By Alexander Tanas
CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldova needs 250 million euros ($275 million) to modernise its armed forces following Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last year, a senior defence official in the pro-Western country said.
“The starting point for a change in public opinion towards the development of the defence sector was naturally the shock of February 2022,” Valeriu Mija, Secretary of State for Defence Policy and National Army Reform in the defence ministry, told a forum on national security in the capital, Chisinau.
“In other words, the period of romanticism with the dream of eternal peace has ended, and a different approach is needed,” he told the gathering.
“In our opinion, 250 million euros are needed for the modernisation of the armed forces.”
One of Europe’s poorest countries, ex-Soviet Moldova is seeking European Union entry but is shut out from NATO membership by the principle of neutrality set out in its constitution.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu has repeatedly denounced the war in Ukraine, which has sent parts of missiles fired in the conflict over the border to land in her country.
The country has received generous Western funding since Sandu took office in 2020 with a mandate to fight corruption and move closer to Europe. Mija noted the country should receive 87 million euros from a European peace fund this year as well as a budget boost of 80 million euros.
“There are other figures that cannot be disclosed publicly, including due to commercial secrets,” Mija said. “For example, the purchase of air defence systems was not a priority until quite recently, but the events of last year forced us to reconsider our opinion, and this will require funds.”
A country of 2.5 million, Moldova remains beset by the presence of a pro-Russian separatist statelet, Transdniestria, 30 years after a brief war pitting it against newly independent Moldova’s army.
Some 1,500 Russian “peacekeepers” remain in Transdniestria and its leaders accuse Ukraine of trying to topple them. In turn, Moldova accuses Russia of trying to destabilise it.