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Moldova will be next to fall if Russia wins Ukraine War

Feb 15, 2023

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Russian troops are mobilizing in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in the launch of a spring offensive, according to military observers. At the same time, NATO defense ministers are in Brussels to discuss concerns that the war is depleting ammunition stockpiles.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says the U.S. and its NATO allies should also pay close attention to increasing tension between Moscow and Moldova. Zeihan warns that Moldova, a small, strategically important country between Romania and Ukraine, could be the next to fall if Russia wins the Ukraine War.

Excerpted from Peter’s Feb. 15 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Moldova is one of those places that most people couldn’t find on a map, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in strategic significance.

Moldova is one of the access points between the European space and the region Russia seeks to control. Unfortunately for the Moldovans, this comes at the cost of a steady presence by the Russians – both militarily and meddling in government affairs. As the Ukraine War rages on, Moldova’s importance continues to grow. Should the Ukranians fall…Moldova will surely be in the crosshairs next.

Hey everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from a hotel with absolutely spectacular wallpaper. There’s been a lot of news in the Ukraine war on a front that most people haven’t been following and that is actually in a different country called Moldova. So the point of this video is to tell you what a Moldova is and why it matters. 

It is a small sliver of a country that’s kind of a debris of empire. So when countries rise into empires, they tend to absorb a lot of territories around them as they expand. That generates a lot of people within the imperial borders that as a rule are not all that happy to be where they are. And Moldova today was at the boundary for what was once on one side the Austrian Empire, another side the Ottoman Empire, and on the third side, the Russian Empire. It’s situated in a chunk of territory between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea, and whoever controls it has been able to determine which way the armies can flow. 

Now, as the story goes, the Russians have been using their political influence in the country to engineer the fall of the government, which is something I consider completely realistic because they’ve done that at least a dozen times since 1992. The Ukrainians warned the Moldovans about a week ago that the coup was imminent and now here we are. So whether or not I believe any of the specifics is kind of irrelevant. The Russians have always treated Moldova’s politics as a bit of a training ground for their intelligence agency, before they go into like, you know, real countries like Germany for general manipulation. So for those of you who have been following me for a while now, you know that I view the Russian view of their own space as insecure, because there are these nine major access points. And the Russians feel that unless they can secure all of them militarily, and put some troops as a military footprint to dissuade attacks in each and every one of them that they will never feel secure. 

And unfortunately for Ukraine, Ukraine is on the road to two of them. One of those is today’s Moldova. It’s called the Bessarabian gap in history, and has been the site of any number of conflicts between European powers, Turkish powers and Russian powers. Now, this was all part of the Soviet Union proper, not the Empire, the Union itself until the breakup in 1992. And in that year, Russia launched one of its first post-Soviet military missions in order to break up Moldova. So there’s a thin sliver called Transnistria, which is the eastern edge of Moldova that has basically declared independence and with Russian sponsorship, has been able to maintain that independence ever since 1992. And there is a military garrison of Russian troops actually stationed in Transnistria to make sure it doesn’t fall to Moldova in general. 

Now, the Russians have always maintained a strong presence in the country and not just in terms of troops. They have worked repeatedly to make sure that the government of Moldova is as non-functional as possible, because they would much rather have a Russian-influenced weak statelet between them in the European space than anyone with any sort of independent opinions. What we have seen during the Ukraine wars, the Russians have basically tried to use Moldova as a wedge, either to manipulate the refugees coming out of Ukraine to launch missiles over Moldovan airspace into Ukrainian targets, or in general to just cause headaches. And this is not something that is particularly well loved by the authorities in Moldova, or the population in general. 

And from the Russian point of view, this is all non-negotiable, just as they would never accept anything less than a full Ukrainian surrender so they can get on to get to those physical gaps; Moldova is one of those physical gaps. And so if we do get into a situation where Ukraine falls, Moldova is absolutely going to be the next target because it’s not in the EU; it’s not a NATO; it’s a country of only 4 million people. And the Russians have deliberately kept it economically and politically non-functional for 30 years. The only other scenario of course…worthy of consideration is what happens if the Ukrainians win? In which case you should expect Ukrainian and maybe even NATO military action against those Russian troops in Transnistria, to eject them and to formally fold Moldova into the European and the NATO family of countries. You would probably expect to see Moldova be able to qualify for membership in both organizations a lot sooner, because the territorial dispute they have is internal as opposed to with the Russians. And this is a country that has an order of magnitude smaller in population and like 1/20th the physical size of Ukraine. 

In addition, the Moldovans are a derivation of Romanians, both in terms of ethnicity and language. So relations between those two countries could actually push in the direction of integration into a single country. And since Romania is already in the EU and NATO, that would allow NATO and the EU to expand without actually expanding. Anyway, so two wildly different forecasts based on what happens with Ukraine, and that’s where we are. Alright, see you guys next time.

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