Monday, February 6

Only ten tanks and 6,000 soldiers protect Moldova


Attack against radio antennas in the Moldovan region of Transnistria. / AFP

The small country is rushing to modernize its meager army as alerts grow over a possible Russian invasion.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, there have been many voices that have placed Moldova as the Kremlin’s next target. In recent days that possibility has gained strength and raises a simple question: Could the small country stand up to the enemy? The answer is clear:_by itself, no.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Government of Chisinau has spent more than two months with its soul on edge and carefully watching what is happening on Ukrainian territory. But things seem to have sped up in recent weeks. On April 23, Rustam Minnekayev, the acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, suggested that taking control of southern Ukraine would allow Moscow to open a corridor for smooth access to Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova. There, according to him, “there are also acts of oppression against the Russian-speaking population,” he said. A few days later, several explosions, still to be clarified, were recorded on Moldovan territory. Yesterday, kyiv warned that its neighbors are the next target.

With these wicks, the government that presides over Maia Sandu has accelerated the steps to try to defend itself. One of the first was to join the sanctions against Russia and the other, more practical, to speed up the modernization of its military personnel, an old aspiration of the Moldovan authorities since the end of the last century. “We must strive to have a modern and professional Army in the future. An investment in security and defense is necessary », Sandu announced at a press conference in which she acknowledged that her country « is not prepared » to respond to an attack.

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Among the poor of Europe

Boxed between Romania, to the West, and Ukraine, to the North, East and South, Moldova has 3.6 million inhabitants and is one of the poorest territories in Europe. His Army is proof of this. As far as personnel are concerned, it has 6,000 active soldiers and 12,000 in the reserves, according to data from Global Fire Power. In terms of logistics, the figures are not better. By air, its forces are limited to 20 helicopters – four of them attack helicopters – and a transport plane; by land, it has 10 tanks, 381 armored vehicles, 78 vehicles with self-propelled or towed artillery, and 25 more with multiple launch rocket systems.

“A strong and well-equipped Army gives the country freedom of action, confidence and the possibility of making strategic decisions,” defended the president before lamenting that “currently our sovereignty is threatened by Russia, which creates new provocations around Transnistria” . And it is that this strip of territory is a source of sleeplessness since Moldova declared itself, in 1991, as a parliamentary republic after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Inhabited mostly by Russians and Ukrainians, the authorities of Transnistria had already proclaimed their independence in 1990 and after the fall of the USSR fighting broke out between pro-Russians and Moldovans. Only the intervention, two years later, of the Kremlin Army tipped the balance.

Since then, the region, not recognized internationally, has turned its back on Chisinau and is home to a contingent of 1,500 Russian soldiers. In addition, it is estimated that some 20,000 tons of weapons and ammunition remain in the Kolbasna depot. Moscow had agreed with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to collect all its arsenal in the area, but the transfers were interrupted in 2004 by decision of the Transnistrian authorities. Although the state and usefulness of this arsenal is doubtful due to its age, it is clear that, at least in numbers, Moldova loses.


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