Under President Maia Sandu, the country has pursued deeper integration with the West
Moldovan President Maia Sandu has said that her government is considering joining "a larger alliance." While she did not name NATO, she has pursued pro-Western policies and stepped up Moldova's cooperation with the US-led military bloc.
Asked directly about the prospects of Moldova applying to NATO, Sandu told Politico on Friday that "there is a serious discussion" underway in Chisinau "about our capacity to defend ourselves, whether we can do it ourselves, or whether we should be part of a larger alliance."
"And if we come, at some point, to the conclusion as a nation that we need to change neutrality, this should happen through a democratic process," she added.
A former World Bank official, Sandu has been unambiguously pro-Western in her outlook since taking office in 2020. Moldova was granted EU candidate status under her watch last year, and will host the second meeting of the European Political Community this summer. Moldova cooperates extensively with NATO, sending soldiers to the military bloc's force in Kosovo and hosting a 'NATO Liaison Office' in Chisinau.
Sandu met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in New York last September, and Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu attended a meeting of the organization in Romania in December.
However, the same "democratic process" that Sandu cited as essential to a decision on neutrality could also dash any potential plans of joining NATO. A poll taken by the Moldovan Institute for Public Policy in December found that only 22.4% of respondents would vote to join the alliance; 54.5% would vote against membership, and 23% were unsure.
Furthermore, NATO membership is essentially ruled out by the existence of Transnistria, a breakaway republic sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine on territory claimed by Chisinau. Transnistria broke away from Moldova in the early 1990s, with the region's leaders hoping to remain in the collapsing Soviet Union. Today it maintains a close relationship with Moscow, with Russian peacekeepers stationed there and most of the local population holding Russian citizenship.
NATO insists that prospective members peacefully resolve outstanding international, territorial, or ethnic disputes before joining the bloc. It does, however, maintain a so-called 'open door policy', despite its leaders promising Russia in the aftermath of the Cold War that it would not take on former Warsaw Pact states as members. The bloc's continued eastward expansion and refusal to rule out membership for Ukraine were key factors behind Moscow's decision to send troops into Ukraine last February.