Romania has appointed Cristian-Leon Țurcanu, a NATO expert, as its designated ambassador in Chișinău. Țurcanu will replace Daniel Ioniță, a vehement supporter of unionism. The narrative is launched in the context of a broader regional crisis, Russia having ramped up its disinformation over an alleged NATO threat to ex-Soviet space.
NEWS: “A NATO expert will replace a unionist as Romania’s ambassador to the Republic of Moldova […] Cristian-Leon Țurcanu previously worked as advisor on regional affairs and security policy within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as for the Department for Organizing the NATO Summit and the Directorate for Implementing Schengen Programs. Țurcanu was also Romania’s ambassador in Kiev and held positions at the US and German embassies. According to the Romanian MFA official website, Cristian-Leon Țurcanu was deputy ambassador to the Republic of Moldova over 2014-2015.
[…] The outgoing ambassador, Daniel Ioniță, described himself as a die-hard unionist, seeking to “suppress the national identity of the Moldovan people”. Ioniță pointed out more than once that “there is no Moldovan people” and accused the citizens of the Republic of Moldova of being adherents to a “primitive Moldovenism inherited from the Soviet era, as well as misconceptions about Romania and the Romanian gendarme.” Moreover, Ioniță was an outspoken supporter of an idea also backed by the current administration in Chișinău, namely that Romanian soldiers who fought on the side of fascist Germany in World War II “liberated Moldova from the Soviet occupation.”
NARRATIVES: 1. Romania has appointed a NATO expert to replace its unionist ambassador in Chișinău. 2. By means of its diplomats, Bucharest is aggressively promoting the unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania, as well as historical revisionism in favor of “fascists”.
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova’s relations with the Western world, Romania and NATO in particular, are closely monitored by Moscow and the Russian media, considering the majority population of the Republic of Moldova has pro-European views, and that there is a unionist movement in this country, which however doesn’t enjoy the support of the bulk of the population.
The Russian media as well as the Russian-language media in the Republic of Moldova frequently promote manipulative stories and fake news, fueled including by statements of certain politicians in Chișinău, over the alleged risks linked to the unification with Romania, to NATO accession, or to so-called Western groups of influence taking over the power.
With regard to the Romanian ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, whose term in office has come to an end, the Romanian MFA made public its nomination for this office, namely Cristian-Leon Țurcanu, a diplomat with a career spanning nearly 20 years. Some media outlets however have exaggerated a small detail in his diplomatic career, namely his position as part of the MFA Department that was charged with organizing the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008.
This particular story follows a number of press articles carried by the Russian state media and some of the outlets in the Republic of Moldova, speaking of an increased NATO control in the Republic of Moldova, against the backdrop of rising geopolitical tension in South-Eastern Europe, in particular between Russia and Ukraine.
At the same time, the media also rehashes a number of older narratives previously launched by Moscow, politicians and pro-Russian media in Moldova, regarding Romania’s alleged interference with the domestic affairs of the Republic of Moldova, the forced unification of the two states and so-called revanchist and neo-fascist attitudes. These narratives are designed to feed into anti-Romanian and anti-Western sentiments at society level, targeting ethnic minorities in particular.
PURPOSE: To restore public attention to NATO’s purported attempts at consolidating “control” over the Republic of Moldova, including via Romania. To depict Romania as a revanchist state, claiming the current territory of the Republic of Moldova and promoting the unification of the two states through various methods, including by means of its diplomats. To refuel anti-Romanian and anti-Western sentiment at the level of the Moldovan society. And indirectly, to promote the image of the Russian Federation as a state defending the interests of the Republic of Moldova and Russian-speaking minorities from Western (NATO) expansion.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Cristian-Leon Țurcanu is a Romanian diplomat with an experience of almost 20 years who’s held various positions, both at the level of the MFA and as part of Romania’s missions abroad. According to the information published by the MFA, Cristian-Leon Țurcanu worked for and coordinated the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Directorate, overseeing the entire network of bilateral relations with states in this geographic region. He was also executive director of the communication, public diplomacy and culture department and worked as an advisor on regional affairs and security policy within the Romanian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He also worked for the Directorate for Implementing Schengen Programs. Admittedly, Țurcanu also worked for the Department for Organizing the NATO Summit, a structure created in mid-2007 with the specific aim of preparing the NATO Summit in Bucharest of April 2008. However, highlighting this particular period in Țurcanu’s diplomatic career and presenting him as “a NATO expert” is a disinformation narrative designed to underscore the increasingly numerous messages promoted by the Kremlin and the Russian media about NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe and its attempts at taking control of the Republic of Moldova.
In the same vein, the outgoing ambassador, Daniel Ioniță, is described as a “die-hard” unionist, and his statements about “primitive Moldovenism”, which sparked criticism from the Socialist Party in April, 2021, are taken out of context. Daniel Ioniță subsequently explained he was referring to scientific truths, confirmed and recognized by experts worldwide, about the so-called Moldovan language and the Moldovan people, which are fabrications that were originally promoted by the USSR in order to justify its expansionist drive and its territorial claims regarding Romania.
Although there are unionist movements both in the Republic of Moldova and in Romania, this topic has never been raised at formal level. Romania was the first state to recognize the Republic of Moldova’s independence from the USSR.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Cristian-Leon Țurcanu did work for the Department for Organizing the NATO Summit.