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Putin v. Sandu: Why Russia Is Moving Again On Moldova

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has warned that Russia aims to install a pro-Kremlin leadership in the former Soviet country across the border from Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has both the means and desire to do so.

photo of President Sandu in Kyiv in June

President Sandu in Kyiv in June

Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — There are two ways to escalate a conflict. The first is "vertically," using new weapons or aiming at new targets, as Vladimir Putin has been doing for the past few weeks by striking Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

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The second is "horizontally": extending the conflict to new territories, to new areas. This is the threat that hangs today over Moldova, this small state of the former USSR, which neighbors Ukraine and Romania, whose language it shares.

These fears were raised Monday by the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, who was referring to a Russian plan to create unrest inside Moldova in order to install a government favorable to Moscow. The pro-European president said the civil unrest was being fomented by people from Russia, Serbia, Belarus and Montenegro.

The alarm about Moldova was raised by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during talks with European leaders in Brussels last week. And Sandu has now effectively confirmed Zelensky's warnings based on documents seized by Moldova's intelligence services.

A fragile nation

Is this scenario possible? That question has two components: does Putin have the means to destabilize Moldova? And does Putin have an interest in destabilizing Moldova?

To the first question, the answer is a resounding yes. Moldova is an extremely fragile country, with only 2.6 million inhabitants; there are thousands of Russian peacekeeper soldiers in a third of its territory, Transnistria, the thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine; and there is daily fallout from the war in neighboring Ukraine.

In recent days, Russian missiles have twice flown over Moldovan territory, and the country is regularly without electricity because of the bombing of Ukrainian energy facilities across the border.

The country is already very polarized politically, and subject to constant information warfare, which President Sandu mentioned during her visit to France in December. The president was democratically elected, and has just been forced to change her prime minister to face this challenge. But her resolutely pro-Western stance makes her a potentially prime target.

photo of Putin

Putin has his eye on Moldova

Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin Pool/Planet Pix via ZUM

Putin's interest in destabilizing Moldova

So what would be Putin's interest in destabilizing Moldova? It would be twofold: first, to "punish" the European Union for supporting Ukraine. Brussels granted Moldova the status of candidate to the EU at the same time as Ukraine last year, and Putin's orchestrating the overthrow of Moldova's leadership would inflict a slap in the face to those in Europe who oppose him.

But the temptation may go further, returning to the Kremlin's dream of conquering southern Ukraine and establishing territorial continuity between Donbas, Crimea and Transnistria. This was one of Putin's initial goals, but he failed because of the resistance in the city of Nikolayev, in southern Ukraine.

It is clear that for Putin, the modern state of Moldova is only a relic of a bygone empire. He would not hesitate to use force to wipe it off the map.

In the face of such a horizontal escalation, Europe would be drawn even further into Putin's war.

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How A Xi Jinping Dinner In San Francisco May Have Sealed Mastercard's Arrival In China

The credit giant becomes only the second player after American Express to be allowed to set up a bank card-clearing RMB operation in mainland China.

Photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an Union Pay logo, with a Mastercard VISA logo in the background of the photo.

Mastercard has just been granted a bank card clearing license in China.

Liu Qianshan


It appears that one of the biggest beneficiaries from Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to San Francisco was Mastercard.

The U.S. credit card giant has since secured eagerly anticipated approval to expand in China's massive financial sector, having finally obtained long sought approval from China's central bank and financial regulatory authorities to initiate a bank card business in China through its joint venture with its new Chinese partner.

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Through a joint venture in China between Mastercard and China's NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, dubbed Mastercard NUCC, it has officially entered mainland China as an RMB currency clearing organization. It's only the second foreign business of its kind to do so following American Express in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the development is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting on Nov. 15 with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, part of a two-day visit that also included dinner that Xi had with U.S. business executives.

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