Will Russia Attack Moldova?

By Shlomo Maital  

    For me, Moldova is personal.  My mother and father were both born in Bessarabia (today, Moldova), in the early 1900’s, and emigrated to Canada.

    Moldova is Europe’s poorest country; its 2.6 million people live in an area of about 35,000 sq.  km. and have nominal GDP per capita of only $5,500.  It hopes that by joining the EU, it will be eligible for massive EU subsidies, like those Poland received. Moldova is a democracy and has a single Parliament. Its official language is Romanian. 

    Ironically, my father and mother, from Dombrovan, a small all-Jewish village not far from Kishinev, were ethnic Russian, and inherently disliked the nearby Romanians.  It would make a lot of sense for little Moldova to become part of Romania, already an EU member.   Especially now.   

    Russia and Putin have consistently telegraphed their murderous plans in advance (at least, on the ground, while denying everything).  Now, they fabricate a claim that Ukraine plans to attack Moldova, a pretext for them to possibly invade by themselves.   

       According to CNN’s Rob Picheta, “Moldova’s President, Maia Sandu, has accused Russia of using “saboteurs” disguised as civilians to stoke unrest amid a period of political instability, echoing similar warnings from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.  … Putin has meanwhile baselessly accused Kyiv of planning its own assault on a pro-Russian territory in Moldova where Moscow has a military foothold, heightening fears that he is creating a pretext for a Crimea-style annexation.”

      Putin recently revoked a 2012 foreign policy decree that in part recognized Moldova’s independence, according to Reuters.

     Then Russia’s Ministry of Defense accused Ukraine of “preparing an armed provocation” against Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria “in the near future,” state-media TASS reported.

     Will Putin attack Moldova?

     Russia already has a foothold there, in Transnistria, a tiny 1,300 sq. m. breakaway territory that slithers along the eastern flank of the country along the Dniester River and has housed Russian troops for decades.  Those troops are ethnic Russian Transnistrians.  Transnistria declared itself a Soviet republic in 1990, opposing any attempt by Moldova to become an independent state or to merge with Romania after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.  Moldova has applied for EU membership. 

      Russia has no border with Moldova.  To invade, it would need to advance from the south, from Odessa, still controlled by Ukraine.  Or by airborne troops.  

     The experts are all pooh-poohing Putin’s threats.  I suggest they be taken seriously.  An airborn Russian attack could quickly overwhelm Moldova and give Putin a PR victory, which he desperately needs.  And also distract from Russia’s abysmal military debacle in Ukraine. 

       Romania has 68,000 troops in its army and is a NATO member (since 2004).  The West should shift troops from Poland to Romania and prepare to defend Moldova.  Without a land supply route, Russia’s paratroopers could be quickly wiped out.  Especially if newly-equipped Ukraine forces attacked from the northeast, while NATO hit the Russians from the southwest.  

      Moldova’s newly chosen Prime Minister could tomorrow announce a merger between Moldova and Romania.  This could technically make Moldova also a NATO member and subject to NATO’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all rule, attack one, you attack all. 

      Escalation?  Anger the Russian bear?  Russian nukes?  It is long past time for such procrastination.  Putin is evil, scheming, but not insane and not stupid.  Best to forestall in advance his chess moves, put him in check before he does the same with his Queen (army).