Around the World and Back Again

I’ve been around the globe a time or two, but only once can I remember the name Transnistria coming up in passing.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to pronounce it yet.

Transnistria, shown here in red, lies between Moldova and Ukraine. Graphic courtesy of romaniajournal.ro

But there it is, and suddenly the whole world is talking about it. Why? Because it may play an important role in the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine.

Does This Have to Do With Empire (Re)Building?

A Russian military commander suggested Friday that Moscow wants to establish a corridor through southern Ukraine to the breakaway republic of Transnistria in eastern Moldova.  This immediately sends a red flag high into the air and gets my spidey sense tingling.  It made me think of Russian expansion. Does Putin want to take over Moldova next? If he does, what comes after that?

If you think back on your history, you’ll recall that the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union. So Putin could be looking to rebuild that union piece by piece.

Rustam Minnekaev, acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, stated this week to the Russian news agency Interfax:

“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population.”

It’s not immediately clear if Minnekaev’s statement reflects the official line of the Kremlin or not. In the early weeks of the war, Russia tried and failed to advance on southwestern Ukraine, where Transnistria sits as a gateway to Moldova.

Regardless of what Minnekaev meant or whom he was speaking for, his comments sparked a global conversation about the long-term goals of Russia and any more immediate actions planned for Moldova. Moldova immediately summoned Russia’s ambassador Friday to express his “deep concern” over Minnekaev’s comments upon hearing the remarks.

If Putin takes Moldova, it will rob Ukraine of almost all of its coastline. Video courtesy of YouTube and CNBC.

In a statement provided by the Moldovan foreign ministry to the Washington Post, they said:

“These statements are unfounded and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders.”

Many military analysts say that the beleaguered Russian military, already fighting hard in eastern Ukraine, is not capable of carving out a path to Moldova. Moldova has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but officially maintains a policy of neutrality between Russia and NATO and therefore has no stated aims at joining the alliance.

This is where Transnistria may come into play. They are largely Russian-speaking and host Russian troops. However, they are still internationally recognized as part of Moldova. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a civil conflict started between the newly independent Republic of Moldova and separatists in Transnistria who wanted to maintain Soviet ties. Those ties to Russia exist to this day.

Russia has long maintained a military presence of so-called peacekeepers in Transnistria, and it’s believed there are about 1,500 Russian troops stationed in the region, along with thousands of Transnistrian forces loyal to the breakaway state.

Keep an Eye Out for This

Keep an eye out for military operations around Odesa. It is the largest city in the southern part of the nation and Ukraine’s third-largest city overall. The city has enormous cultural significance for both Ukraine and Russia, as it was founded by Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1794. There is that and the fact that it is located fewer than 50 miles southeast of Transnistria.

Russian military activity in and around Odesa may be a prelude to Putin taking the war to his western neighbors.

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