By Ludmila Nofit
The hybrid threats become a serious concern for the international community, taking into account their specific features, namely: “a combination of conventional and unconventional, military and non-military methods, which can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific policy objectives.” However, the ultimate established goal does not necessarily mean a direct attack on the state, but rather to generate instability on all dimensions like political, military, economic, social, justice, media, etc. As a result, the state becomes vulnerable in relation to internal threats including those from outside, being unable to ensure its long-term national security. The Republic of Moldova, from this point of view, faces a series of vulnerabilities, being often the target of hybrid threats through different soft-power tools.
Corruption in Moldova, rooted at all levels and in all spheres of activity, is the main threat towards strengthening the rule of law and democracy.According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of 2018, Moldova ranks 117 out of 180, due to including controversial measures taken by the former government. Among them are the adoption of package of laws on budgetary-fiscal policy and capital amnesty, lack of transparency regarding the investigation of the billion theft, selective justice in certain identified corruption cases, etc. All these provoked a hostile attitude from the EU in relation to the former government in Chisinau. The suspension of EU macro-financial assistance from last summer aimed to support the process of implementing reforms in strategic areas was, in fact, a response to the immature and irresponsible actions of the Moldovan authorities. The 2018 EU Parliament evaluation regarding the implementation of the Association Agreement, expressly declares that Moldova is a “state captured by oligarchic interests”.
The Transnistrean conflict directly affects the territorial and security integrity of the Republic of Moldova, generating political, military, economic and social instability and insecurity since 1992. In addition, that we have a de facto internationally unrecognized entity with all features of an independent state, the foreign military forces, known as the Operational Group of Russian Force (OGRF/GOTR) are illegally stationed in the Transnistrian region. Attention, do not confuse GOTR with the Russian military contingent within the existing peacekeeping mission in the Security Zone. As the latter one has a legal basis due to the 1992 Agreement on the principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Transnistrian region. However, the Russian Federation in an implicit way does not make this important distinction, leaving room for political and games interpretations in its favor, hindering the entire conflict settlement process. The Transnistrian region is used by Moscow to keep the political class in Chisinau under its sphere of influence, especially in the context that the Republic of Moldova has a pro-Russian president, who is apparently a promoter of balanced foreign policy, although its political balance is persuaded more towards the Russian Federation.
A cause for concern, perhaps less for some Moldovan officials, was the appointment in the last summer as the special representative of the Russian President for the development of trade and economic relations with Moldova, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government, Dmitri Kozak. He is most known as the author of the famous “Kozak’s Plan” which states for the Transnistrian settlement conflict by federalizing the Republic of Moldova.
The energy security is one of the most vulnerable sectors of Moldova due to dependence on natural gas and electricity from outside. As a result, Moldova buys electricity from Ukraine in the proportion of 20%, another 60% from the Cuciurgan power station located in the Transnistrian region and only 20% of energy is provided from the local production.The diversification of the energy market is an urgency need for the energy security of the Republic of Moldova, in the context, that Gazprom holds a monopoly in delivering natural gas on the Moldovan territory, besides the contract with the Russian energy giant expires at the end of this year. In addition, Moldova has a debt to Gazprom, which according to sources in 2018 raised to $ 6.21 billion and 90% of total amount is Tiraspol’s debt. The Russian Federation continues to finance the Tiraspol regime by delivering free Russian gas, but Moldova is accumulating debt. In the second half of July, the Moldovan president resumed his visits to Moscow, this time in order to negotiate the conditions for transit and delivery of Russian gas from January 1, 2020. It is certain that the payment for a new contract with Gazprom will influence the political agenda in Chisinau.
The influence of the church in the politics of the Republic of Moldova is obvious, and every electoral year increases considerably in the context in which about 90% of Moldovan citizens are Christians Orthodox, and their confidence in the church institutions is over 40%. For comparison the government is quoted with 14.4% confidence by the Moldovan population, the parliament with 10.9%, and the president with 23%, according to the January 2019 Opinion Barometer. The latest trends of some Moldovan politicians is to openly use the religious and the traditional family concept in their political discourses, with the obvious involvement of the church faces in the electoral campaigns aimed to support of one or another political party. As a result, the Moldovan society is manipulated, divided based on political criteria and incited to hate and discrimination. Nevertheless, the main beneficiary are the political and the church forces.
These are some of the main vulnerabilities faced by the Republic of Moldova in a period where unconventional instruments are the main weapons constantly contributing to the eradication of democracy and the rule of law.