Russia-wary Moldova seeks more US, NATO cooperation
The U.S.-led NATO alliance will open a new security cooperation center in neutral Moldova, a small Eastern European country locked in a territorial dispute with Russia.
The agreement, announced Thursday after a meeting between NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Moldova’s prime minister, is part of an effort to establish closer ties, even though Moldova has no plans to join the 29-nation alliance.
The NATO liaison office will be staffed by civilians and will “support dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Moldova,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
NATO will “fully respect” Moldova’s neutrality, he added.
NATO liaison offices have also been established in Ukraine and Georgia, two other countries involved in long-running territorial disputes with Russia.
In Moldova’s case, the pro-Russia breakaway region of Trans-Dniester has long been a flashpoint, but in recent months Moldova has stepped up its demands that Russia pull its peacekeeping force of 1,200 troops out of the region. Moldova’s leaders, including new Defense Minister Eugen Sturza, are clamoring for closer ties to NATO, according to Prime Minister Pavel Filip.
“I just want to mention that not only the minister of defense pleads for more profound cooperation with the alliance — this was said also by myself as prime minister during my first visit here to NATO,” Filip said.
Still, the country has no plans to move toward joining NATO, he said.
“For those who are skeptical and who critique this cooperation with NATO, they should not forget that neutrality does not mean isolation,” Filip said.
NATO also recently agreed to work more closely with Moldova in countering cyberthreats. In the past, allies also have helped with the disposal of land mines and surplus munitions in the former Soviet state.