| 3 March 2024, Sunday |

U.S. top diplomat Blinken reassures Moldova amid refugee influx from Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moldova’s authorities on Sunday that the US will organize international opposition to Russian aggression “whenever and wherever” it occurred.

Speaking with Moldovan President Maia Sandu on a trip of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Blinken also stated that the US backed Moldova’s desire to join the European Union, but that the process would be handled by the EU.

Moldova says more than 230,000 refugees have crossed its border with Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24.

Asked what assurances Washington could give Moldova in light of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, Blinken pointed to U.S. efforts to mobilize the international response that is isolating Russia and hurting its economy.

“Whenever and wherever that aggression might appear, we’ll do the same thing,” he said.

The United States is not committed to defend Moldova since the former Soviet Republic, like its neighbor Ukraine, is not a member of NATO.

Sandu is a former World Bank economist who came to power in 2019 and won a larger mandate in elections in July promising closer ties with the West.

Moldova on Thursday formally applied to join the European Union. The move was likely to rile Moscow, which has an estimated 1,500 troops based in the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova’s east.

Blinken said the U.S. was providing $18 million over the next few years to “strengthen and diversify” Moldova’s energy sector. Moldova depends heavily on Russian gas.

“(Energy) independence and energy security is actually critical to maintaining one’s sovereignty and independence,” Blinken said.

At least 120,000 of those who have crossed into Moldova remain in the country of about 2.5 million people, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said in an earlier meeting with Blinken.

“For a small country like Moldova, this is a very large number” and Moldova will need assistance to deal with the refugees, she said.

  • Reuters