Aerospace & Defence Diplomacy Moldova Romania Russia Ukraine

Moldovan defence advisor set to become PM

| 2023-02-13 3 min read

Moldovan defence advisor set to become PM

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dorin Recean, a pro-Western defence expert and former interior minister, is expected to become Moldova’s new prime minister after receiving Parliament’s approval this week. 

This comes following the unexpected resignation of Natalia Gavrilita on Friday, February 10, after a tough 18-month tenure overshadowed by the war in neighbouring Ukraine, and amid recent reports that Russian missiles had entered the country’s airspace. 

Contradictory claims on Russian missile breach

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned EU leaders in Brussels that his intelligence services had intercepted a Russian security services plan to “destroy the political situation” in Moldova. The same day, Moldova’s intelligence services confirmed that it had received information detailing Russia’s plans to destabilise the country.

The report came from General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, who announced that two Russian missiles had been launched from the Black Sea and passed over the borders of Moldova and Romania before re-entering Ukraine.

On Friday, Moldovan authorities stated that at least one missile had indeed crossed the country’s skies from the war next door. However, Romania, a NATO member, denied the presence of Russian missiles breaching its borders, in contrast to Moldova’s claim of the violation of its airspace.

Nevertheless, the story seemingly contributed to the collapse of the government of Gavrilita, a staunch ally of Zelenskyy and Ukraine, who has faced skyrocketing inflation as well as an acute energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced supplies to Moldova.

From security advisor to PM in waiting

After nominating Recean, 48, her own defence and security advisor, Moldovan President Maia Sandu told reporters that members of Gavrilita’s ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), had accepted her suggestion for the prime ministerial position. PAS currently holds a majority of 63% of parliamentary seats.

The prospective PM, who served as interior minister from 2012-15, has 15 days to form a new government which will then be presented to Parliament for a confidence vote.

Recean said his main focus as premier would be to bring order and discipline to the country’s institutions, revive the economy, and ensure peace and stability.

Outgoing PM rues lack of domestic support

Gavrilita, 41, said her government would have been able to move forward more and faster” had it enjoyed the same support domestically that it did from other European countries. She added no one expected her government “would have to manage so many crises caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

She cited a lack of support for her planned reforms as the reason for her resignation, but did not mention the report from Ukraine about the Russian missile that crossed over Moldova’s airspace. 

“I took over the government with an anti-corruption, pro-development and pro-European mandate at a time when corruption schemes had captured all the institutions and the oligarchs felt untouchable,” Gavrilita said. “We were immediately faced with energy blackmail, and those who did this hoped that we would give in.”

Moldova on US radar

Furthermore, with Russia’s long-term presence in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, there are growing security concerns about the former Soviet republic of some 2.6 million people.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters that “Russia has for years supported influence and destabilisation campaigns in Moldova, which often involve weaponising corruption to further its goals.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, Moldova has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners. Last June, it was granted European Union candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.

PAS general secretary Artur Maja called the change in government “planned and controlled”, adding that the main objectives of the new government will be to strengthen security, revive the economy, and build resilience against the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine. 

MP Sinchevici Eugeniu said that the change in government reflects the need for fresh defence measures in the country, with a focus on security given Russia’s attempts to destabilise Moldova.