Russia is trying to destabilize Moldova, another Eastern European country that has a troubled relationship with Moscow.
The former Soviet republic’s interior minister said the current situation in Moldova was “extremely unstable” and that Russia intends to foment a coup to overthrow the pro-European government.
While the United States does not currently believe there is an immediate military threat to Moldova, it is clear that Russia intends to destabilize the country.
“As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, likely with the ultimate goal of seeing a more Russia-friendly administration in the capital,” the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby during a telephone briefing Friday.
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The United States believes that Russian assets, with possible ties to Russian intelligence, are trying to stage protests and launch an insurrection against the Moldovan government. Kirby said the United States expects Russian actors to help shape and influence street demonstrations against the incumbent government.
“Moscow is using its propaganda to increase public dissatisfaction with [Moldovan President] Maia Sandu’s government and prevent Moldova from getting closer to the EU,” Natia Seskuria, a research associate at the Royal United Services Institute, told Fox News Digital.
“Regime change and the installation of a pro-Russian government would be the most effective tool for Moscow to keep Moldova in its sphere of influence. Organizing the coup would be a way to achieve these goals without waging a war against Moldova, that Russia can hardly afford it now,” Seskuria added.
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This is not the first time Russia has been accused of wreaking havoc in Moldova. In February, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who is unapologetically pro-European, said Russia was planning attacks and taking hostages in Moldova. Sandu said Russian agitators wanted to provoke violent clashes in Moldova not just to overthrow the government but as part of a general tactic to sow divisions and prevent the country from joining the European Union.
Russia has also claimed that Ukraine has plotted to behead the government of the breakaway region of Transnistria, a claim flatly rejected by the US and Ukraine and is seen as an ongoing Russian disinformation operation to destabilize Moldova.
Moldova has struck a difficult balancing act since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, staunchly supporting Ukraine and taking in thousands of refugees, while remaining cautious in its rhetoric towards Russia.
Moldova is sandwiched between NATO member Romania and Ukraine and was once part of the Soviet Union until it declared independence in 1991. Tensions with Russia continue over a small sliver of Moldovan territory called Transnistria, a breakaway region where pro-Russian actors rejected Moldova’s independence and wanted to stay close to Russia. Moscow intervened after war broke out in 1990 between newly independent Moldova and pro-Russian separatists in the region. Transnistria is not yet recognized by the international community and is almost completely dependent on Russia.
The conflict over Transnistria was one of the first examples after Russia’s breakup of the Soviet Union, seeking to destabilize and influence a former Soviet republic. About 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed in the region as part of a peacekeeping mission agreed after the war.
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Since independence, Moldova has been heavily dependent on Russian energy, but has been trying to wean itself off Russian natural gas, joining most of Europe in its goal to diversify its energy supply following the Russian invasion of Ukraine .
Moldova also applied for EU membership on the same day as Ukraine shortly after the invasion, a decision that would have been unlikely were it not for Russia’s aggression.