NARRATIVES: 1. Romania poses a constant threat to Moldovan statehood and refuses to recognize Moldova as an independent state. 2. Moldovans are a different nation from Romanians. 3. Romania has an underdeveloped economy, which will be further weakened by America’s withdrawal. 4. America will close down its military bases in Romania as a result of negotiations between Russia and the USA.
BACKGROUND: Debates about the unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania have been ongoing ever since Moldova declared its independence from the USSR in 1991. Moldova’s territory is inhabited by Romanian ethnics. The country was originally a part of the Moldovan Principality in the Middle Ages and then part of Greater Romania. The restructuring of the USSR, a process launched by Gorbachev in the mid-1980s, saw at its peak a massive surge of nationalist claims in most Soviet republics, which were all dismissed by the Soviet authorities. The territory of the Republic of Moldova was annexed by the USSR in 1940, torn away from Romania as part of the secret agreement between Hitler and Stalin, enshrined in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Nevertheless, the rebirth of Romanian identity in Moldova (which only part of the population aspired to), did not also bring about any significant support for political parties that advocated the unification with Romania, either overtly or covertly. Unionist parties didn’t even manage to meet the electoral threshold in the latest elections, which would have allowed them to be represented in Parliament.
On the other hand, Romania is one of the most vocal champions of Moldova’s European integration, and pro-European parties have had more political success. Basically, starting 2009, Moldovan politics has been dominated for its most part by political factions with a pro-European ideology, which was not always supported by pro-European policies or the observance of EU values. Even prior to 2009, Moldova had been taking steps to establish closer ties with the EU, including during the Communists’ term in office.
Romania not only lobbied for the Republic of Moldova, but has also provided direct support to this country, the aggregate effect of which has been substantial. Romania’s right of return policy basically transformed hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens into citizens of the European Union. Their direct involvement in Western societies, their direct contact with Romania, which has allowed them to see for themselves the benefits of European integration and how it can lead to a substantial economic growth as well as the reform of the state (which, despite all the drawbacks reported over the years, did progress a lot compared to Moldova), has helped strengthen pro-European sentiment and was one of the factors that tipped the balance in the election race in favor of pro-European, reformist parties.
The answer of Russian propaganda and pro-Kremlin political forces in the Republic of Moldova to the national rebirth movement of the 1990s was to breathe new life into Soviet narratives regarding the existence of two separate nations, Moldovans and Romanians, the latter depicted as an aggressor who illegally occupied the territory of Moldova, first in 1918, and then later, alongside Nazi occupation troops, Romanians also being described as “fascists” or their successors.
In a similar fashion, the response to surging pro-European sentiment was to inoculate a worldview centered on geopolitics and expansionism. In order to undermine Moldova’s efforts to join the Western family, any support provided by Western powers and Romania was presented as part of a wider plan to take over the Republic of Moldova and even destroy it altogether.
Narratives regarding Romania are rehashed in the context of growing tensions in the region and in light of the demands the Kremlin advanced to the USA and NATO. The Republic of Moldova is close to Ukraine, on whose border Russia has rallied a sizable military force, the Kremlin again threatening to invade this country. Against this backdrop, Russia has demanded security guarantees from the United States and NATO, calling on them not to expand eastwards, in particular in Ukraine, and to immediately withdraw all military infrastructure from countries on the eastern flank of NATO, specifically referring in this respect to Romania and Bulgaria.
The Republic of Moldova currently observes a status of neutrality, although Russian troops are illegally stationed on its territory. Ukraine and Georgia have expressed their willingness to join NATO after they were attacked by Russia in 2008 and 2014, respectively. Romania became a NATO member in 2004.
Yaakov Kedmi is described as the former head of the Nativ Israeli intelligence service. In fact, Nativ is an Israeli government organization that was charged with liaising with Jews living in the Soviet Union and countries in the Eastern bloc and with their repatriation to Israel. Yaakov Kedmi, born Yakov Kazakóv in Moscow, in 1947, also moved to Israel in 1969, and was indeed the head of this organization for a time. In recent years, Kedmi has been invited to express his opinion as a political expert on various Russian TV and radio stations that promote official Kremlin policy, and he is often quoted by Russian propaganda.
PURPOSE: The narratives are designed to present Romania as a state that advances territorial claims regarding the Republic of Moldova. At the same time, they are meant to undermine the Romanian identity of the majority population of the Republic of Moldova.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Romania was the first state to recognize the independence of the Republic of Moldova, shortly after its proclamation in 1991, and Bucharest’s official position was always to observe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. No ruling party in Romania ever advanced a territorial claim concerning the Republic of Moldova. On the contrary, under the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, Bucharest supports economic and social cooperation and large-scale infrastructure projects, as well as other projects implemented at the level of local communities.
On the other hand, Russia, a country that triggered and backed a war in the breakaway region of Transnistria in 1992, continues to support the separatist regime in Tiraspol and to maintain an illegal military force on the ground, despite protests voiced by Chișinău and the international community and despite its own committments to withdraw its troops.
Romania fully embraced Euro-Atlantic integration in the mid 1990s. After implementing consistent reforms, it was granted access to both NATO and the EU. Pre-accession reforms and particularly the benefits of NATO and EU membership have led to one of the most consistent economic growth rates in the world in the first two decades of the 21st century, a significant reduction of the development gap compared to Western states and a substantial progress compared to ex-Soviet countries that made little headway after the collapse of the USSR. Romania’s economy is not reliant on NATO’s bases on its territory, and the impact of a possible withdrawal of NATO troops would at most impact the confidence of certain investors. This too is debatable, considering that, in economic terms, Romania is anchored in the European single market and its economic relations are primarily targeting European countries.
However, a NATO withdrawal from Romania remains highly unlikely. Under no circumstance might such a scenario actually occur in response to Russia’s request, because this would basically entail the de facto collapse of the Alliance. If NATO gives in to the aggression of a foreign power, the act would violate its own rationale. As a matter of fact, no NATO official ever made any statement that would suggest the withdrawal is even considered at hypothetical level.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The Republic of Moldova is seen as a second Romanian state, but that doesn’t mean Romania has lodged any claims regarding Moldova’s sovereingty.