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Key senators are seeking to warn Russia against invading Moldova, where U.S. intelligence sources believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to unleash some 1,200 Russian troops in the near future.
A new resolution being circulated by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) among members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) demands that Russia remove all of “its military forces and material” from Moldova’s territory, according to a draft copy of the measure obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Following Moscow’s surprise annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea last month, Senate insiders are being told that Putin now seeks to seize territory in Moldova’s Transnistria region, which is home to a sizable number of ethnic Russians.
The new resolution is being viewed as an attempt to get ahead of the situation and make clear that the United States is committed to defending Moldova’s sovereign territory against Russian aggression.
Putin currently “maintains a contingent of Russian troops and a stockpile of Russian military equipment and ammunition within the Moldovan territory of Transnistria,” according to the resolution.
Russia also has been “issuing Russian passports to the residents of Transnistria,” potentially setting the stage for a similar confrontation like that seen in Crimea, where Putin pushed forward with annexation despite international criticism.
Moldova relies heavily on Moscow for its energy needs, leading Russia to exploit this critical pressure point in a bid to intimidate Moldova’s leaders.
The new Senate resolution is based on information that Putin is gearing up to invade, and immediately calls “upon the Government of Russia to take steps to remove its military forces and material from within [Moldova’s] internationally recognized territory.”
Senate insiders say that Moldovo, a relatively young country, needs U.S. support to ensure that Putin cannot bully it into conceding territory.
“This is about getting ahead of Putin instead of reacting to him,” said one senior Senate aide familiar with the resolution. “Sources are saying his next move is most likely Moldova.”
Critics of the White House say it was caught flatfooted and adopted a weak stance when Putin was threatening Ukraine, where 40,000 Russian troops are still poised to “invade swiftly.”
Moldova is in a dangerous spot because it is “not wealthy, it’s not big, and it doesn’t have NATO Article 5 to protect them,” the Senate source explained. “Moldova’s democracy is also young, less than two decades old, and under extreme pressure from an irredentist Russia.”
“This resolution is about putting Moldova on the map for Americans, because it’s been on Putin’s for quite some time,” added the source.
Additionally, the resolution “affirms that it is the policy of the United States to support the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the inviolability of its borders.”
It also states that the issue of Transnistria will only be solved if Moldovo is not coerced and bullied by Putin’s regime.
Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe, recently warned that Russian forces are “very, very ready” to pounce.
“The [Russian] force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready,” Breedlove said last week in Brussels. “There is absolutely sufficient [Russian] force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transnistria if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome.”
Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) recently wrote to the president to urge that he take concrete steps to prevent a Russian military attack.
The lawmakers noted that there are Russian troop and naval movements near the Baltic states, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
“There is deep apprehension that Moscow may invade eastern and southern Ukraine, pressing west to Transnistria [near southwestern Ukraine], and also seek land grabs in the Baltics,” the letter stated.