Senators: Russia Eyeing Land Grabs in Moldova, Georgia

Inhofe: ‘At some point Putin has to be told that the buck stops here’
Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin / AP

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Senators say the White House must take immediate steps to stop Russia from seizing more territory from post-Soviet states, including Moldova and Georgia.

U.S. intelligence officials have warned senators that Russian President Vladimir Putin is well positioned to send troops into Moldova and Georgia following his successful annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The information led Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) to pen a resolution on Wednesday that warns Russia against invading Moldova and demands that it remove some 1,200 troops and military stockpiles it has stationed in the country.

The resolution, which will be formally introduced in the Senate Thursday evening, has already attracted the support of Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), according to a Senate source tracking the bill.

The measure calls on Russia remove all of “its military forces and material” from Moldova’s territory and further “urges the president to consider increasing security and intelligence cooperation with the government of Moldova.”

The call for Obama to boost intelligence sharing was not originally included in the draft version of the measure but was added to the final version on Thursday.

Inhofe, in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, said the Obama administration did not respond strongly enough to Putin’s actions in Ukraine. He and other senator supporting the resolution say it is time to stand up to Moscow.

“We are allowing Putin to undermine the freedom achieved by President Reagan and Europe when Russia can just walk on sovereign nations, plant its flag, and takeover territory,” said Inhofe. “First it was Crimea, and next could be Moldova and then further into Georgia.”

“At some point Putin has to be told that the buck stops here, and we must send these signals before he proceeds any further,” he said.

Moldova in particular is vulnerable to being bullied by Moscow due to its dependence on Russia for energy and other resources.

“Moldova is in a very vulnerable area in Eastern Europe because of its size and its young democracy,” Inhofe said. “Moldova is also dependent on Russian energy, and Putin already has 1,200 of his troops strategically placed within its borders.”

The United States cannot pretend it does not have a stake in the standoff, Inhofe said.

“My resolution sends a message to Russia that United States’ interests are to preserve democracy and that we will support Europe’s efforts to stop further Russian aggression,” he said.

Russia is said to already be issuing passports to ethnic Russians living in Moldova’s Transnistria region.

The new resolution is intended to get ahead of possible military moves by Russia and make clear that the United States is committed to defending Moldova’s sovereign territory against Russian aggression.