Russian President Vladimir Putin this week accused the US of prolonging the war in Ukraine after Russian troops invaded their neighbour earlier this year. He appeared to hit out at Western countries who have provided support to Ukraine in the form of weaponry after he said: “They need conflicts to retain their hegemony. “That’s why they have turned the Ukrainian people into cannon fodder. The situation in Ukraine shows that the United States is trying to drag the conflict out, and it acts in exactly the same way trying to fuel conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
While Putin accuses the US of trying to start more wars around the world, a former NATO figure has claimed Russia could expand its own military ambitions.
Speaking to The Globalist on Monday, General Sir Richard Shirreff said that Putin could “take a swipe” at three other former Soviet nations.
He said: “Putting ourselves in the mind of the man, Vladimir Putin, if he is able to do so it would absolutely make sense to take a swipe at Moldova, and Georgia as well and even maybe Kazakhstan.
“His long term vision is to reestablish a Russian empire, and that means not only removing Ukraine from the map effectively but also including those four other Soviet republics. Moldova specifically, but also Georgia.”
General Shirref was then asked if Russia could take Moldova in a more seamless fashion given the difficulties Moscow’s troops have faced in Ukraine.
He replied: “All that presumes Putin has the means to do so, and right now he hasn’t got the means to do so.
“You’re not going to need a lot to gobble up Moldova if you are Putin because it is not the size of Ukraine and therefore a smaller military force would be needed to do so.
“But even that is probably beyond him at the moment. He has made virtually no progress in the last couple of months, the Ukrainians are hitting back quite successfully, his supply lines are stretched, his man power is extremely stretched.
“I think the probability of an attack on Moldova right now is low, but it exists, and there does need to be a strategy for the post-Soviet republics like Moldova.”
Many feared Moldova could be a target of Russia’s when Putin ally and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pointed to a map in March which showed Russian troops entering the country in a hypothetical military operation.
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The region of Transnistria – an unrecognised breakaway state that is internationally recognised as part of Moldova – could be at the centre of any future hostilities.
It is a slim strip of territory which lies along the eastern side of Moldova.
While no United Nations members recognise its independence, Transnistria is a Russian-backed area.
Russia has around 1,500 soldiers in Transnistria, which Moscow refers to as a “peacekeeping” force.
Moldova, meanwhile, suffered under the influence of Moscow during and after the days of the Soviet Union – the country now hopes to join the EU.