Top Russian security official Alexander Malevany says his government faces growing threats from the United States and its allies in NATO, stemming from US “hysteria” about the annexation of Crimea. Malevany warned he is seeing a growing number of US efforts to “weaken Russian influence in a region that is of vital importance,” referring to Eastern Europe.
Earlier this week President Obama began talking up a significant increase in US and NATO deployments into Eastern Europe, supposedly to reassure Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania that NATO would defend them from Russian invasion.
Instead of being a stabilizing influence, such deployments have fueled concern in Russia, and have Russia’s regional allies, notably Belarus, pushing for bigger Russian deployments in the area to reassure them against NATO expansion.
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- NATO general warns of further Russian aggression
- Can NATO restrain Russia?
- Obama Wants More NATO Troops in Eastern Europe
- US Presses EU Nations to Hike Military Spending to ‘Confront Russia’
- NATO to bolster defences of Baltic states amid Ukraine crisis
- Lithuania to boost defense spending after Ukraine crisis
- Denmark to send six fighter jets to Baltics in May
- Disquiet in Baltics over sympathies of Russian speakers
- Romania says NATO must shift resources as Russian threat looms
- Transnistria Claims It Shot Down Ukraine Drone
- NATO Commander: Russia a Threat to Moldova
- CrossTalk: NATO’s Deadly Reach
Arizona Sen. John McCain warns that following Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin could extend Russian aggression into other areas of Europe, specifically Moldova and Latvia. “Moldova is a country to watch next,” the Republican senator said Wednesday on Fox News’s “Happening Now.” McCain, noting that Moldova is not a member of NATO, also said there are already Russian troops in an area of the country. “There’s already this kind of demands for Russian help,” he added as well as “the kind of provocations that we saw in eastern Ukraine.”
McCain also cast doubt as to whether Putin will not move into eastern Ukraine, saying the Russian president “still has forces masked around it.” He warned of the possibility of further violence in Crimea, saying there are still thousands of Ukrainian troops in Crimea. The senator also suggested that Putin could “be using same the same kind of strategy” in Latvia, noting the country also has a large Russian population. “I don’t know how far he goes,” McCain said, adding it depends on the U.S. and European response, which he criticized as “unbelievably weak.”
- Will Ukraine’s neighbour Moldova be the next east-west Europe flashpoint?
- Moldova’s Gagauz region leans toward Moscow
- Moldova’s Trans-Dniester region pleads to join Russia
- Moldova warns against Russia grab for Trans Dnestr
- Moldova urges EU to fast-track integration
- Romania Urges EU Membership Date For Moldova
- Interview: Romanian president says Russia has created conflicts around the Black Sea
Only 60km east of Moldova’s capital Chisinau and reachable by a bumpy ride in a marshrutka (shared taxi) accompanied by blaring Russian pop music, the haphazard border controls emblazoned with the red and green stripes of the Transnistrian flag come into view. The only place in Europe where grimacing guards in camouflage uniform wear badges with the hammer and sickle insignia of the Soviet Union. Transnistria has its own currency, passports and number plates which aren’t recognised by the vast majority of the world’s countries. Moldova considers Transnistria to be occupied territory, a gangster state cultivated by Russia which poses a risk to their national security. But residents in the capital Tiraspol, like shop assistant Nadya, disagree. “Life here is better than Moldova. Russia invests a lot of money in hospitals, kindergartens and other infrastructure. It would be nice to be independent but if we were reunited with Russia then that would be even better, like the Crimea.”
To ensure that such a scenario never happens again, Moscow is now in the process of infiltrating the last pro-European republics in its sphere of influence. Moldova is especially important to the Russians: a country, smaller than the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalia, almost entirely surrounded by Ukraine except for a border it shares with Romania. The republic, which left the Soviet Union in 1991, only has three million inhabitants. Until 2009, the communists led the country — but now a pro-European coalition is in power. Moldova long ago agreed on the text of an Association Agreement with the EU and it is supposed to be signed in August. This makes Moldova and Georgia the only ones of the six original former Soviet republics risking rapprochement with Europe. But will it actually happen?
The Kremlin is currently expending significant effort to loosen Europe’s grasp on Moldova — and using the Gagauz to do so. The Gagauz capital, Comrat, is a sleepy town in the south Moldavian steppe where the only language spoken aside from Gagauz is Russian and people watch Moscow’s Channel One. The rest of Moldova has also changed its attitude towards Europe — only 44 percent of them are still in favor of integration into the EU, while, at the same time, the number of people in favor of entering the Customs Union with Russia has grown from 30 to 40 percent. Formuzal claims the Moldovan government has erected an “African democracy” in the country — claiming that it has tightened its control over ministries, courts and public prosecutors’ offices and is handing out money to party members and relatives, while the Gagauz minority receives nothing. “We want our own state,” he says. “We want the same status as the Republic of Transnistria.” That strip of land, which separated from Moldova in 1992 in a civil war, has been kept alive by Russia ever since.