Berliner Tageblatt - Blinken to announce Moldova 'support' as meets President Sandu

NYSE - LSE
RBGPF 0% 56.5 $
RYCEF -1.88% 5.84 $
RELX 0.09% 45.88 $
SCS -2.28% 13.395 $
BCC -2.53% 118.575 $
RIO 0.24% 66.61 $
AZN 0.4% 79.687 $
GSK -0.32% 40.42 $
NGG 0.05% 57.46 $
CMSC 0% 24.5 $
CMSD 0% 24.22 $
VOD -2.23% 8.95 $
BCE -0.88% 32.95 $
JRI 0.33% 12.05 $
BTI -0.75% 32.12 $
BP -0.49% 36.075 $
Blinken to announce Moldova 'support' as meets President Sandu
Blinken to announce Moldova 'support' as meets President Sandu / Photo: © AFP/File

Blinken to announce Moldova 'support' as meets President Sandu

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday headed for talks with Moldova President Maia Sandu aimed at showing robust support for the frontline country's Western aspirations as alarm grows over Russian gains elsewhere.

Text size:

The top US diplomat landed in Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania, and headed straight to talks with Sandu, who has charted a firmly pro-European course for one of the continent's poorest countries.

The trip comes as Moscow, which stations troops in Moldova's breakaway Transnistria region, has recently scored a series of battlefield victories in Ukraine, stirring new calls to let Kyiv use Western arms to strike directly on Russian soil.

Russia also appears to have gained ground diplomatically in another former Soviet republic, Georgia, which on Tuesday rammed through a law against "foreign influence" seen as inspired by the Kremlin.

Blinken will announce "a robust package of support" for Moldova, said Jim O'Brien, the US assistant secretary of state for Europe.

He said the aid would focus in part on energy. The country of 2.6 million people until recently imported nearly all its natural gas from Russia but has been seeking to diversify its supplies.

O'Brien said Blinken would also announce measures to boost democracy and counter disinformation ahead of elections later this year in which Sandu is seeking a second term.

O'Brien described Sandu's track record as a "success" but said she has been "a target of Russian disinformation and aggressive operations" since the moment she took office.

"Obviously the people of Moldova will have a chance to decide. We want them to decide in a free and fair environment with as little interference or disinformation as possible," O'Brien told reporters.

Blinken's trip comes a week after the European Union signed a security and defence pact with Moldova that is also aimed at helping the country defend against Russian threats, including in cyber security.

- Moldova 'back on agenda' -

Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi called Blinken's visit a "strong signal of political and financial support" to the country.

"While some do everything to put us in difficulty, others come and help us and extend us this hand of friendly help to overcome these difficulties that others create for us, for which we are extremely grateful," he said, likely alluding to Russia.

On Wednesday, Popsoi welcomed Blinken on the tarmac.

Blinken last visited the tiny country weeks after Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, when some made gloomy predictions that Moscow would also strike Moldova.

Speculation grew earlier this year that Russia would seek to annex Transnistria, but US officials say they see no imminent military threat from the 1,500 Russian troops in the separatist region.

Russia launched an assault on Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region two weeks ago, seeking to press its advantage before US weapons reach the front lines.

The US election in November could have major ramifications for Ukraine.

President Joe Biden's Republican challenger, Donald Trump, has voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and doubted Ukraine's chances for victory.

Andrei Curararu, a security expert and co-founder of WatchDog.md, a think tank based in Moldova, said Blinken's 2022 visit had come at a time of "extreme alert" and uncertainty.

He said the latest trip could lay the groundwork for a more formal bilateral security agreement with the United States, of the sort Moldova has reached with France.

"A visit of this level also speaks to the fact that the Republic of Moldova is back on the US agenda," he said.

burs-sct/kym/bc

F.Pavlenko--BTB