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The Reform of Armed Forces of Moldova

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Cristian Untila / August 3, 2003
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Recently the Parliament has adopted a series of normative acts on the armed forces. Thus, a decision on sending a contingent of Moldovan troops to Iraq was adopted, as well as one on reducing the effective of the National Army and of the Security and Information Service. These changes are part of the reform of the military and are meant to make the use of resources allocated for this purpose more efficient. Unlike before, during the past two years the issue of military forces has not been so much in the centre of the attention of the public opinion. However, this does not mean that there have been no changes within the system or that the attention of the authorities was as low.

On the contrary, certain analysts have stated that at present we are experiencing a growing militarisation not only of the force structures, but also of some organisations that are traditionally regarded as civilian. This happens through the promotion to command and administrative positions of individuals who have built a career in the army, police or security. The explanation for this phenomenon also lies in the very essence of the military system, which is about subordination to the hierarchically higher bodies. The supreme military command position is held by President Voronin, colonel in reserve and ex-minister of the interior.

Below we will make a brief retrospective analysis of the state of affairs in the field of military reform, take an overview of the previous and current relevant laws and single out a number of trends in the field.

Setting up the national armed forces

On 3 September 1991, the President of the Republic of Moldova Mircea Snegur issued Decree No.193 on the foundation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Moldova. The decree was founded on Moldova’s Declaration of Independence and was issued in order to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova.

Later, on 14 November 1991, the President of Moldova issued Decree No. 234, which declared Moldovan property the armament, military equipment and other military assets that belonged to the Soviet Army and were deployed on Moldovan soil at the time. The same decree banned the evacuation of military equipment and assets from the Moldovan territory. Since then, there has been a series of analyses about the fact that the decree on founding the national army and the one on claiming ownership over the military property and equipment of the USSR were issued within two months of each other, by which time most of the military resources were either evacuated or transferred to the left bank of Nistru, under the subordination of the 14th Army of USSR (later transferred under Russian command).

Also on 14 November 1991 was issued Decree No. 235 on passing over to the Moldovan jurisdiction the military units of the internal troops of the Ministry of Interior of the USSR, whereby the decree issued earlier providing for the withdrawal of those troops from the Moldovan territory was suspended.

In early 1992, when the confrontation with the secessionist authorities on the left bank of Nistru escalated into an armed one, a series of measures were taken to found a national army. This decision was primarily determined by the urge to make the army officers and sub-officers, citizens of Moldova, and the military in service, recruited from Moldova, to continue their military service in Moldova. A relevant decree was issued on 31 March 1992 providing for a series of measures related to the transportation of munitions to the republic and the creation of the conditions necessary for military service. The failure of the Government to keep its promises was deplored more than once, the social and living conditions of the military falling short of all expectation. Part of those invited to Moldova left for their old jobs and continued their career in the Russian Army.

It was only on 6 October 1995 that the President of Moldova issued Decree No. 322 on approving the military regulations of the Moldovan Armed Forces, which abolished all previous regulations of the USSR Army and adopted the Regulation on the Internal Service of the Moldovan Armed Forces, the Regulation on the Garrison and Guard Service of the Moldovan Army and the Regulation on Front Instructions of the Moldovan Army.

The military regulations of the Moldovan Armed forces apply on the military and the border guard troops of the Ministry of National Security, the carrabineer troops (internal troops) of the Ministry of Interior, the military of the Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Situations and the military of the Security Service of the President of Moldova.

The beginnings of the process of founding the national army saw frequent changes in the military command and even an open confrontation between the Minister of Defence (tacitly backed by the Government and Parliament) and the President. As a result, the latter issued a decree releasing the Minister of Defence from his duties. The decree was never executed as it was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

Legislation before 2001

As the National Army was being founded, the relevant legislation started being adopted.

Paradoxically, the first such law to have been adopted was the Law of 9 July 1991 on the Alternative Service, which established the method of replacing the military service with the alternative one, as well as the ways in which the latter may be fulfilled. The law aimed to ensure legal guarantees for serving one’s civic duty towards the society without harming the individuals’ freedom of though, conscience, religion or belief.

On 12 December 1991 was adopted the Law on the Carrabineer troops (internal troops) of the Ministry of Interior. The troops were intended to safeguard, together with the police or independently, the public order, the rights and freedoms of citizens, properties and the observation of laws. Since in the regular army the command was exercised mainly by former USSR personnel and officers of other nationalities, the internal troops were to become the main military force involved in the combat actions in Transnistria in early 1992.

On 17 March 1992, the Parliament adopted:

  1. Law on Defence, which envisioned the foundations for the organisation and activity of the Moldovan defence sector, the prerogatives of the bodies of state power and state administration, as well as the obligations of citizens, decision-makers from enterprises, institutions and organisations with a view to fostering the defence capacity of Moldova.

  2. Law on Military Forces, which provided that these forces were intended for the defence of the state in the event of armed aggression, as well as for ensuring the inviolability of the Moldovan borders and air space.

  3. Law on the Military Obligation and the Military Service of the Moldovan Citizens provided for the ways to fulfil one’s constitutional duty to prepare for the defence of the Motherland. The military duties envisioned:

    • citizens’ registration with the military and preparation for the military services (obligatory military training);
    • fulfilling the obligatory military service and of the service in the reserve service of the Armed Forces;
    • respecting the rules of military record keeping.

    The obligatory military training was of 18 months.

  4. Law on the Social and Legal Protection of the Military and the Members of their Families and of Citizens in Service provided for the norms of social and legal protection of the above groups, including the reserve military in training.

Conception of Military Reform

Soon after taking office, the second President of Moldova initiated a reform of the armed forces with the appointment to the position of Defence Ministry of some people close and hence loyal to the President yet completely inexperienced in field.

On 3 April 1997, though Decree no. 102, the Commission for the drafting and implementation of the Conception on the Reform of the Armed Forces was created. Head of the Commission was appointed the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces himself. The Conception was supposed to be drafted within three months, but it took a few years before it was concluded.

On 26 July 2002 the Parliament adopted the Conception of Military Reform, which was a set of ideas, objectives, directions, principles, tasks and mechanisms to improve the system of military security of the state.

The military reform provided for a complex set of measures of political, economic, legal, military, technical military, social and of other character aimed to reorganise the system of bodies of the civilian and military command, the Armed Forces, the systems of mobilisation and military infrastructure according to existent circumstances and the geopolitical, socio-political and economic interests of the state.

The factors that prompted the reform were the following:

  1. the faults in the current system of ensuring the military security of the state;
  2. the adoption by the state of the status of permanent neutrality and the need to promote an adequate foreign policy;
  3. the current geopolitical situation and the need to adapt to the new risks, threats, reality and missions;
  4. the shortage of resources and means available and the need to adjust the mechanisms of the national security of the state to the actual possibilities and economic prospects of the state;
  5. the relatively low quality state of the Armed Forces and the military potential of the state.

These shortages of the system of ensuring the national security of the state had led to the following:

  1. the lack of some theoretical principles and practical experience in the field of military crafting and its command;
  2. errors made in the process of enhancing the system;
  3. neglect of the national values, the role and importance of the military establishment, the frequent misrepresentation of erred pacifist views as civic and patriotic values;
  4. the negative impact of economic, political and socio-psychological crises on the military;
  5. shortage of funds and means.

On 23 December 2002 the Government adopted a plan of actions to carry out the Conception, which included:

  1. Scientific support for the national defence.
  2. Developing and improving the legal framework on the military security of the state.
  3. Enhancing the defence command system.
  4. Reform of the Armed Forces (in particular, it is envisioned that the forces having the permanent capacity for intervention will be reorganised on principles of voluntary service and contracts starting 2014.
  5. Improving the system of mobilisation.
  6. The economic and financial support of the Armed Forces.
  7. Developing international co-operation in the military field.

Current legislation (adopted recently)

Between 2001–2003, a series of laws were adopted to carry out the stages of the military reform, including:

  1. Decision of Parliament No. 247-XV of 15.06.2001 on creating a disciplinary unit of the armed forces.

  2. Decision of Parliament No. 679-XV of 23.11.2001 on the approval of the general structure and the effective of the National Army and the institutions of the Defence Ministry. This law determined the effective of 7, 200 troops and 2, 400 civilian personnel (currently at less by 200 and 100 correspondingly).

  3. Law No.1192-XV of 04.07.2002 on the Preparation and Mobilisation, which regulates the preparation for mobilisation and mobilisation itself, determines the competence and powers of the local public administrations, public institutions and the economic agents in the field.

  4. Law No. 1244-XV of 18.07.2002 on the Reserve of the Armed Forces, which provides for the destination, ways of setting up and the structure of reserve forces, as well as the rights and guarantees for the military in reserve.

  5. Law No. 1245-XV of 18.07.2002 on the Preparation of Citizens for the Defence of the Motherland provides for the conditions and methods of preparing the citizens of Moldova for the defence of the country (the law provides for a 12-months obligatory military service).

  6. Law No. 1384-XV of 11.10.2002 on Procurements and Public Service Provision provides for the exceptional measures that the public authorities might take to obtain temporary concession of fixed or mobile assets by public institutions, economic agents and the citizens, as well as the measures whereby certain categories of citizens may be called to carry out certain works or activities of public interests or defence purposes.

  7. Law No. 1477-XV of 22.11.2002 on the Material Responsibility of the Military provides for the circumstances and degree of material responsibility of the military on service and the military in reserve during mobilisation or training for damaging the military patrimony.

The technical and material basis of the armed forces

Keeping viable and efficient armed forces involves enormous budget spending that few states can afford. The small states usually benefit of aid from their military-political alliance partners, they reduce their forces and focus their efforts on keeping a small military contingent for safeguarding the constitutional order rather than ensuring the defence capacity of the state in the event of aggression.

The National Army of Moldova is no exception in this sense and the resources allocated to this structure are just enough to keep it in a more or less functional condition but not expand its military potential.

Below is a brief analysis of budget funds allocated between 1996–2003:

Year Allocated amount (thousands lei)
1996 72 190
1997 69 500,0
1998 60 000,0
1999 50 000,0
2000 64 021,7
2001 87 743,8
2002 92 053,5
2003 148 234,4

Notably, apart from the direct funds, the Armed Forces receive aid, grants and other assistance from international donors.

The Defence Ministry may undertake certain income generating commercial activities. The distribution and spending of these incomes, regrettably, remain non-transparent, which fact has caused a series of political scandals involving top officials (for example the scandals around the commercialisation of a lot of MIG-29 planes and air defence equipment, the provision of services of services of transportation of weaponry to African states undergoing internal conflicts etc.)

To avoid such issues in the future, on 23 March 1999, the Parliament adopted the regulation on the method of commercialisation of the military equipment, weaponry and other technical military assets owned by the Moldovan Armed Forces.

On 30 July 2001 a list of National Army assets to be put up for sale was adopted. However, the list has never been made public, nor has the data on the commercialisation of the respective assets.

Thus, it is possible that soon problems will surface in relation to the sale of military patrimony, new internal, criminal and international cases will be opened, new parliamentary investigation committees will be created to look into the actions of their former fellows from parties, Parliament, Government, Presidency, ministries. The only measures such committees might take will be of stating and regretting financial damage to the state budget.

To sum up, we would like to argue that the military reform is not actually being implemented, since the legislative, normative and administrative changes made so far do not go to the roots of the problems experienced by the system. Preserving the obligatory military service and its gradual reduction as well as the cuts in the military effective do not help much to enhance the military capacity of our state.

The institution of the voluntary military service, on contractual basis, although costly, would prompt genuine interest for one to commit to a military career and thus result into mobile and functional armed forces able to solve the immediate tasks of safeguarding the security of the state.

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