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Global Insights: With Eye on Moldova, NATO Must Shore Up Southeastern Front

Richard Weitz

The standoff in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the central government in Kiev is far from resolved. But whatever its outcome, NATO needs to take urgent measures to deter Russian military intervention in Moldova and reinforce its security guarantees to NATO members Bulgaria and Romania. These two countries are no less vulnerable to Russian pressure than the NATO members to their north, namely Poland and the Baltic states. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania’s strong support is needed to advance Western goals in the Balkans, the Caspian region and Central Asia. Ideally NATO would reassure Moscow that Moldova will not soon join the alliance while augmenting NATO’s collective ability to defend Bulgaria and Romania from external aggression.

The conflict in Ukraine has once again highlighted the security dilemma faced by Moldova, perhaps the most pro-Western country in Europe that remains outside both the NATO alliance and the European Union. Moldovans face serious impediments to deepening ties with both organizations. As with Ukraine and Georgia, Moscow manipulates Moldova’s separatist movement to influence the country’s foreign policy. In particular, Russia keeps more than 1,000 soldiers in the breakaway region of Transnistria, one of several “frozen conflicts” that date back to the breakup of the Soviet Union. …

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