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  • Writer's pictureThe Red Line

Episode 106. Wargaming: Moldova vs Transnistria

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In the ever-evolving tapestry of global geopolitics, Moldova, often overlooked in the broader discourse of international relations, now finds itself in a precarious position. The ripples emanating from the recent war in Ukraine have set the stage for new dynamics in the region. For Moldova, the challenge is twofold: addressing its own national ambitions while maneuvering through the mire of broader global politics. The transcript from the recent wargame session offers a window into the multifaceted dynamics shaping Moldova's future and, by extension, the larger geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe.



The Changing Equation in Eastern Europe

Historically, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan was a mainstay in geopolitical discussions pertaining to the region. Many analysts presumed the situation was frozen in amber, largely because of Russia's unwavering support for Armenia. Yet, the tables turned with the Ukrainian conflict. Russia, traditionally the dominant force in the region, found its military stretched, signaling an opening for other regional players. This changing balance of power has major implications for Moldova's goals vis-à-vis Transnistria.

Transnistria: A Vestige of the Soviet Era

Transnistria presents a unique conundrum. Its population, primarily Russian-speaking, has long felt a kinship with its powerful eastern neighbor. Soviet symbolism still holds sway in the breakaway republic, underpinned by a small yet symbolic Russian military presence. Enter Maya Sundew, Moldova's new leader, who embodies the nation's yearning to reintegrate Transnistria. This ambition, however, is not without its adversaries.

A Web of Interests and Motivations

At the heart of Moldova's strategic calculus is a desire to draw closer to Western institutions such as the European Union and NATO. Such aspirations, if realized, could provide both economic and security benefits. Yet, Moldova's journey is fraught with challenges. The broader European landscape, scarred by prolonged conflicts and wary of provoking Russia, offers Moldova limited overt support. Moreover, the question of reintegration is not merely a geopolitical one but also a deeply cultural and social issue. Transnistria, having enjoyed a degree of autonomy and distinct identity for three decades, will not easily be folded back into the Moldovan fabric.

Western Interests: A Shifting Paradigm

The Western stance, especially that of NATO, is emblematic of the changing regional dynamics. By voicing support for Moldova's sovereignty, NATO seems to be recalibrating its position vis-à-vis Russia. Yet, questions linger. With the U.S. pivoting towards the Indo-Pacific, Europe's position in the American strategic framework is in flux. Would NATO, and by extension the U.S., risk a direct confrontation with Russia over Moldova? The wargame session suggests a complex web of considerations that makes any direct intervention uncertain.

The Fragile Lifeline of Transnistria

One of the most revealing insights from the wargame discussion centers on Transnistria's vulnerability. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has imperiled its lifeline, making it difficult for Russia to sustain its garrison. While this ostensibly offers Moldova a strategic opening, it also underscores the potential risks of overreach.

The Voice of the People: A Potential Flashpoint

An underlying theme, often overshadowed by the grand geopolitical narrative, is the perspective of the Transnistrian populace. Moldova's leadership, historically distant and at times dismissive of Transnistrian concerns, now faces the Herculean task of bridging a deep-rooted cultural chasm. The language barrier, symbolic of the broader socio-cultural divide, poses a tangible challenge.

The Road Ahead: Uncertainty and Hope

The tension in the region is palpable. Both Moldova and Transnistria, aware of their limited military might, are caught in a standoff, waiting for the other to blink. The outcome of this confrontation holds ramifications not just for the two entities, but also for the broader stability of Eastern Europe and the strategic interests of global powers.

In Conclusion

Moldova's current predicament, as illuminated by the wargame discussion, offers a microcosm of the broader challenges and opportunities in Eastern Europe. As the region undergoes seismic shifts, nations like Moldova find themselves navigating a labyrinth of cultural, political, and strategic challenges. The outcome, while uncertain, will undoubtedly shape the contours of European geopolitics for years to come. The hope, as always, is for a resolution that ensures peace, stability, and progress for all stakeholders involved.



- Introduction: (00:00)

PART 1: Resetting the Board - (04:07)

With Professor James Ker-Lindsay

  • Visiting Professor at the University of Kent

  • Research Associate at the London School of Ecnomics

  • Host of the Youtube Channel - Prof James Key Lindsay

PART 2: Over the River - (23:06)

With Dan Darling

  • Forecast International's Director of Military and Defence Markets

  • One of the Worlds Most Highly Regarded Defence Market Analysts

  • Expert in Eurasian and EuropeanDefence Markets

PART 3: Broke Backers - (49:17)

With Stephen Blank

  • Senior Felllow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute

  • Reguarly Testifies to Congress and CIA

  • Has Published Over 900 Articles and Monographs on Soviet and Russian Defence Policy

- Outro: (58:56)


The Red Line's Iran Reading List:

We’ve compiled a list of further reading to better understand the geopolitics of Iran and its neighbours.


#1 - Bastard Republic

Tyrone Shaw

#2 - Moldova: A History

Rebecca Haynes

#3 - European Defence: Decision Making and Dilemma's in Collaborative Arms Procurement

Antonio Calcara


For episode transcripts, monthly geopolitics Q&A’s, member-only videos and to support the show, check out our Patreon here:


This episode is dedicated to our Patreon members:

Joseph Lucido, Ryan Landry, Zed and David


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