A History of Russian Aggression and Interference in Moldova's Post-Soviet Independence
Russian interference in Moldovan affairs has a long and complex history that dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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Russian interference in Moldovan affairs has a long and complex history that dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Moldova, which was part of the Soviet Union, gained independence after the fall of the USSR, but Russia has maintained a significant interest in the country, particularly in the breakaway region of Transnistria.
In the early 1990s, Moldova was plunged into a civil war between the Moldovan government and Russian-backed separatists in Transnistria, a region that had a significant Russian-speaking minority population. The conflict resulted in the de facto secession of Transnistria, which remains unrecognized by most countries.
Russia has since maintained a military presence in Transnistria, including a large contingent of peacekeeping troops. This has been a major source of tension between Russia and Moldova, which has sought to remove Russian troops from its territory.
In addition to its military presence, Russia has also sought to influence Moldovan politics through various means. Russian political operatives and media outlets have reportedly engaged in disinformation campaigns and other forms of propaganda in Moldova, aimed at promoting pro-Russian political parties and undermining the Moldovan government.
Russia has also been accused of supporting separatist movements in other parts of Moldova, such as Gagauzia, an autonomous region with a significant Turkish-speaking minority population.
Despite efforts by Moldova to move closer to the European Union, Russia continues to exert significant influence in the country. In 2019, Moldova elected a pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, who sought to strengthen ties with Russia and roll back some of the country's pro-Western policies.
Before the Soviet Union, the territory that is now Moldova was part of various empires and kingdoms over the centuries. It was initially inhabited by various Thracian and Dacian tribes before being conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was ruled by various groups, including the Huns, Goths, and Byzantines. In the 12th century, the region came under the control of the Cumans, a Turkic nomadic people, before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary in the 13th century.
In the 14th century, the region came under the control of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over it for almost 300 years. During this time, the region was part of the Ottoman Empire's Bessarabia province.
In the 19th century, after a series of wars between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, the region was divided into two parts, with the western part (now known as Moldova) becoming part of the Russian Empire, and the eastern part (now known as the breakaway region of Transnistria) remaining under Ottoman control.
During the Russian Empire, Moldova was part of the Bessarabia Governorate, which was one of the largest and most prosperous regions of the empire. It remained under Russian control until the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent civil war, the territory of Moldova became part of the newly formed Soviet Union in 1924 as the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. It remained part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.
The Soviet Era
During the Soviet era, Moldova was a republic of the Soviet Union and was known as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviet government implemented policies aimed at modernizing the country and increasing its economic output, including collectivization of agriculture and industrialization.
Moldova's agricultural sector was restructured into large state-owned collective farms, which were intended to increase agricultural production and efficiency. However, these policies often led to inefficiencies and poor harvests, and many Moldovans resented the loss of their land and the forced collectivization.
During the Stalinist period, there were large-scale deportations and executions of Moldovan intellectuals, landowners, and political activists. This resulted in significant cultural and demographic changes in the country.
Despite these challenges, Moldova developed a well-educated population and an industrial base, and by the 1980s, the country had become one of the most prosperous republics of the Soviet Union. However, the economic and political changes in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Moldova's independence.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova faced a period of economic and political instability. The country experienced a separatist conflict in Transnistria, which continues to this day, and a severe economic downturn that led to mass emigration and poverty. The country has since transitioned to a market-oriented economy and has sought to integrate with the European Union.
Moldova became an independent country in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. The country faced significant challenges in the years following its independence, including a separatist conflict in the breakaway region of Transnistria, which declared independence from Moldova in 1990.
The conflict in Transnistria, which was supported by Russian military and political forces, led to a violent conflict in 1992. A ceasefire was eventually reached, and a peacekeeping force composed of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian troops was established.
Moldova also struggled with economic and political instability in the post-Soviet era. The country transitioned to a market-oriented economy, but the process was slow and often difficult. The country's agriculture-based economy suffered due to the loss of markets in the former Soviet Union, and there was a significant decline in industrial production.
Moldova also experienced political instability, with frequent changes in government and a lack of political consensus. Corruption and organized crime became significant problems in the country, and many Moldovans left the country in search of better economic opportunities.
In the 2000s and 2010s, Moldova sought to integrate with the European Union and improve its economic and political situation. The country signed an association agreement with the EU in 2014, but progress has been slow, and Moldova still faces significant challenges in implementing reforms and combating corruption.
The separatist conflict in Transnistria remains unresolved, and tensions with Russia continue to be a significant challenge for Moldova. The country also faces demographic challenges, with a declining population and significant emigration.
Transnistria: Current Status
Transnistria remains a breakaway region of Moldova and is not recognized as an independent state by any country. The region declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and has maintained de facto independence since the ceasefire that ended the 1992 conflict between Moldova and Transnistria.
Transnistria is heavily reliant on Russia for political and economic support, and there is a significant Russian military presence in the region, which includes the Russian peacekeeping force. Transnistria has its own government, military, and currency, and is largely self-governed.
The situation in Transnistria remains a major source of tension between Moldova and Russia. Moldova views Transnistria as part of its territory and seeks to reintegrate the region into Moldova. However, Russia supports Transnistria's independence and opposes any efforts by Moldova to reintegrate the region.
The conflict over Transnistria has had a significant impact on relations between Moldova and Russia. Moldova has sought to move closer to the European Union and NATO, which has been met with opposition from Russia. Russia has used its influence in Transnistria to block Moldova's efforts to strengthen ties with the West.
The separatist conflict in Transnistria also poses a significant security threat to Moldova. The region has been a source of instability in the country, and there have been occasional outbreaks of violence. Moldova has sought to resolve the conflict through negotiations, but progress has been slow, and a lasting solution has yet to be found.
The War in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine has significantly complicated matters between Russia and Moldova, as it has added a new layer of tension to their already strained relationship. The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014 when pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine, following the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president.
Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine have increased concerns in Moldova that Russia may seek to repeat the same scenario in Transnistria. Moldova is a pro-European country that seeks closer integration with the West, which has put it at odds with Russia.
Russia's actions in Ukraine have also increased Moldova's concerns about its own territorial integrity, as it fears that Russia may seek to destabilize the country and use Transnistria as a base of operations. This has led to an increase in military activity in the region, as Moldova has sought to strengthen its own defenses.
The conflict in Ukraine has also made it more difficult for Moldova to negotiate a settlement with Transnistria. Russia's involvement in the conflict has made it more difficult for Moldova to gain support from the international community for its efforts to reintegrate the breakaway region. Moldova's efforts to move closer to the European Union and NATO have also been met with resistance from Russia, which views such moves as a threat to its interests in the region.
The conflict in Ukraine has also increased Moldova's economic dependence on Russia, as the country relies on Russia for energy supplies and as a major market for its exports. The economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West as a result of its actions in Ukraine have also had a negative impact on Moldova's economy.
Persistent Russian Belligerence
In recent years, Russia has become increasingly assertive in the region, and there have been a number of incidents that have raised concerns about Russian aggression towards Moldova. These incidents include:
- Military exercises: Russia has conducted a number of large-scale military exercises near the Moldovan border in recent years. These exercises have involved tens of thousands of troops and have included simulated attacks on Moldovan territory.
- Cyber attacks: There have been a number of cyber attacks on Moldova's government and banking systems in recent years, which have been linked to Russian hackers.
- Disinformation campaigns: Russia has been accused of using disinformation campaigns to influence Moldovan politics and promote pro-Russian political parties.
- Economic pressure: Russia has used its economic leverage to pressure Moldova, including imposing trade restrictions on Moldovan goods and increasing gas prices.
These actions have raised concerns that Russia may be seeking to undermine Moldova's independence and territorial integrity. Moldova is a small country with limited military capabilities, and it is heavily reliant on Russia for energy supplies and as a market for its exports.
Russian Military Exercises
Russia has conducted a number of large-scale military exercises near the Moldovan border in recent years, which have raised concerns about Russian aggression towards Moldova. These exercises have involved tens of thousands of troops and have included simulated attacks on Moldovan territory.
In 2018, Russia conducted the "Vostok-2018" military exercises, which involved over 300,000 troops and was the largest military exercise in the country's history. The exercises were held in the Far East region of Russia, but they included the deployment of Russian troops near the Moldovan border.
In 2016, Russia conducted the "Kavkaz-2016" military exercises, which involved over 12,000 troops and were held in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The exercises included simulated attacks on Moldovan territory and raised concerns in Moldova about the potential for Russian aggression.
These military exercises have been seen as a way for Russia to flex its military muscle and demonstrate its readiness to defend its interests in the region. However, they have also raised concerns about the potential for Russian aggression towards Moldova and its territorial integrity.
Moldova has been the target of a number of cyber attacks in recent years, which have been linked to Russian hackers. These attacks have targeted a range of institutions and entities, including government agencies, political parties, and financial institutions.
In 2014, Moldova experienced a major cyber attack that disrupted government websites and email systems. The attack was linked to a group known as "PawnStorm," which has been linked to Russian intelligence services.
In 2016, a number of Moldovan banks were targeted in a series of cyber attacks that led to the theft of millions of dollars. The attacks were attributed to a group known as "Cobalt," which has been linked to Russian cybercriminals.
In 2017, the Moldovan government accused Russian hackers of targeting the country's foreign ministry and attempting to steal sensitive information. The Russian government denied any involvement in the attack.
These cyber attacks have raised concerns about Russia's use of cyber capabilities to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors and to advance its own interests. Moldova, like many other countries, is vulnerable to cyber attacks, and the attacks it has experienced have had significant economic and political consequences.
Overall, the cyber attacks directed at Moldova are part of a larger pattern of Russian interference in the country's affairs. They reflect Russia's efforts to influence Moldovan politics and advance its own interests in the region.
Russia has been accused of using disinformation campaigns to influence Moldovan politics and promote pro-Russian political parties. These campaigns have been aimed at sowing discord, creating confusion, and undermining the legitimacy of the Moldovan government and its pro-European orientation.
One example of Russian disinformation in Moldova was the so-called "Laundromat" scandal, which involved the laundering of billions of dollars through Moldovan banks. The scandal was linked to a number of pro-Russian politicians in the country, and it was widely believed to be a Russian attempt to undermine Moldova's pro-European government.
Russian disinformation campaigns have also been used to promote pro-Russian political parties in Moldova. These campaigns have included the spread of fake news, the use of social media bots, and the dissemination of propaganda. They have been aimed at creating a climate of fear and distrust in Moldova and advancing Russia's interests in the region.
The use of disinformation campaigns is part of a broader pattern of Russian interference in Moldova's affairs. These campaigns reflect Russia's efforts to maintain its influence in the country and to advance its own interests in the region. They also highlight the vulnerabilities of smaller countries like Moldova to foreign interference and the challenges they face in maintaining their independence and territorial integrity.
Russia has used economic pressure to influence Moldova's politics and maintain its influence in the country. The most significant way that Russia has exerted economic pressure on Moldova is through its control of the country's energy supplies.
Moldova is heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies, including natural gas, oil, and electricity. The country has limited domestic energy resources and lacks the infrastructure to import energy from other sources. This has made Moldova vulnerable to Russian energy pressure, which Russia has used to advance its own interests in the region.
One way that Russia has used its control of Moldova's energy supplies to exert economic pressure is by increasing the price of natural gas. In 2019, Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom increased the price of natural gas exports to Moldova by 12 percent. This had a significant impact on Moldova's economy, as natural gas is used to generate electricity and to heat homes and businesses.
In addition to increasing the price of natural gas, Russia has also used its control of Moldova's energy supplies to influence the country's politics. In 2018, Moldova's pro-European government canceled a controversial energy contract with a Russian-owned company, which was seen as a threat to Moldova's energy security. In response, Russia cut off gas supplies to Moldova, which led to a significant energy crisis in the country.
Russia has also used its control of Moldova's energy supplies to promote its own energy infrastructure projects in the region. In 2019, Russia's state-owned energy company Rosatom signed a deal with Moldova to build a new nuclear power plant in the country. The deal was seen as a way for Russia to increase its influence in the region and to promote its own energy interests.
A Role for NATO and the West
Russia's ongoing threats to Moldova's independence and territorial integrity have put the country in a precarious position. Over the years, Russia has engaged in a range of activities aimed at undermining Moldova's political stability and advancing its own interests in the region. These activities include military exercises, cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns, and economic pressure.
Despite these challenges, Moldova has sought to strengthen its independence and territorial integrity by moving closer to European and transatlantic institutions. The country has signed an association agreement with the European Union and has sought closer ties with NATO, which has provided significant military and economic support.
In addition to military and economic assistance, NATO and the West can also provide support to Moldova in the areas of information operations and cyber. Russian disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks have had a significant impact on Moldova's political stability and economic development, and addressing these challenges will be critical for the country's long-term security.
One way that NATO and the West can provide assistance in the area of information operations is by helping Moldova to develop its own strategic communications capabilities. Moldova has already taken steps to counter Russian disinformation, but it will need continued support in order to build a comprehensive strategy for countering disinformation and promoting its own narrative.
In the area of cyber, NATO and the West can provide Moldova with technical assistance and training to improve the country's cyber defenses. This includes helping Moldova to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, as well as providing support in areas such as incident response, threat intelligence, and risk assessment.
Overall, cooperation with NATO and the West will be critical for Moldova's continued development and its efforts to strengthen its independence and territorial integrity. By providing military, economic, and technical assistance, as well as support in the areas of information operations and cyber, the West can help Moldova address the challenges it faces and build a more secure and prosperous future.
Blogs of War generated this text in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.