NARRATIVES: 1. Pro-European authorities in the Republic of Moldova have violated the country’s neutrality status. 2. The West is pushing the Republic of Moldova into a war with Russia.
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova is often regarded as Russia’s next target after Ukraine. It is home to a significant minority of Russian speakers (approximately 20% of the country’s population), while its eastern territory is now a separatist region under Moscow’s de facto control. Pro-European authorities, starting with president Maia Sandu, are often criticized by Moscow officials and the pro-Russian opposition in Chișinău for reportedly undermining the rights of Russians and Russian speakers, as well as for their pro-Western orientation.
Concerns have escalated following the statements of Russian Major-General Rustam Minnekaev. During a brief regarding the second phase of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the Russian general said the Russian army is planning to take full control of Donbas, as well as southern Ukraine, all the way to Transnistria in the Republic of Moldova, where the rights of Russians are allegedly being encroached upon. In this context, Moldova has faced an increasing number of accusations regarding alleged breaches of the neutrality status by the current authorities, as well as by the West and NATO. Some see this as an opportunity to look for an excuse to launch a “special operation” in the Republic of Moldova as well, a country with economic, military and geographic vulnerabilities.
PURPOSE: To accuse Moldovan authorities and the West of violating Moldova’s neutrality, which is enshrined in the country’s Constitution, in order to justify a potential attack on the Republic of Moldova.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Chișinău has condemned the Russian invasion in Ukraine, although it has not subscribed to the international sanctions against the Russian Federation.
The Republic of Moldova has taken in Ukrainian refugees, 90,000 of whom are still currently residing on its territory. However, Moldova did not provide any military assistance to Ukraine and refused to sell the latter the 7 MIG jets that its air force is not currently using.
In recent days, a false idea has been persistently circulated, according to which Romania has dispatched or intends to dispatch armed forces to the Republic of Moldova, an allegation denied by the Ministries of Defense of the two states.
At the same time, the narrative about the West pushing the Republic of Moldova into a war with Russia, or that it actually intends to attack the breakaway region of Transnistria, equally lacks any substance. The European Council president, Charles Michel, promised the EU would provide support to strengthen Moldova’s army, although the EU is not a defensive alliance like NATO, and its support is merely linked to ensuring the Republic of Moldova’s capacity to defend against an attack from Transnistria. Irrespective of the nature of this support, it is unlikely the Republic of Moldova can pose a military threat to Russia in the near future, or even to Transnistria. Besides, the country’s neutrality continues to be supported by a majority of the population, and Chișinău has never seriously discussed the option to renounce this status. Rather, the assumption has been spread by the pro-Russian opposition, whose rhetoric is ridden with fake news about Moldovan authorities planning to renounce the country’s neutrality in exchange for boosting their approval ratings.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The West has become more interested about this region in the context of the war in Ukraine.