Ukrainian service members fire a shell from a M777 Howitzer at a front line, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv Region, Ukraine July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Moldova: Influence In Russian Irregular Warfare

By LTC Petru Mihalcea

Ongoing conflict in Ukraine highlights that the strategic environment of the 21st century is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This is quite different from what was expected at the end of the Cold War. Rather than the “end of history,” an emerging multipolar world of contestation is increasingly wracked by conflict. Wars become blurred with peace, and the next crisis is difficult to predict. The result is that internal challenge by non-state actors, which has driven the past two decades, has not ended but merged with state use of irregular approaches to challenge the existing order.

As a key factor in these developments, Russia seeks to assert control over its former zone of interest, namely, its “Near Abroad.”1 In this quest, Moscow struggles in the gray zone between overt and covert conflict, applying all instruments of national power, kinetic and nonkinetic, to avoid international denunciation. It implements irregular warfare tactics, such as propaganda, misinformation, bribing politicians, and using economic processes for coercion to influence target audiences. It is hard to predict how, when, where, and who will wage war, because actions are relegated to the shadows to deflect responsibility – and especially to avoid challenge under the structure of international law and war crimes.

Figure 1. Moldova with Transnistria highlighted. Source: Black Sea News,

In such a turgid environment,...