Foreign Minister Antony Blinken pledged American support for Moldova, a small former Soviet Union that is now leaning towards the West and is working hard to contain the influx of refugees from neighboring Ukraine.
Moldova says more than 230,000 refugees have crossed its border since Russia’s February 24 invasion. At least 120,000 of those refugees are still in Moldova.
Moldova requested international assistance to deal with the refugees, while at the same time seeking security guarantees against potential Russian aggression.
Speaking with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Chisinau, Blinken said the United States supports Moldova’s aspirations to join the European Union; the process will be decided by the European Union.
Moldova has officially registered to join the European Union on 3 March. The move is expected to anger Russia, which has about 1,500 troops based in the breakaway Transdniester region in eastern Moldova.
Sandu said there was no indication yet that the Russian army in Transdniester had changed attitudes, but stressed that it was Moldovan’s concern given what happened in Ukraine.
“This is a subject of high vulnerability and we are monitoring it carefully. In this region now there is no possibility for us to feel safe,” added Sandu.
Blinken said the United States is providing $18 million over the next few years to “strengthen and diversify” Moldova’s energy sector.
Moldova is highly dependent on Russian gas. [em/lt]