close
close

Blinken pledges $135 million in US aid to Moldova to counter Russian influence – Boston Herald

By MATTHEW LEE and VADIM GHIRDA (AP Diplomatic Writer)

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday pledged $135 million in aid to Moldova for energy security and to counter Russian disinformation, as the Western-oriented country struggles to counter Moscow’s push for influence, supported by recent successes in the war. in neighboring Ukraine.

Blinken opened a short visit to Eastern Europe with a stop in Chisinau before traveling to the Czech Republic, announcing the aid at a news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu.

Before Wednesday, the US had provided Moldova with $774 million in financial aid since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, of which $300 million was earmarked for energy security. Blinken’s trip, organized around a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague, comes amid concerns that Moldova and the former Soviet republic of Georgia face new threats from Russia.

The trip comes two weeks after Blinken made an unannounced trip to Ukraine to reassure Kiev of Washington’s support in light of increased Russian attacks in the north.

There are also signs that Russia is considering new actions in Moldova, where it has stationed 1,500 troops in the disputed region of Transnistria, and is behind anti-Western actions in Georgia that the US says run counter to Moldovan and Georgian aspirations to join the European Union Close. Union.

Both countries have candidate status to eventually join the 27-nation EU bloc.

“There is no direct military threat at this time, but there are ongoing Russian influence operations and that is concerning,” the top US diplomat for Europe, James O’Brien, said last week.

Moldova has repeatedly accused Russia of waging a “hybrid war” against the country, meddling in local elections and waging widespread disinformation campaigns in a bid to overthrow the government and derail its path to EU accession.

Russia has denied the accusations, but the Moldovan government is wary of Moscow’s intentions, especially after Transnistrian authorities appealed to Moscow in February for “protection” due to what they said was increased pressure from Chisinau.

In Georgia, those fears were heightened on Tuesday when the country’s parliament overrode a presidential veto of a “foreign agents” law. That has led to weeks of mass protests from critics who say it will restrict media freedom and hamper Georgia’s chances of joining the European Union.

The bill passed by parliament earlier this month requires media, non-governmental organizations and other non-profit organizations to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they source more than 20% of their funding from abroad received.

The legislature, controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party, overruled the veto of President Salome Zourabichvili, an independent. The president now has five days to approve the bill. If she doesn’t, the Speaker of Parliament will sign it into law.

Zourabichvili, who is increasingly at odds with the ruling party, vetoed the bill on May 18. She has accused the ruling party of endangering the country’s future and “obstructing the path to becoming a full member of the free and democratic world.”

Blinken announced last week that the US would impose travel bans on Georgian officials “responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members.”

Blinken’s announcement did not identify anyone who had already been targeted, but it did say the US would also undertake a comprehensive review of US-Georgia cooperation.

“It remains our hope that Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the bill and take steps to move forward with their country’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” he said. “As we assess the relationship between our two countries, we will take Georgia’s actions into account when deciding our own actions.”

The situations in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will all be on the agenda at NATO’s ministerial meeting in Prague on Thursday and Friday, the alliance’s last major diplomatic meeting before leaders meet at a summit celebrating the NATO’s 80th anniversary in Washington. July.

___

Lee reported from Prague. Stephen McGrath contributed from Sighisoara, Romania.

Back To Top