HL Moldova signs defense pact with France amid Russia fears

President Maia Sandu said the deal will help thwart what she says are increasing attempts by Moscow to destabilize the region

Moldovan President Maia Sandu signed a defense cooperation agreement with France during her visit to Paris on Thursday.

The deal comes as Western nations seek to strengthen the fractured former Soviet state, located between Ukraine and Romania, amid what they claim are attempts by Russia to destabilize the region.

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged France’s “unwavering support” for Moldova. Paris is boosting its presence in countries it believes that Moscow sees as its area of influence. France struck similar defense deals with Armenia last month.

Sandu warned that if President Vladimir Putin isn’t stopped in Ukraine, he’ll carry on. “If the aggressor is not stopped, he will keep going, and the front line will keep moving closer. Closer to us. Closer to you,” Sandu said. “Europe must therefore present a united front.”

The defense accord commits both countries to future training and intelligence sharing. The French defense ministry said a French defense mission will open in Moldova’s capital Chisinau by the summer and talks have begun on possible weapons contracts.

Moldova’s relations with Moscow worsened when it rolled out sanctions against Russia following the Ukraine crisis. Russia has rejected claims that it plans to attack Europe or wage a war against NATO, with Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterating that such allegations are “nonsense.”

Sandu, who plans to run for a second term in the presidential election this fall, said “the regime in Moscow seeks to control” her country through interfering in elections and even attempting a coup.

Russia denied the allegations of meddling in the country’s affairs and accused Sandu of provoking anti-Russian sentiment there.

Last month, the head of Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia asked Russia for support. Also in February, Transnistria, a breakaway region of the country, asked Russia to help protect itself from Moldovan “pressure”.

Late last month, Macron’s increasingly hawkish rhetoric raised eyebrows when he stated that European Union states could send troops to Ukraine. Macron’s remarks provoked a mixed reaction from Kiev’s Western supporters, who are trying to avoid direct conflict with Russia amid fears of a global war and lead to concerns from the opposition.

Moscow said Macron is dragging his country into the conflict in Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Macron “insists on his goal of inflicting a strategic defeat” on Russia.

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