The “regime” in Chisinau wants to have the Republic of Moldova join NATO and is ready to make “unfriendly” gestures towards Russia, according to a false narrative promoted by Sputnik. The starting point of the narrative was the participation of a single Moldovan army platoon in a multi-national exercise to which, in the past, Russia would also be invited.
NEWS: “The Sea Breeze exercise - 2021, which started on June 28 in Ukraine, triggered an unequivocal negative reaction from the Russian expert community. “Undoubtedly, these exercises are a new attempt by NATO to exert pollical and military pressure on Russia”, the Russian military expert and editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, said in an interview for Sputnik Moldova. “NATO's show-off in support for Ukraine and the designation of the Russian Federation as the main enemy during potential hostilities are also aimed at this end”, he added.
Korotchenko stressed that the current Sea Breeze exercises are taking place against the background of very tense relations between Russia and the West. “I think we should get ready for new challenges, which obviously can arise from the most unexpected angle. We can't rule out the worst-case scenario. Of course, things are unlikely to end in a big war, but challenges are always dangerous, because they can trigger an unpredictable escalation of events. I think this is the main threat”, Korotchenko said.
The fact that a platoon of the National Army of Moldova will participate in the Alliance's exercises is seen by the expert in an exclusively negative light: “Moldovan troops’ participation in the Sea Breeze exercise is evidence of the desire of the Chisinau regime to have its country become part of NATO and, of course, this step is an unfriendly one towards Russia.”NARRATIVES: 1. NATO provokes Russia through military exercises. 2. The Chisinau regime wants Moldova to join NATO. 3. Cooperation with NATO is a hostile move towards Russia.
LOCAL CONTEXT / ETHOS: In the context of the election campaign in Moldova, the Russian media supports the pro-Kremlin forces (in particular the alliance of Socialists and Communists) by spreading false narratives or providing platforms for exponents of those forces to spread their messages, which usually include such narratives. There are several themes that can be found in the campaign narratives. One of them is the one according to which a potential victory of the right will lead, in the best-case scenario, to a political, economic and social crisis, and in the worst case, to war and the dissolution of the Republic of Moldova as a state. Another intensely promoted topic is the existence in Chisinau of a “regime” led by Maia Sandu, even if the head of state has an extremely small number of levers she can use, as neither she nor her supporters control the administration or the government, and parliament has been dissolved. The themes mentioned above appear in the Sputnik article, the “regime” to which it refers being, obviously, that of Maia Sandu.
NATO is one of the main targets of Russia's Putin propaganda, one that overlaps with that of the Soviet and Cold War periods. The consequence of all these decades of demonizing the North Atlantic Alliance is that it is viewed with suspicion - or even hostility - by a large part of the population of many ex-Soviet countries, including the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, in the case of the latter, the idea of neutrality of the country is strongly promoted, especially by the left and pro-Russian parties, a neutrality that – they say – provides the country with security guarantees. In reality, the Republic of Moldova is an extremely vulnerable state, with a frozen conflict in the separatist region of Transnistria and foreign (Russian) troops stationed on its territory, despite repeated calls for their withdrawal.
PURPOSE: To undermine right-wing forces and the Sandu “regime” by instilling in the population a sense of fear of NATO integration plans and attracting hostility from Russia. To present the latter as a victim of NATO aggression, not as an aggressor.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Sea Breeze is in fact a multinational exercise that has been regularly organized since 1997, to which Russia would also be invited, as a rule, and in which it actually participated in 1998. It is by no means just for NATO member states or states with NATO aspirations. Among the nations involved over time were also members of the Partnership for Peace program (a program that Russia joined in 1994), and four Arab countries will participate in the current edition. Russia itself continues to participate in multinational exercises, and this very year it sent troops to such an exercise, organized by Pakistan, which was also attended by NATO states. Therefore, just taking part in Sea Breeze means nothing. Moreover, the Sputnik article itself states - probably in order to keep the interim Minister of Defense, Victor Gaiciuc, a close ally of Igor Dodon’s, away from any association with “the regime” - that the Republic of Moldova will be present only with a peacekeeping platoon, which is a rather symbolic contingent. In the Republic of Moldova, renouncing the status of neutrality and joining NATO has never been seriously discussed, given that opinion barometers clearly show that they would be rejected by the majority of the population. As a sovereign state, the Republic of Moldova has the right to choose which international organizations it wishes to join or which military exercises its soldiers should participate in. Interpreting Chisinau's participation in the Sea Breeze as an unfriendly gesture is merely Moscow interfering in the Republic of Moldova’s affairs from the position of an imperial power showing its superiority over a state it regards as its vassal.