Staunton, November 21 – Incoming Moldovan president Maia Sandu has called for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Transdniestria, but Igor Strelkov, the former Donetsk defense minister has warned that if Moscow pulls them, ethnic Russians will flee and there will be “no chance” to keep the region within a Russian orbit.
Ethnic Russians would leave, Strelkov says, because they know that in the absence of Russian peacekeepers, Chisinau forces would be able to retake the breakaway region in two days and any remaining Russians would have to live by Moldovan rather than Russian rules of the game (ura.news/news/1052459646).
And the departure of these ethnic Russians would have broader consequences, he argues. It would open the way to a possible Moldovan union with Romania and either as a result of that or directly mean that the borders of NATO would move ever closer to the borders of the Russian Federation.
Strelkov, of course, is a radical on such questions. But his words are important for two reasons. On the one hand, they are a confirmation of something Moscow regularly denies – namely that the breakaway portion of Moldova exists and has survived so long only because of Russian troops.
And on the other, Strelkov’s warnings are likely to lead ever more officials in Putin’s Moscow to dig in and refuse to consider any draw down in Russian forces there or perhaps elsewhere in breakaway regions around the former Soviet space.