Moldova-Russia Relations Shaped by Crises

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The Russia-Ukraine War, which started on February 24, 2022, has opened the door to important changes in the geopolitics of Eastern Europe. In this context, there have been significant changes in the foreign policy of Moldova, which is one of the important countries in the region and shares a border with Ukraine.

Accordingly, the Chisinau administration applied for membership in the European Union (EU) on March 3, 2022. The EU granted Moldova the status of “candidate country” on June 23, 2022.[1] Therefore, the war in Ukraine has directly affected Moldova’s application for EU membership. Moldova refrained from taking steps against the EU until the war began. However, in the current conjuncture, the size of the threat that Moldova perceives from Russia has increased and within this framework, Moldova has taken action on the point of integration with the EU.

On the other hand, on February 10, 2023, the pro-Western Prime Minister of Moldova, Natalia Gavrilita, who had been in office for a year and a half, resigned. Gavrilita stated that the main reason for her resignation was the crises caused by Russia. Especially since the beginning of the war, Moldova, which has a population of 2.5 million, has experienced various problems. Chief among these issues are rising inflation, the arrival of large numbers of Ukrainian migrants, missiles in the war passing through its airspace, and a severe energy crisis caused by power cuts after Russia significantly reduced its natural gas supply.[2]  As it can be understood, the war has brought new challenges to the country in terms of energy and security, as well as changes in Moldova’s social fabric.

In this context, it is useful to mention the Transnistrian Question, which has an important place in shaping the relations between Moldova and Russia. Transnistria, located on the Moldova-Ukraine border, declared its unilateral separation from Moldova in 1992. The region attracts attention with its pro-Russian separatist structure. Nevertheless, it is claimed that 1500 Russian soldiers served in Trandyster.[3]  Moreover, Moldova is dependent on electricity supplied from the breakaway region Transnistria.

Predictably, this shows that Russia is able to exert pressure on Moldova through Transnistria, both militarily and through energy cards. However, it is also a question mark how much Russia will want to open a new front through Moldova. The current status quo in Transnistria serves the purpose of Moscow administration. The existence of Trandinester has been the main factor in Moldova’s pursuing a neutral policy until 2022.

Although Moldova applied for EU membership after the war, it has doubts about joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Such a scenario could cause Russia to reconsider its policy towards Moldova. That is why Moldova aims to achieve its integration with the West through the EU rather than NATO. In this context, it can be argued that the Kremlin will not want the activation of frozen conflict zones.[4]

On the other hand, following the resignation of the Moldovan Prime Minister, President Maia Sandu accused Moscow of attempting to carry out a coup in the country on February 13, 2023. Sandu explained that the authorities in the country had confirmed “a Russian plot to destabilize Moldova” claimed by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on February 9, 2023. In this context, Sandu suggested that Russia planned to use saboteurs of military origin camouflaged in civilian clothes to carry out acts of violence and attacks on state institutions in the country. Sandu also claimed that Russia’s initiative involved the entry of citizens of Montenegro, Belarus and Serbia into the country.[5] Lastly, the President of Moldova stated that Russia aims to stop her country’s EU integration process with these actions.[6]

First of all, it can be argued that Russia’s main motivation against Moldova is to prevent Chisinau’s integration with the West. Nevertheless, the fact that the governments in Moldova are generally unstable strengthens Russia’s hand.

On February 14, 2023, the Russian Foreign Ministry rejected Sandu’s allegations and accused Ukraine of escalating tensions between Russia and Moldova, expressing that Kyiv was trying to drag Chisinau into a bitter confrontation with Moscow.[7]

To evaluate the coup allegations, it is known that Russia is currently in a war in Ukraine where it does not get what it wants, that Western states have increased the supply of tanks to Kiev and that there are talks about advanced fighter jets. In such an environment, it can be stated that it is not easy for Moscow to open a new front and does not seem rational.

Consequently, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has led to Moldova’s application for EU membership and the development of the integration process with the union. The war has caused changes in the neutrality policy that Moldova has been pursuing for many years. In this context, it can be said that Russia may carry out some activities to prevent Moldova’s EU membership in various ways.

[1]  “Moldova”, European Council Council of the European Union,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[2] “Moldovan PM Resigns Blaming Crises caused by Russian Aggression”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[3] “How is Moldova’s Transnistria Region Related to The War in Ukraine?”, Los Angeles Times,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[4] Doğacan Başaran, “Rusya Dondurulmuş Çatışma Bölgelerini Aktive Etmek İster mi?”, ANKASAM,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[5] “Moldova’s Pro-EU President Sandu Accuses Russia of Coup Plot”, BBC,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[6] “Moldova President Accuses Russia of Plotting to Oust Pro-EU Government”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

[7] “Russia Denies It’s Seeking To Destabilize Moldova As Chisinau Calls For Maximum Vigilance”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,, (Date of Accession: 16.02.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.