Russia is looking to destabilize Moldova, another country in Eastern Europe that has a troubled relationship with Moscow.
The former Soviet republic’s interior minister said the current environment in Moldova is “extremely volatile” and that Russia plans to foment a coup to overthrow the pro-European government.
Although the U.S. does not believe there is an immediate military threat to Moldova at the moment, it’s clear Russia intends to destabilize the country.
“As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian-friendly administration in the capital,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Friday during a telephonic briefing.
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The U.S. believes Russian assets, with possible ties to Russian intelligence, are looking to stage protests and launch an insurrection against the Moldovan government. Kirby said the U.S. expects Russian actors to help train and influence street demonstrations against the sitting government.
“Moscow is using its propaganda to deepen public dissatisfaction for [Moldovan President] Maia Sandu’s government and stop Moldova from getting closer to the EU,” Natia Seskuria, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Fox News Digital.
“Regime change and installation of a pro-Russian government would be the most effective tool for Moscow to keep Moldova within its sphere of influence. Organizing the coup would be a way to achieve these goals without waging a war against Moldova, which Russia can hardly afford right now,” Seskuria added.
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This isn’t the first time Russia is accused of sowing chaos in Moldova. In February, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who is unapologetically pro-European, claimed Russia was planning attacks and taking hostages in Moldova. Sandu claimed Russian agitators wanted to provoke violent clashes in Moldova not just to overthrow the government, but as part of an overall tactic to sow divisions and prevent the country from joining the European Union.
Russia has also claimed that Ukraine plotted to decapitate the government of the breakaway region of Transnistria, a claim flatly rejected by the U.S. and Ukraine and is looked upon as an ongoing Russian disinformation operation to destabilize Moldova.
Moldova has performed a difficult balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine, staunchly supporting Ukraine and taking in thousands of refugees while also being cautious in its rhetoric toward Russia.
Moldova is sandwiched between NATO member Romania and Ukraine and was once a part of the Soviet Union until it declared independence in 1991. Tensions with Russia continue over a tiny sliver of Moldovan territory called Transnistria, a breakaway region where pro-Russian actors rejected Moldovan independence and wanted to remain close to Russia. Moscow intervened after a war broke out in 1990 between newly independent Moldova and pro-Russian separatists in the region. Transnistria is still not recognized by the international community and is almost completely dependent on Russia.
The conflict over Transnistria was one of the first examples after the dissolution of the Soviet Union of Russia trying to destabilize and influence a former Soviet republic. About 1,500 Russian troops are stationed in the region under a peacekeeping mission that was agreed to after the war.
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Since independence, Moldova has been deeply dependent on Russian energy but has tried to wean itself off Russian natural gas, joining most of Europe in its goal to diversify its energy supply after Russia’s 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 if not for Russia’s aggression.