Moldova, a potential hot spot


The Baltic states and Ukraine are usually my favourite potential crisis zones between NATO and Russia. The Caucasus states like Georgia are simply too far away to bother me. A hot conflict between Russia and the NATO/EU over a Caucasus topic is even more unrealistic than Baltic or Ukraine -related crisis scenarios.

Belarus is another possible crisis zone, as it's too close to Russia to be accepted as a non-CIS country. The autocrat government seems to be stable, though - s there's little motivation to think much about Belarus on my part.

What's missing? Right, the title gave it away - Moldova.

The recent uprising/demonstrations there made it into the news (in part because their 'face' was quite pretty, I guess). This recent unrest, I admit, were the main reason why I thought a bit harder about that place.

Moldova is just another multi-ethnic state in Europe, with just another breakaway region (Transnistria). Transnistria is just another breakaway region with Russian "peacekeepers" (which should have left officially long ago).
Most inhabitants of Moldova are Romanians, with minorities (including Russians and Ukrainians) along the Eastern border.
Moldova - and therefore also Transnistria - is land-locked and surrounded by countries that are not very friendly to Russia. Russia's ability to intervene directly in Moldova with more than diplomats and intelligence agents is therefore marginal.

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The really interesting thing about this country is its neighbour; Romania is both a member of NATO and of the EU and has the same nationality as Moldova.

Now imagine a new Moldovan government in a few years - a government that decides to offer Romania to join as an additional province. Moldova was already part of Romania before WW2.

Now unless I missed anything in the NATO or EU treaties that says otherwise, Romania would not need the agreement of all NATO or EU members for such a re-unification.
And again if I didn't miss anything critical in those treaties, the Romanian and Moldovan governments could enlarge the EU and NATO by doing so - ON THEIR OWN.
It looks to me as if other NATO/EU powers have absolutely zero relevance in this context.
Russia would certainly be pissed off by having to drop Transnistria (which would be EU & NATO territory by then) and the Romanian military could escort the cut-off Russians to a port or airport for evacuation.

That would be a major Western tit-for-tat response for South Ossetia, a huge loss of face for Russia and it could also be a move that could motivate the Russian government to return the favour to Ukraine. The stereotypical use of energy export cuts could hurt Ukraine, especially if the Moldovan and Romanian governments bought the backing by Ukraine by agreeing to some border adjustments to make some Ukrainian-populated communities in Transnistria Ukrainian.
Such a re-unification should therefore not take place before the Ukrainian state has been strengthened, and the Russians should get enough time in advance to withdraw their 'peacekeepers' from their hopeless position without any loss of face.
Ideally, Russia would play a role in the negotiations and Russian foreign politicians could bring home certain guarantees and privileges for Russian citizens in the region.
The Western reaction to such events should be to confirm the EU and NATO status, but to be otherwise reluctant in order to play down the East-West friction.

Now that's an interesting scenario, and a reason why we should look at Moldova at least as often as at Georgia.

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It's also an example about how treaties and alliances can bind signatory powers - even great powers. It's a "the tail wags the dog" scenario. Even nuclear powers would be extremely impotent in this scenario, limited to their diplomatic and intelligence service capabilities.

Every power in an alliance can be drawn into conflicts it never imagined when signing the treaty (like Germany getting involved in a conflict with Muslim terrorists because of the NATO treaty).

The addition of allies is not only advantageous, but can be risky and lead to unintended consequences. Germany had its experiences with Austria-Hungary (WWI), Italy (WW2) and the USA (GWOT) in this regard.

Maybe the Moldova-Romania affair would someday lead to a re-unification.
That should be done skillfully and with foresight by relevant foreign politicians in order to minimize the troubles that such a process could cause. We might be lucky enough to have only smart politicians respond to such developments as "collision course" Rice and "We all are Georgians" McCain would have no relevant office.


1 comment:

  1. Romanian here, from Iasi (19 km away from the border with Moldova). I now live in the U.S. but I keep close ties with home.

    The nationalistic fervor in both Romania and Moldova was very high in the early 90's, but it has died down practically completely. During the 2009 Moldovan unrest I was actually traveling through Romania, from Bucharest to Iasi, aboard a small bus. Romanians are talkative and we talked about many things, and the topic of Moldova only came up for 10 minutes, 4 hours into the trip. The general attitude seems to be that "we have enough problems now; the last things we need are a few more million poor, a true Mafia, a sizeable Russian minority, and a pissed-off Russia. West Germany could afford in 1990 to integrate East Germany. Romania can barely afford to integrate itself into the E.U., and it knows it.