances. And the vast majority of the population is not in favor of joining either NATO or CSTO.”

“At the same time, “the debate on rapprochement with NATO and – more generally – on an intensification of security cooperation with Western countries really started in the context of the invasion of Ukraine, because it directly affects the Moldovan security.

“And Chisinau is aware of the limits of its own defense capabilities, so there is a strengthening of cooperation, especially with the European Union, and a renewed debate on a possible deepening of cooperation with NATO,” says the political scientist. French.

A possible “Ukrainian scenario”?

How likely is it that Moldova will reconsider its attitude towards neutrality after Russia invaded Ukraine?

“Ukraine has always been in a somewhat different position,” Dumoulin said. “Despite the neutrality clause in the Constitution, there has always been a strong current of those who wanted to end up joining NATO.

“That is, this issue was discussed much more in Ukraine even before the annexation of Crimea, and the annexation tipped public opinion in favor of joining the alliance. The issue was not discussed and is not discussed as much in Moldova, really is not the main issue in the public policy debate.”

But Chisinau may be pushed in this direction.” In the event of an escalation of the war in Ukraine, Dumoulin added, “we cannot rule out Chisinau’s desire to reassert its position of neutrality in order to stay as far away from this war as possible.”

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“So far, Russian attempts to push towards Mykolaiv, Odessa and ultimately towards the Moldovan borders have been unsuccessful.

“So far there is no information about a new offensive. In this regard, the Moldovan authorities remain calm. On the other hand, in Chisinau there is concern about other destabilization levers that Russia has.”

Several analysts do not rule out that the “frozen conflict” in Transnistria – a separatist region of Moldova supported by Moscow – could be a trigger for Moldova to renounce its neutrality in the future.

Today, this conflict is under relative control. Not a single shot has been fired since August 1992, when the confrontation between Chisinau and the unrecognized “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” entered a peaceful phase.

“But there is a Russian peacekeeping contingent in Transnistria,” Dumoulin notes.

Russia promised to leave the region in the late 1990s. But so far it has failed to fulfill its obligation. Many draw a parallel between the creation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in 2014 and the current large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Key areas of cooperation today

At the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, the allies agreed on a tailored support package to help Moldova implement its own long-term security and defense modernization plans. Moldova currently cooperates with NATO in various ways.

For example, the Alliance individually supports Chisinau’s efforts to reform and modernize the military through the Initiative for the Development of Defense and Security Related Capabilities and the Defense Education Enhancement Program.

Will Russia push Moldova into the arms of NATO?

Recent statements by President Sandu on the Moscow’s alleged plans to overthrow the pro-European government in Chisinau they have added to previous accusations that Russia has deliberately provoked an energy crisis in Moldova.

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“Russia’s possibilities to destabilize Moldova are not new,” Dumoulin notes, “they are related not only to the situation in Ukraine, but also to Russia’s very strong influence in the Republic, especially in the political sphere.”

“There is also economic dependency, first of all energy. Moldova has made a lot of efforts to get out of this dependency, but until now it remains vulnerable.”

Moscow has been repeatedly accused of a deliberate campaign of disinformation. Several analysts have linked Moscow to Moldova’s opposition Shor party, led by businessman Ilan Shor.

According to Dumoulin, this political force “can be manipulated by Russia to provoke demonstrations and anti-government movements in Moldova.”

“The economic situation is extremely difficult due to the increase in energy prices, the consequences of the war, in particular the influx of large numbers of refugees. Thus, fertile ground is created for protest movements.”

Outlook for Moldovan-NATO relations

“Moldova has not officially expressed its desire to join NATO,” said Marie Dumoulin. “There is also no consensus among its population on this issue, and I think this largely explains the caution of the Moldovan authorities.

“They don’t want to start a debate that could polarize public opinion in an already extremely difficult situation.”

However, this situation could affect Moldova’s rapprochement with the European Union, which supports it in every possible way, especially with regard to Chisinau’s independence from Moscow.

A lot depends, according to Dumoulin, on how Moldovan public opinion evolves regarding Russia, because there is still a significant part of the population that sympathizes with Russia. On the other hand, the evolution of public opinion towards the European Union and NATO could also be decisive.

Source: Euronews Español


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