Part 1

Moldova Pushes Military Reforms Ahead of EU

After failing to invest in the military for three decades, change won’t come overnight.

The European Commission recently recommended opening negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova to join the European Union. Ukraine and much smaller Moldova have a lot in common — both former Soviet republics are turning to the West for help modernizing their militaries. VOA’s Carla Babb reports.


For nearly 30 years, Moldova’s military was an underfunded afterthought.

One of the poorest countries in Europe, the former Soviet republic declared itself a neutral state after gaining independence in 1991; its military membership steadily declining to about 6,000 troops, less than 25% of its Soviet-era levels.

Then Russia invaded Moldova’s northern neighbor, Ukraine.

Read the full transcript

Kent Logsdon, US Ambassador to Moldova:

“We could hear the first bombs go off in Odesa from Chisinau, because it was a cloudy day and the sound traveled that far. So, all of Chisinau woke up absolutely panicked thinking that there were bombs exploding.”

Kent Logsdon began work as U.S. ambassador to Moldova about a week before the February 2022 invasion.

He said the invasion was eye-opening, especially as word spread of atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

Kent Logsdon:

Logsdon “People here were very shocked. It was not the Russians that they knew, the Russians they had worked with for generations that had lived here.

“It kind of drove a wedge between what people thought about Russia and what they thought about Russia’s view of Moldova was.”

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“Do you think that having that neutral status is still a guarantee against Russian aggression?”

Anatolie Nosatii, Moldovan Minister of Defense:

Nosatii “I personally don’t think so, because Ukraine was a neutral status state as well.”

Moldovan Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii said when members of the pro-Western government in Chisinau saw the invasion of Ukraine and Russian battle plans indicating targets inside Moldova, they realized they needed to accelerate their plans to bring Moldova’s military into the 21st century.

Anatolie Nosatii:

“As we’ve seen in their plan, we hear their rhetoric, definitely we was targeted and considered as the next target. That’s why currently we are working very hard in order to enhance operational capability. I’ve been in office just two years. however, in this period of time, we’ve been able to identify the resources to increase the budget.

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“How much have you increased the budget?”

Anatolie Nosatii:

“We started with a budget of 0.3 (percent of GDP). That was one of the lowest in Europe, and I think in the world. Currently we have 0.55, and that allowed us to conduct some acquisitions.”

Carla Babb, VOA News:

What do you need most?

Anatolie Nosatii:

“About 90% of the equipment is outdated. Maintenance becomes very costly. In certain cases, there is impossibility to find any spare parts because nobody produces them anymore. My priority now is to make a modernization of the equipment, looking to implement NATO standard.”

VOA traveled to the military training grounds about an hour’s drive east of the capital to see firsthand Moldova’s defense needs.

We didn’t have to go far before we found this old Soviet tank.

(VOA News)

Brig. Gen. Sergiu Cirimpei, Deputy Chief of National Army General Staff:

Cirimpei “It provides some protection, but by far it does not provide the protection that the current battlefield requires.”

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“Would you actually have to use that if you went to war right now?”

Brig. Gen. Sergiu Cirimpei:

“We would have to use vehicles like that. Yes.”

Brigadier General Sergiu Cirimpei is the deputy chief of Moldova’s general staff.

Brig. Gen. Sergiu Cirimpei:

“When you don’t invest in the military for 30 years, it’s difficult to change it overnight. So, you need time, you need to integrate the equipment, so we are working on all this.”

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“These are D-20s, artillery pieces dating back to the Soviet era. Ukraine transitioned away from these to the NATO standard howitzer during the war as supplies ran short, and Moldova now wants to modernize to Western howitzers, too.”

Since the war in Ukraine began, the United States and the European Union have pledged nearly $90 million dollars in foreign military assistance for Moldova to help get its tiny military up to speed. But upgrading even a small force takes years, so officials say that for now, Moldovan troops will have to rely on what they have.