Today, Transnitria’s paramilitary force is armed, supplied and supervised by Russia, according to Col.Rosian Vasiloi, former head of Moldova’s Border Police. Meanwhile, it is subsidized with Russian gas, electricity and social programs such as pensions.
Transnistria’s government, which has seceded, calls for Russia to annex it. If that happens, Moldova, which last year elected an openly pro-Western government, could be next, experts and local officials say.
“There are comrades here just waiting to be empowered,” said Anatolie Golea, a political journalist and founder of the Infotag News Agency, referring to pro-Kremlin politicians in the country. Most pro-Kremlin Transnistrians believe they will seize control of the breakaway region with a population of over 450,000 without invasion or occupation but simply through the changing of power, he said.
“Through elections and through tensions on elections, if they take the south of Ukraine, Russian influence will be huge in Moldova,” he said.
Riddled with corruption, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries.
According to the United Nations, its gross national income is around $13,600, compared to $31,600 in nearby Poland. It gets 100 percent of its gas and electricity from Russia. Meanwhile, combat-ready Russian troops occupy part of its territory, and disinformation and viral messages have been bombarding it since the invasion of Ukraine.
All this makes the country vulnerable.
Neither a member of NATO nor the European Union, it provoked the Kremlin’s ire last year after a pro-European party founded by Maia Sandu, Moldova’s first female leader, won elections on an anti-corruption platform. Prior to that, the country’s political elite had been tied to the Kremlin.
A majority of Moldovans — 61 percent according to a recent poll — share Sandu’s vision of Moldova becoming part of the European Union, and in March, following the invasion of Ukraine, Sandu signed a formal application for E.U. membership.
Despite vowing to tackle corruption, clean house and foster European integration, Sandu now finds herself, and her country, even more exposed.
A significant minority — 31 percent — strongly oppose closer integration with Europe, according to a poll by Magenta Consulting.