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Moldova’s president signs defense agreement with France, warns of Russian threat

After signing a bilateral defense and cooperation agreement with France, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu cautions that Russia will pose a threat to the rest of Europe if it prevails in Ukraine.
President Maia Sandu of Moldova (L) and Emmanuel Macron of France (R). Paris, 7 March 2024. Screenshot: Twitter/@elisee
Moldova’s president signs defense agreement with France, warns of Russian threat

On 7 March, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu signed a key defense agreement with France, marking a significant step in bolstering the country’s security amid growing concerns over Russian aggression. The deal, inked in Paris with her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, aims to enhance bilateral defense cooperation and collaboration between the two nations.

Moldova, neighboring Ukraine to the west and with a modest defense budget, has seen its already tense relations with Moscow worsen as it sides with Ukraine in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Russia maintains troops and peacekeepers in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that has sustained its autonomy for thirty years with Kremlin backing.

At the meeting, the two presidents signed a bilateral defense agreement and an “economic roadmap,” though specific details were not disclosed, according to France 24.

After signing the document, President Sandu warned that Moscow would not stop threatening the rest of Europe if it wins in Ukraine.

If the aggressor is not stopped, he will continue to advance, and the front line will be getting closer. Closer to us. Closer to you,” Sandu said, according to the RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.

Therefore, she says, Europe must stand as a united front and “aggression must be repelled with a strong force,” she added.

French support for Moldova’s independence

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged unwavering support to Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, against the backdrop of Moscow’s threats:

“France restates its unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its internationally recognised borders,” the French President said in a joint statement with his Moldovan counterpart.

Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moldova is grappling with “various challenges arising from the conflict at its borders,” according to the statement. A primary concern is the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria, where officials recently sought “protection” from Moscow. The two presidents expressed growing worries that this territory might become a new focal point in the conflict, as Moldova contends with escalating hybrid attacks, according to RFI.

The defense agreement builds on a preliminary accord reached in September, focusing on military training, regular defense consultations, and intelligence sharing.

Macron and Sandu stated that Paris fully supports Moldova’s reforms aimed at eventually joining the European Union, ahead of a referendum in Moldova later this year, as per AFP.

The French defense ministry announced that a French defense mission will be established in Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, by the summer to assist in assessing needs, and discussions have commenced regarding potential weapons contracts, Reuters reported.

Moldova’s concerns

In a separate statement, Sandu said:

“France has stood by us, offering us support during the last two years of turmoil caused by Russia’s actions. France stands with us as we move forward on our path to joining the European Union.”

Before she visited France, President Sandu expressed concerns that Moscow intends to undermine Moldova’s stability and derail its integration into the European Union. On 5 March, the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) issued a warning about Russia’s plans to destabilize the country, which seeks to shed Moscow’s longstanding influence and join the EU.

Under President Sandu’s pro-Western leadership, Moldova has firmly set its course towards European integration, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The country was invited to start EU membership negotiations in 2022 and is set to hold a national referendum on joining the bloc this year.

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