NARRATIVES: 1. The pro-European government of the Republic of Moldova, led by the West, is creating an authoritarian regime that will be hard to remove by democratic action. 2. The West is forcing the Republic of Moldova to arm itself, also with a view to getting involved in the Ukrainian conflict. 3. The militarization of Moldova will lead to civil war and the loss of Transnistria and Găgăuzia.
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova is facing a profound economic crisis caused by soaring prices, particularly in the field of energy, in the context of the war in Ukraine. Moldovan voters and part of the political elites in the Republic of Moldova have opted for European integration for many years. Even when some pro-European factions got compromised by corruption scandals, support for Moldova’s EU accession remained strong. In the most recent presidential and legislative elections, Maia Sandu and the party she founded, PAS, presented themselves as a pro-European reform-seeking camp, which earned them a landslide victory, to the detriment of the pro-Russian Socialists. Their victory was followed by a wave of fake news and disinformation designed to badmouth the pro-European camp.
Attacks from the Russian government media and Moscow-friendly politicians intensified with the start of the war. Some of the top narratives target Moldova’s close ties with NATO, its support for Ukraine or even the country’s intention to enter the war.
PURPOSE: To depict the government in Chișinău as an undemocratic regime and to involve the Republic of Moldova in the war against Russia. To justify potential pressure or attacks from Russia against the Republic of Moldova.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Veridica has already explained that Moldova’s so-called plans to attack the separatist region of Transnistria, under orders / with support from the West, don’t make any sense, considering that representatives of Kyiv, which sees the region as a possible military risk, albeit small, given Transnistria’s military potential, have expressed willingness to “cleanse” the region of pro-Russian separatists and Russian troops “in the snap of a finger”. However, Chișinău has ruled out a military resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, insisting on negotiations.
Even if Ukraine expressed readiness to intervene in Transnistria, the opening of a new frontline would mean Kyiv would have to mobilize resources that are needed elsewhere. Besides, the Republic of Moldova has a lower military budget of some 40 million EUR, Soviet-era weapons, no tanks, no fleet or air defenses, therefore posing a minor military threat.
The narratives about the West pressuring the Republic of Moldova to arm itself for the war are equally false and rolled out in the media in a number of Russian and pro-Russian publications (see, for instance, here and here). The question of the Republic of Moldova arming itself was indeed raised, yet only because it has been neglected for dozens of years. Moldova’s neutrality status does not exclude the country having a strong army (take, for instance, the case of Switzerland). At any rate, the Republic of Moldova doesn’t have the potential to become a military force to be reckoned with, given its limited economic resources and its population. In any event, the creation of a modern army takes years, regardless of the state’s financial resources, as purchasing military equipment is not enough.
The allegations regarding the creation of an authoritarian regime in Chișinău are part of another false claim intensely promoted by Russian and pro-Russian media and politicians in recent weeks, referring to the actions of the authorities in response to the protests recently staged in the Republic of Moldova. More specifically, the actions of the police (such as taking down protesters’ tents), which were carried out as per the provision of the Committee for Exceptional Situations, considering that a state of emergency is still in effect in the Republic of Moldova. Paradoxically, the allegations about the authorities’ intentions to disregard the election process were launched in the context of the Moldovan administration having to deal with protest actions whose overt purpose was to overthrow the government by means of street protests, which in themselves disregard the traditional election process. The next presidential election is due in the autumn of 2024, while the next round of parliamentary elections is expected to take place no sooner than the summer of 2025. No one in Chișinău has discussed the possibility of cancelling these elections, and never in the history of the Republic of Moldova has the ruling party refused to recognize the results of elections and switch to the opposition when it lost. The system worked even in the case of some regimes (Voronin, Plahotniuc) that were accused of trying to alter / influence / defraud the election process.
As regards the threat of a civil war, the conflict in Transnistria is far from over. The conflict turned violent after pro-Russian separatists rebelled against Chișinău government forces. The conflict now is frozen, although Tiraspol has constantly preserved an aggressive and threatening stance towards Chișinău. After the armed phase of the conflict, Moldova has never considered the possibility of relaunching the conflict, and has always pursued a peaceful resolution, calling for the withdrawal of the Russian army – which is however refusing to leave the territory of the Republic of Moldova despite its international commitments. In fact, the constant presence of Russian forces on the left-hand side of the Dniester, as well as Ukraine’s tacit support, at least until this country was first invaded by Russia in 2014, have allowed Transnistria to endure as an entity outside the Republic of Moldova. At present, the region has economic ties with the rest of Moldova and the EU that are stronger than ever, and further isolation from Russia may lead to Tiraspol becoming increasingly interested in negotiating with Chișinău and accepting a resolution of the conflict. Accordingly, the situation is evolving in Chișinău’s favor, giving Moldovan authorities no reason to start a war. As regards Găgăuzia, although the autonomous region has threatened to break off from the Republic of Moldova in case of Euro-Atlantic integration, an actual separation would be highly unlikely without the support and direct intervention of Russia, considering ATUG’s size, as well as the fact the economic interests of Chișinău and Comrat are aligned. Besides, the hypothetical arming of the Republic of Moldova does not entail renouncing the country’s neutrality, which might be invoked by pro-Russian factions as an excuse to create unrest.