Known in Europe as an overall poor country, with a population of 4 million, Moldova at first seems likely an unlikely target for Putin and his military generals involved in Ukraine. But there are Russian soldiers already stationed in a separatist region in the east, known as Transnistria, and that pattern of Russia helping Russian-speaking separatists predates its support for arming and training separatists in Ukraine.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO and neither is Moldova, which is a member of the European Union, however, and received assurances days ago military aid is coming.
Last week, Moldova’s leaders gathered for an emergency meeting after Russian-backed leaders in Transnistria expressed “concern” over reports of several bombings and explosions in their territory. Russia naturally blamed Moldova, which has a weak military and has abided by a 1992 peace treaty with the breakaway region, overseen by Russia, after a brief civil war.
Bob Maginnis, a national security analyst at the Family Research Council, says Moldova would make an “easy win” for Putin to reclaim a former Soviet bloc nation after occupying Transnistria.
“It's already a relatively independent province, that he mostly controls,” Maginnis observes, “so [Putin] could take the entire little country, which isn't much.”
Moldova also borders Ukraine on the north and to the east, a distance of approximately 750 miles, through some of eastern boundary includes Transnistria itself.
According to Maginnis, occupying Moldova would give Putin and his military the ability to strike the western regions of Ukraine from its southern border with Moldova.
Even more, and even worse for the escalating tension between Russia and NATO, Moldova shares a boundary with NATO member Romania, a longtime U.S. ally in the region.
Romania routinely hosts U.S. military aircraft at its strategic airfields, where two F-35 fighters landed on Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
“They won’t stop,” a Romanian official, referring to Russia, recently told Air Force Magazine. “Either you stop Russia in Ukraine or you’re going to fight it on the NATO soil, on the EU soil.”