Will This Be the Spot of a New War in Europe?

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Photo Credit: Spc. Joshua Leonard, U.S. Army, via Flickr

The war in Ukraine is consuming all of Europe’s attention, but a new theater of conflict could soon open. The unrecognized republic of Transdniestria is calling on Russia to protect it, who could make moves while the rest of the the world is distracted.

Transdniestria is a sliver of Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, who broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Populated by ethnic Russians, it is protected by one battalion of Russian troops and is sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova. The Daily Beast says:

Pro-separatist authorities in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria have publicly called on Moscow to step in and provide “protection” against “increasing pressure” from the Moldovan government.

The news dominated Russian state media Wednesday shortly after the congress of deputies in the unrecognized republic passed a resolution effectively inviting the Kremlin to embark on another land grab in the region in the name of protecting ethnic Russians.

Russia could attempt to annex Transdniestria, but this would be difficult to implement. Reaching the secessionist state would require crossing Ukrainian land, either by push from the land, sea or air. Odessa is the last major prize for Russia on the Black Sea coast, meaning its capture would be required to properly supply and defend Transdniestria. While Russia is on the offensive, Odessa is likely out of reach in the near future. The Guardian continues:

Russian officials responded by saying that one of its “priorities” was to protect the thin sliver of land, which has been de facto controlled by pro-Russian forces since the collapse of the Soviet Union but is internationally recognised as part of Moldova.

US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Wednesday: “Given Russia’s increasingly aggressive role in Europe, we are watching Russia’s actions in Transnistria and the broader situation there very closely.”

A move by Moscow could cause Moldova to join NATO, though that in itself would be a challenge. It would have to abandon claims to Transdniestria and it would create another border where combat incidents could spark a wider crisis.

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