#2 Expert opinion – Nicu Popescu – The impact of COVID-19 on national and regional security

12 June 2020

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#2 Expert opinion – Nicu Popescu – The impact of COVID-19 on national and regional security

Elena Mârzac, Executive Director of CID NATO and Nicu Popescu, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, current – Director of the Wider Europe Program at ECFR, discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic influences security decisions and what impact it has on national and human security.

The recent months’ events have tested the traditional concept of national security. The crisis proves that existing security systems cannot fully protect citizens from an “invisible” threat that transcends borders, devastates economies and changes the conditions of everyday life. The national security, government policies and economic priorities must adapt holistically to the new regional and global landscape of complex threats. Experts find that:
– The pandemic has affected China-US relations and also globalization as a whole. The pandemic has also amplified disinformation operations, with Russia and China as the main actors behind the curtains.
– In the coming years, the entire world will be affected by an economic crisis, which will reduce the budgetary capacity of states.
– Democratic states, especially European ones, will reduce defense spending under pressure to redirect funds to the field of social protection and public health. Moldova spends on defense only ~0.35% of GDP, and we have no guarantee of security being outside of any military alliance or security partnerships
– The epidemiological situation in Moldova is much worse than in other similar states in terms of population and territory.
– The so-called “balanced policy” does not in fact exist, as high-ranking officials systematically promote an anti-European message. We are in an unprecedented situation in the history of Moldova’s foreign policy. This is the first time when the government does not have good relations and cannot benefit from external partnerships in either the West or the East.
– The public discourse of the first people in the state greatly affects the relationship with the country’s strategic partners.
– The army is the element that intervenes during major crises to help manage them. The role of the NATO military in combating the pandemic has been very visible and has shown effectiveness in supporting crisis management.
– Although the pandemic will change priorities in various areas, we must keep in mind that geopolitics and security issues will not go away and the threats may even worsen. In this context, it is necessary to increase attention for the security and defense sector.
– We need a functioning security sector. So far, the assistance that Moldova has received in this regard has come predominantly from the West (NATO, EU, Romania, USA, etc.). There is a need to strengthen a constructive dialogue and predictable partnership with EU and NATO member countries in order to continue efforts to reform the security sector.
– The cooperation of the national army with strategic partners is more advanced than that of other institutions. It would be useful for the Republic of Moldova to intensify the external cooperation of other institutions (e.g. Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security and Intelligence Service, etc.)
– The EU has no interest in being surrounded by states that will go bankrupt. For this reason, the EU helps its neighboring states. This is not because of, but despite of the foreign policy pursued by Chisinau during this period.
– The internal threats created by foreign actors continue to be accentuated. The Russian Federation has created and fueled similar conflicts in countries with Euro-Atlantic aspirations – Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine.

The Information and Documentation Centre on NATO is a noncommercial, autonomous organization set up as a part of the 2006-2009 Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) Republic of Moldova-NATO. The Center promotes the Euro-Atlantic values and principles, informs the society about the multiple aspects of security, and supports the governmental institutions in security and defense sector reform.

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