Despite the fact that Moldova is much smaller than Ukraine and thus less important to the Kremlin, it could still become Russia’s next military target. Experts argued that such a scenario is unlikely, but more and more important officials are warning that Moldova and Georgia might also face another wave of Russian aggression; it apparent that this threat should be taken seriously, because it has become increasingly difficult to predict Russia’s next aggressive actions and the rationality of Russia in general. To provide an explanation, Russia can use the methods of the destabilization and provocations in Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway state, as a pretext to attack another sovereign state, Moldova. Despite the fact that Russia uses less hostile rhetoric toward the Moldovan government than it does toward Zelenesky’s government, it seems logical that Maia Sandu and her political victory, which weakened pro-Russian political forces in Moldova, is unacceptable to Russia. In spite of the fact that Maia Sandu faced numerous multifaceted challenges from wealthy and powerful pro-Russian political forces, she still managed to unite the majority of Moldovans to vote for her, garnering 58 per cent of the vote and becoming Moldova’s first female president. Putting aside the fact that pro-Russian parties lost power in Moldova, which is a serious problem for Russia, this event can be also considered as “a revolution through the ballot box,” in the eyes of Russians and in general, democracy’s victory over a corrupt regime is already a challenge for Russia, which is always wary of “democracy export”. Furthermore, it is easier to underscore that Maia Sandu is a problem for the Kremlin, because of her vision and burning desire to see Moldova become a member of the European Union; according to recent polls, more than 60% of Moldovans endorse her vision regarding the European Union membership; it should be noted that Moldova has already applied for EU membership with Ukraine and Georgia. Taking into account all of the aforementioned issues, Russia has solid reasons to target Moldova.
Regardless of the fact that Moldova is a neutral country, with a small army and at the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine war, Maia Sandu clearly stated that Moldova would be remained neutral and thus the country did not plan to impose sanctions on Russia. This decision can be explained by two main reasons. The first is that Moldova is dependent on Russian natural resources, and the second is that Moldova tried not to irritate Russian and give it a reason to attack. The breakaway region has its own fighting paramilitary groups, as well as over 2 000 Russian soldiers. It is worth highlighting that the breakaway region, in Cobsana, has Europe’s largest ammunition depot. So there are sufficient resources to wage war on Moldova.
It is alarming that there were some explosions in the breakaway region a few days ago, which even scared the people who live there, and the flow of people leaving the breakaway region has increased because they are afraid of another Russian “liberation operation.” On April 25, the administrative building in Transnistria’s capital blew up, and two radio stations exploded the next day. These explosions were dubbed “terrorist attacks” by the government of the breakaway region of Transnistria. Following the explosions, Maia Sandu convened the security council to discuss the dangers.After that,Maia Sandu made an official statement regarding these provocations:
“These escalation attempts stem from factions from within the Transnistrian region who are pro-war forces and interested in destabilising the situation in the region…This makes the Transnistrian region vulnerable and poses risks to the Republic of Moldova.”
After the meeting, the president also urged the citizens to stay calm and took some effective measures in the face of possible other Russian provocations, she ordered to increase patrols and vehicle checks near the Transnistrian border, as well as stricter public safety measures and security checks on critical infrastructure.
The threat is serious, one of Russia’s generals, Rustam Minnekayev, has even stated unequivocally that Moscow intends to take control of southern Ukraine, including the port city of Odessa, granting Moscow “another way out to Transdniester.” Ukraine’s President Zelensky responded to this statement by saying that this is only the beginning and Russia will not stop with Ukraine and will attack other countries.
It should be also taken into consideration that regardless Transnistria, Russia may use other areas of Moldova and pro-Russian citizens to incite “unrest” within the state. On April 7, president Sandu declared a ban on the display of the Ribbon of St. George, the black and orange stripes long regarded as a symbol of Russian aggression in Ukraine, as well as Russian military symbols such as the ubiquitous “Z”. On May 9(Victory Day) some socialist groups plan to hold a rally; it is difficult to precisely predict what happens if they use the symbols that President Sandu has now banned. Another problematic region in Moldova is Gaugazia, as well as the northern city of Balti, which is known for its strong pro-Russian sentiments.
The West claims that Russia has another evil plan, and Ukrainian intelligence states unequivocally that “Russians have a plan to destabilize Moldova.” Ukrainian intelligence services also added that the FSB is using provocative measures to justify a new bloody campaign, this time against Moldova. It is reasonable to assume that the occupation of Moldova can part of Russia’s plan because it will allow them to plan a more effective offensive from this territory toward the south of Ukraine and, as a result, occupy the large Ukrainian city of Odessa. However, it is also logical to assume that the Russian army, which has been severely damaged, will face so many multifaceted difficulties to launch a new war.
Lastly another important moment should be underlined, on April 28, Maia Sandy, a realistic leader, may have realized that this is a pivotal moment for Moldova, and that the time for balancing is over, and she announced that Moldova will join the sanctions against Russia. Additionally, Moldova decided to send the humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Right now, it is still difficult to say with certainty what might happen; nevertheless, the coming days and weeks will shed more light on the situation.