White House: Russia working to overthrow Moldovan government, but no immediate military threat

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Biden administration is warning that Russia is sowing the seeds to overthrow the Moldovan government, but added the U.S. does not see an immediate military threat against the small, Eastern European country that sits on the border of Ukraine. 

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that the U.S. has intelligence that Russian actors, some with ties to Russian intelligence operations, are seeking to stage and use protests in Moldova to “foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government.” 

“Additionally, we expect another set of Russian actors to provide training, and help manufacture demonstrations in Moldova,” Kirby said, but added that the U.S. is confident in the Moldovan government’s ability to counter these threats.

“While the activities of Russian groups attempting to target Moldova are of concern, we should not overestimate their capabilities,” he added.

The declassified intelligence warnings are part of a strategy by the Biden administration to publicize what officials know of what they consider Russian malign activity, in an attempt to preempt and counter disinformation narratives coming from Moscow. 

The strategy builds on the intelligence community’s decision to publicize what it knew of Russia’s plans to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and is credited with preparing a united response among the U.S., Ukraine and its allies.

Biden administration officials have warned that while Russian President Vladimir Putin remains focused on overthrowing the Ukrainian government in Kyiv, even with little to no prospects for success, he is also interested in bringing other former Soviet Union countries, like Moldova, under Russia’s sphere of influence. 

“As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian friendly administration in the capital,” Kirby said. 

Kirby continued that Russia is sowing confusion and pushing false allegations that Ukraine is planning to target the separatist, pro-Russian region of Transnistria in Moldova. 

“Let me be clear, these allegations are unfounded, they’re false, and they can create baseless alarm,” Kirby said. 

Alongside the intelligence warnings, Kirby also said the U.S. is committing $300 million to support Moldova’s energy needs created by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The United States strongly supports Moldova’s political, economic and anti corruption reforms and then deepening European integration, Moldovan people have clearly demonstrated that they want to look to a brighter future,” he said. “We want to see that brighter future too. And we’re going to stand with Moldova every step of the way.” 

Tags Joe Biden John Kirby Vladimir Putin

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