Is Moldova in Nato? Role in Russia-Ukraine refugee crisis, map and bordering countries - including Romania

Disputed territories and former Soviet Union links - could the conflict in Ukraine spread to Moldova?

<p>President Maia Sandu (left) oversees a country which is providing aid to Ukrainian refugees (Photos: Getty Images)</p>

President Maia Sandu (left) oversees a country which is providing aid to Ukrainian refugees (Photos: Getty Images)

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine having been ongoing for nearly a full week now, the eyes of the world remain fixed on the countries in and around the conflict.

One such country is Moldova, the 19th smallest country in Europe.

Like many of Ukraine’s surrounding countries, it has taken on thousands of fleeing refugees hoping to escape from the crisis.

But is it a Nato member, and what would happen if the conflict were to spread there? How likely is that?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

Is Moldova a Nato member?

At the time of writing, Moldova is not currently a Nato member.

Alongside Ukraine, Moldova has only one other bordering country: Romania.

As Romania is a Nato member, any attack on its territory would invoke Nato’s Article 5, a ‘collective defence’ mechanism that considers “an attack against one Ally as an attack against all Allies”.

With Moldova only being about 30 miles wide at its ‘thinnest’ point, the margin for error is slim.

What is Moldova’s role in the Russian invasion?

A refugee woman from Ukraine pushes a stroller with a small child after crossing the Moldova-Ukrainian border (Photo: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, Moldova has not engaged in a military capacity in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it remains unlikely to do so unless directly attacked.

The small country is still playing a major role though, particularly to many thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine amongst the conflict.

Moldova is one the first safe havens for Ukrainian refugees, along with countries like Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said it is sending stock of core relief items to Moldova.

This includes blankets, sleeping mats, family tents, winterisation kits, sleeping bags, water jerrycans, baby kits, solar lamps, and other items for at least 10,000 people.

On 22 February, Downing Street said the Foreign Office was sending “rapid deployment teams” to Poland, Moldova, Lithuania and Slovakia to provide consular support and assist British nationals who cross over the border.

Could the conflict spread to Moldova?

Ahead of Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear escalation of the conflict, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that the “long-running conflict is about freedom and democracy in Europe”.

If we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine we are going to see others under threat – the Baltics, Poland, Moldova, and it could end up in a conflict with Nato,” she added.

And just weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson suggested that Vladimir Putin wants to “redraw the security map of Europe” with its threat to Ukraine, warning that Europe is in a “critical” moment.

(Image: NationalWorld/JPIMedia)

Speaking at a press conference in Kyiv, the Prime Minister said: “It wouldn’t just be Ukraine that was drawn back into the Russian sphere of influence, you’ve got to think about Georgia, you’ve got to think about Moldova, other countries.”

So could Moldova find itself drawn into the conflict?

As a former Soviet republic, the country could very well be on Putin’s mind if his plans of military action spread beyond Ukraine in the future.

Like Ukraine and Crimea, Moldova and Russia have also had long-winded disputes over territory, notably the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria.

Transnistria remains internationally recognised as part of Moldova, but declared its independence in 1990, before defeating the Moldovan army in the War of Transnistria - with help from Russia.

The territory has been peaceful since 1992, but with no treaties or political framework in place to officially recognise the end of the fighting, the Council of Europe has dubbed Transnistria a "frozen conflict" region.

Legally, the conflict can start again at any moment.

97% of its residents voted to be independent in 2006, but the vote was not accepted by Moldova.

Though the region is supported by Russia - which sent doses of its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine without the blessing of the Moldovan authorities, to much controversy - it does not formally recognise Transnistria.

What is Moldova’s relationship with Russia?

Moldova has fairly good ties with Russia, though it would certainly not be considered an ally in the current conflict.

In December 2016, Igor Dodon, the leader of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, was elected to the presidency with a pro-Russian platform and a promise to identify with the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.

He visited Russia numerous times on state and working visits, but was then defeated in the 2020 Moldovan presidential election by Maia Sandu.

By and large, the Moldovan parliament has sought to move the country away from Russian influence and to move closer to Romania and the European Union in recent years.

During the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, Russia helped Moldova with its vaccination campaign by delivering doses of its Sputnik V vaccine.

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