The European Union is considering additional military support to Moldova, to cope with the spillover from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel said on a visit to Chisinau on Wednesday (4 May).
The 27-nation bloc is looking into how it can provide more military support to Moldova – one of the poorest countries in Europe, squeezed between Romania and Ukraine – including more help in building up the country’s forces, Michel told a joint news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu.
Moldova is seen as a possible next victim of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Just like Ukraine, Moldova is a former Soviet republic with ambitions to join the EU. Vladimir Putin’s Russia, however, has plans to restore as much as possible from the former Soviet Union.
The Moldovan authorities are sensitive to signs of growing tensions in Transnistria, an unrecognised Moscow-backed sliver of land bordering southwestern Ukraine. Transnistria is officially Moldovan territory but has been controlled by pro-Russian forces since 1990.
In the first signs of trouble, explosions damaged Soviet-era radio masts that broadcast Russian radio in Transnistria on 6 April, which prompted Moldova’s president to convene an urgent security meeting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to drag Moldova into war.
On 22 April, a senior Russian military official said the second phase of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine included a plan to take full control of southern Ukraine and improve its access to Transnistria.
Michel said that additional help would come on top of help in the fields of logistics and cyber defence that the EU had already agreed. Michel refused to give any details but said it was extremely important to avoid any escalation.
“We will help Moldova to strengthen your resilience and to cope with the consequences of the spill-over of the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Michel said in Chisinau.
He said the EU was planning to significantly increase its military support to Ukraine by providing its armed forces with “additional military equipment”.
“We will also provide support to counter disinformation, strengthen social cohesion and withstand cyber-attacks,” Michel stated.
Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine, despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic” scenarios, President Sandu said on Wednesday.
Sandu’s government applied to join the EU on 3 March this year, a week after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russian TV news broadcasts are banned in Moldova, which in recent weeks also banned the orange and black ribbon worn by supporters of the Russian invasion, after a parliamentary vote boycotted by the pro-Russian opposition.
Michel said the EU was working hard to evaluate Moldova’s application to join the bloc, although he described the procedure as “complex”.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]