After a successful annexation of Crimea against the wishes of the West, NATO believes that Russia still has bigger plans for expansion. A separatist region of Moldova called Transdniestria is thought to be in Moscow’s mind for annexation. A similar referendum as Crimea for the region was voted on in 2006 and decided that the region would like to be under Russian rule. The region considered itself separate from Moldova since the 1990’s but is not formally recognized by the United Nations or Russia for that matter.
NATO predicts a massive buildup of soldiers is being conducted near the Ukrainian border in efforts to take the region from Moldova. The West has voiced concerns that the Kremlin will use the old referendum to formally annex the area to protect the ethnic Russians in the area. Russia has denied the allegations and assure that the number of units on the border is compliant with international law. There has also been no indication out of Russia that they plan to expand any farther than Crimea.
Inspectors have been to the border of Russia and Ukraine as requested by many NATO forces and according to Russian media, they have complied completely. Moscow also explains that there have been no unannounced war games in the region. Paris and Berlin have called off the joint military training exercises planned for later this year. The reports of international inspectors has not been released yet but Russian officials are confident that all will be found in order and in line with international regulation.
The United States has not been quiet on the matter and has promised NATO that the Pentagon will double the number of fighter jets on the Baltic patrol mission as well as assist further in bringing Poland’s air force more training. The move is meant to reassure the region that NATO will protect them from any form of Russian aggression. Also to assure the rest of the area that working with the European Union is a safe endeavor.
NATO fears Russia will be a major destabilizer in the baltic states by annexing Transdniestria that has over 400 peacekeeping troops in the region. Despite Moscow not recognizing the region as a legitimate sovereign region, NATO is keeping close watch on the ethnically Russian area. Discontent with government in the area is not as serious as in the Ukraine due to both sides of the conflict in Moldova rarely coming into contact whereas the people of Ukraine have always lived split between their European and Russian roots. The separation of the region however legitimate has kept conflict down and the presence of peacekeeping soldiers in the area will be able to prevent a wide scale revolution.
NATO’s fears of Russia’s plans to expand its influence is not rooted in a fear of an evil dictator killing millions. The fears are fears of falling off as the world’s most powerful alliance. NATO has not been challenged since the Warsaw Pact. The exceptionalism veiling the West has ended as China and Russia begin to make a real impact on the planet’s politics.
By Andy Diaz