Something is brewing in Transnistria

Last Saturday, we entered the third year of the Russian war against Ukraine. It is known that the situation on the battlefield is currently not favorable for Ukraine. Does this have consequences for the other countries in the vicinity of Ukraine that Putin has also focused his attention on? I am specifically thinking of the situation in Moldova and even more specifically in Transnistria.

Transnistria is a unique case on the political world stage. It broke away from Moldova in 1992 and is recognised by no country, except Russia. There are an estimated 1,500 Russian military personnel present, officially for peacekeeping purposes. Transnistria has its own government and parliament in Tiraspol. Delegates of that parliament have been summoned to decide on February 28 whether Transnistria should officially apply for annexation by Russia.

What is behind the sudden rush for such an annexation? Vladimir Putin has planned a meeting of the Russian Federal Assembly on February 29. He could then honor the request from Transnistria. That way, it would de facto cease to exist and become part of Russia. And then?

Government of Moldova not nervous (yet)

The story about the possible annexation comes from Ghenadie Ciorba, an opponent of the pro-Russian authorities in Transnistria. He believes the step by the government in Tiraspol is meant to increase Russian political pressure on Moldova. Under President Maia Sandu, Moldova is indeed pursuing a pro-European course. It hopes to join the EU by 2030 at the latest. Ciorba draws a comparison between the annexation of Transnistria by Russia and the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia by Hitler’s Germany, both in 1938.

“Madam President Sandu, your entourage constantly scared you with the fact that Russia will attack the territory of the Republic of Moldova. But you did not take into account the fact that the psychology of the current leadership of Russia, especially Putin, is very similar to that of Hitler in the late 1930s. Attempts to reconcile individuals like Putin lead to only one thing, increasing the aggressor’s appetite”, concluded Ciorba.

The authorities in Moldova are not in the highest state of readiness yet. They do say they are closely monitoring developments around the possible annexation. Experts call it ‘a propaganda stunt’ and ‘part of a broader Russian strategy to force the Ukrainian military to also focus their attention on the border with Moldova’.

The EU has not made statements about the possible consequences for Moldova so far. However, last Thursday, it added six more individuals to the sanction list of Russians. They are being accused of attempting to undermine the democratic government in Chisinau.

Guessing Putin’s intentions

That Vladimir Putin will honor the potential request from Transnistria for annexation, is without doubt. Knowing his political tricks from the past, there is also little doubt that this request did not spontaneously arise from the leaders of the breakaway region themselves. The question remains what Putin aims to achieve with this step.

Is it indeed his intention to open a possible new front against Ukraine from Transnistria? Russia would first have to move troops and equipment in large numbers through or over hostile Ukrainian territory. That seems unlikely for the time being. With the current number of Russian soldiers in Transnistria, there is no chance for a second front.

It is more likely that Putin wants to increase the pressure on Moldova. The Russians are already running a disinformation campaign in Moldova and they support politicians who are against the country’s pro-European course. When Transnistria actually becomes part of Russia, that will certainly not become less.

Even though it seems unlikely for the time being that the Russians will also start a war against Moldova, they keep the country in a psychological stranglehold. Be careful not to go too far with that European integration, otherwise we will intervene.

Although the end of the war in Ukraine is far from in sight, that is the most likely reason for the expected annexation of Transnistria by Russia. Marking territory and, when the time is ripe, taking the next step to realise Putin’s great dream. The restoration of the Russian borders as they were before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since Putin does not have eternal life, he might well plan this by 2030 as far as Moldova is concerned. And unlike with the Ukrainians, there will be little resistance from Moldova. Who will stop him otherwise? The EU? The US?

Keep an eye on the situation in Moldova and Transnistria. Something is brewing…

Sources used

Radio Moldova

Romania Journal

BBC (useful background information on Transnistria)

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