The Republic of Moldova can accede to the EU only if it joins NATO first and adopts an anti-Russian policy, according to a false narrative carried by the Russian media. In fact, the terms a state must comply with before it can join the EU have nothing to do with NATO, evidence of which is the fact that some members of NATO have been denied EU accession.
NEWS: “It is well-known that the ticket to entering the European Union is the mandatory expression of anti-Russian policies, while NATO membership is the best confirmation of such an approach.
After Maia Sandu won the presidential election of 2020, and six months later the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) secured majority in Parliament in the snap legislative election, the first questions arose regarding the need to preserve Moldova’s neutrality.
The start of the special military operation was a true gift for Chișinău authorities.
First of all, the series of events started in February 2020 has allowed Maia Sandu and the ruling party to blame all the shortcomings of their subpar administration on the military actions in Ukraine. Secondly, under the guise of humanitarian rhetoric, the pro-Western leadership has openly joined Kyiv, which goes against the principle of neutrality as well as the interests of Moldovans themselves”.
NARRATIVES: 1. Brussels wants EU membership to be conditional on adopting anti-Russian policies and joining NATO. 2. For the first time in the history of Moldova, the PAS pro-European administration questions the neutrality status and promotes NATO accession. 3. The Russian invasion of Ukraine benefits the Moldovan administration.
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova is a neutral state, according to one provision in the disputed Constitution of 1994. This status however does not exclude military cooperation with other countries / organizations, including NATO. The Republic of Moldova’s collaboration with NATO started as early as the 1990s, and one of the most important NATO projects was the evacuation of large quantities of Soviet-era pesticides that threatened to pollute the environment and poison the country’s farmland and waters.
The North-Atlantic Alliance is still used as a scare tactic to instill fear in a large part of the Moldovan population, which regards NATO through the lens of the propaganda of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation more recently. In this context, opinion polls show that approximately 25-30% of the country’s population would favor NATO accession. The majority population argues in favor of maintaining neutrality, although this status does not have international recognition, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the 2008 intervention in Georgia proved this status is not a solution to safeguard national security.
In 2006, while the communists were in power, the Republic of Moldova signed an individual Action Plan with NATO, which is updated periodically.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the government of Moldova has repeatedly emphasized the need to strengthen its national security and defense capabilities, while its Western partners gave assurances they will help Moldova attain its objectives. This has fueled Russian propaganda narratives about the Republic of Moldova’s plans to join NATO or even to get involved in the war in Ukraine against Russia.
PURPOSE: To depict the Republic of Moldova as a potential new member of NATO and thus an opponent / rival of the Russian Federation in order to justify possible attacks / pressure from the Russian Federation in an attempt to secure its “vital space”. To instill fear in some parts of Moldovan society regarding the risks of Moldova getting involved in the war in Ukraine due to the pro-European administration led by PAS / Maia Sandu.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: In June 2022, the Republic of Moldova obtained the EU candidate status, which came with nine basic prerequisites that are tied to the observance of the rule of law, combating corruption or implementing economic reforms. None of these has to do with neutrality, Moldova’s NATO accession or the adoption of any anti-Russian policies. Every country that fulfills accession criteria can submit its candidacy. Known as “the Copenhagen criteria”, these prerequisites include the existence of a stable democracy and rule of law, a functional market economy and compliance with EU legislation.
The narrative according to which NATO memberships is a prerequisite to obtaining EU memberships is false, considering the European Union has accepted a number of neutral states – Ireland, Austria, Sweden and Finland. These last two have submitted their NATO candidacies (and Finland has already been accepted) after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when they considered the status of neutrality does not guarantee their security.
On the other hand, there are NATO members that are not part of the EU, including some countries on continental Europe. Turkey, for instance, has NATO’s second-largest army, and has for years been trying to secure European Union accession.
The 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Moldova was also a byproduct of the 1992 war in Transnistria, adopted against the backdrop of uncertainty in southern Moldova, a region home to a pro-Russian Gagauz minority with autonomy claims of its own. Over the years, several provisions in the Constitution, such as the one related to the name of the official language (the Constitution stipulated Moldovan was the official state language), as well as the provision on Moldova’s neutrality, have been challenged and criticized. There have always been political forces and representatives of civil society who have argued in favor of revising the Constitution.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has rekindled talks about the best way to safeguard Moldova’s security (which is what other countries had done elsewhere), and several Moldovan officials have argued that neutrality offers no guarantees, as the Russian invasion in neighboring Ukraine has proved. Still, the Moldovan government, including president Maia Sandu, has repeatedly said that changing the neutrality status can only be achieved by referendum.
In fact, the Russian invasion has given rise to debates about the need to ensure security in a number of much safer states that are also neutral, such as Sweden (as mentioned above), Ireland or Switzerland.
The Republic of Moldova is one of, if not the most affected country by the invasion in neighboring Ukraine. The war did not just seriously affect its security, as Moldova was considered Russia’s next target in the event the Ukrainian army hadn’t fought back, but it also virtually destroyed its economy. In 2022, inflation exceeded 30% in the Republic of Moldova, its economy being highly reliant on both imports from Ukraine as well as on transport and transit routes. Soaring inflation as well as the increase in prices have impoverished the population of a country which, prior to the invasion, was one of Europe’s poorest nations. As a result, Moldova has seen social unrest, people voicing their disgruntlement as part of street protests, all of which obviously does not benefit the administration, as this piece of Russian propaganda claims.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: After Russia invaded Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova started focusing more on bolstering its defense capabilities.