While the concerned West monitors the slow-burning conflict between Ukraine and Russia, other eastern European states are wondering what may be on the horizon.
In an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Moldova Prime Minister Iurie Leanca intimated his concern about Russian President Vladimir Putin's next potential moves in his supposed realization of Russia's birthright.
Prime Minister Leanca, the head of a pro-Western coalition, specifically cited Russian troop exercises in the separatist region of Transnistria, on the far side of the Dniester River, as his cause for concern.
Transnistria has run its affairs without international recognition since 1992. According to Goldberg, Transnistria has an approximate population of 500,000 and maintains an army and police attachments – both of which are independent of the Moldovan government and receive aid from the two thousand Russian troops present in the region.
Leanca told Goldberg that "the Russian army is trying to learn how to cross the Dniester River in a few minutes." Many fear that Russia would use the region as a bridgehead for invading southern Ukraine.
On Thursday, Putin urged Ukraine to re-open trade and transportation routes into the region. While Leanca refused to directly speculate on Putin's intentions to Goldberg, Defense Minister Valeriu Troenco claimed "[Moldavian forces] are going to get ready. That's my job – to get ready."
Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has had pro-Western governments since 2009 and has a difficult relationship with RUssia, the source of most of its oil and gas. Leanca told Goldberg that "the immediate response to [Moldova's] problems is for the European Union and the United States to come forward with a vision to integrate Moldova into the EU."
Moldova initialed an agreement to strengthen ties with the EU late last year, which is half-way to signing, and it hopes to complete that process by the end of this year.
Last week, four United States senators visited Moldova to support Leanca and the republic's attempted move toward the EU.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told students at the Academy of Economic Studies that "[the U.S.] will never ever, ever allow Russia and Vladimir Putin to deprive the people of Moldova of their liberty and right to determine their own future."
McCain would continue to call Russia "a gas station masquerading as a country. In fact, Russia is a gas station run by a Mafioso."
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