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The Moldovan Army

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Viorel Cibotaru / May 18, 2003
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On 18 April 2003 the Moldovan governmental paper published an interview with the Minister of Defence Victor Gaiciuc on the issue of Moldova’s international military co-operation. The article also touched upon a number of important issues of “internal use”, such as the optimal numerical composition of the Moldovan armed forces and the prospects of unification of the armed forces from the two banks of Nistru river. This interview was significant in that it was the first public appearance of the minister of defence after the severe reprimand from the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces of Moldova, President Voronin, two months ago. Back then, during a meeting of the Supreme Security Council, the leadership of the ministry was accused of “insufficient measures to fight delinquency in the army”. In the meantime, the minister announced that despite the military hysteria in Transdnistria, whose authorities ordered “total mobilisation” on the eve of the football match between Moldova and the Netherlands in Tiraspol and the beginning of military operations in Iraq, the Moldovan armed forces were not on alert and were minding their daily business.

A number of independent observers tend to conclude that the National Army in general and the Ministry of Defence in particular have been affected less by the destructive zeal of the administration which took office on 21 February 2001, and by the incompetence of the new ’old government officers, who are ready to adapt to the “real circumstances of the moment”. Although the fact that a military was appointed to lead the ministry of defence was qualified by many as a “step backwards” in the process of applying the principles of civil control on armed forces in a democratic society, the two years of communist government have showed the obvious advantages of this decisions. Promoted to colonel of brigade, Victor Gaiciuc quickly adjusted to his new ministerial seat and managed to assert his authority both in the military circles and in the civil society. Officers in the ministry and in the military units have mentioned in private talks that the minister of defence takes an active part in the resolution of the daily problems of the military, undertakes a detailed account of the military training, and, unlike his civilian predecessors, is “fair and equidistant” in his interpersonal relations and “does not pursue personal profit” at the expense of military patrimony.

For the first time in the last 5–6 years the army started to be funded almost according to its immediate needs. On 26 June 2002 the Parliament adopted the Conception of Military reform, which entered into force on 15 August 2002, after it was published in the “Official Monitor”. The Conception provides for an increase in defence expenses from the current 0,4 percent of GDP to 2,4 percent to be reached in the last stage of the reform (2009–2014). This is in fact the standard expenditure level in the countries that are now joining NATO. In the state budget for 2003, the amount provided for the Ministry of Defence has grown significantly to 109.5 million Moldovan Lei. The topic of the budget and financial allocations for defence needs, has always been an extremely “thorny” topic, ever since the National Army was set up. Whenever a new state budget is about to be adopted, this topic stirs new debates at all levels of state leadership. For many years, such debates on the budget have had a bitter taste to them. This bitter taste is explained by the fact that every year the military budget is getting smaller as compared to the real needs. In 1993–2001, the share of military spending in the Moldovan GDP varied by year, and was dropping continuously, in infamous proportions of 0.4 — 0.7 percent, and approximately 2–3 percent of the state budget were provided. In reality, only 40 to 60 percent of these amounts were covered.

Years after Moldova proclaimed sovereignty, there are still politicians who, regardless of their political colour, argue that Moldova does not need an army since it is a neutral state. Such a thing could be argued only by dilettantes, who often invoke examples of Western countries but seem to overlook the fact that the army is not only a war instrument, but also a body of educating patriotism, love for one’s motherland, and a school for the young. Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and other neutral states have never stopped having an army. All states maintain an army as the most important attribute of their statehood and a guarantee for their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. In view of this, funds are allocated for keeping armies and allow them to be equipped and function by existing laws and regulations. Unfortunately, these elementary truths have not yet been fully understood in Moldova and we do not only have the smallest army in the world, but also the smallest defence budget in the world.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev has made upsetting (for the military) statements on a number of occasions and expressed a so-called “naive pacifism” urging cuts in military expenses and a reduction in military forces. He shocked many when he said that the dissolution of the national army could become a reality. The Parliament’s Commission for National Security does not seem to be too enthusiastic about enhancing our state’s defence capacity either. The said Commission has organised a number of investigations and hearings on the issue of administration of the military patrimony (such as the hearings on the sale of MiG planes to the US in 1997). Still the Commission has approved all draft laws and documents in the military field submitted by the Supreme Commander Voronin.

In this context, the meeting of the Supreme Security Council of 6 March 2003 on delinquency and the protection of the constitutional rights of the military in the army is a good illustration of existing relations between the communist government and the military circles. The outcome of the meeting was the release of an ample report on the issue by Vladimir Gorbulea, secretary of the Council (former employee of prosecution bodies). A closer analysis of the report reveals a number of hidden points: 1) reasons were made up to dismiss several military prosecutors (one of them, General Zafton, is an exceptional prosecutor, who was uncomfortable to all powers, and was loyal only to the letter of the law); 2) a pre-electoral populist move was staged, one that proved popular with the masses at large as it was a display — but not more than that — of fighting the dedovschina (practice developed in the Soviet Army and still present in successor armies of the ex-Soviet republics whereby the fresh recruits are enslaved by the older ones); 3) it was a subtle warning to some high officials from the communists party who were involved in smuggling the military patrimony (the sale of 20 tones of fuel for “Samin” Rockets, the preparation for “commercial sale” of important quantities of fuel belonging to the artillery brigade, as well as using military planes and helicopters outside Moldova, in particular in Africa). In none of these affairs, well informed sources argue, is the opinion of Minister Gaiciuc determinant.

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