bombings

Bombings Raise Possibility of an Expanded Ukraine War

Fears of an expanded Ukraine war are rising after a series of bombings in neighboring Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that hosts a small garrison of Russian soldiers. The unrecognized state of Transnistria broke away from the rest of Moldova when it became independent from the Soviet Union, and it is one of a number of small self-proclaimed nations in Russia’s orbit. It has so far refrained from involvement in the war.

Bombings in Transnistria

Attacks on public buildings in Transnistria this week have been predictably been blamed by both Ukraine and Transnistria on each other.

Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately claimed (without evidence) that the bombings and rocket launcher attacks were false flags staged by Russia.

Transnistrian authorities claimed (also without evidence) that Ukrainian infiltrators have been responsible for the attacks on government and security facilities.

Fears of another Russian invasion into western Ukraine from the region have existed from the start of the conflict, and Kiev says that the attacks are obviously meant to justify such a move.

For now, however, that remains very unlikely. The Russians have only 1,500 troops in Transnistria and they are not equipped or organized for fighting a conventional war in Ukraine.

Joining Transnistria to the rest of the Ukrainian territory now occupied by Russia is one of Moscow’s goals, but until that happens there is no easy way to move sufficient reinforcements to the area.

Responsibility for attacks disputed

In addition to these difficulties, Transnistria is geographically vulnerable as a thin sliver of land wedged between Moldova and Ukraine.

Bringing it into the war would raise the possibility of either country overrunning the small territory and its miniscule garrison should Russian plans backfire.

If Moscow is staging provocations in Transnistria then it may be more likely that it is a diversion intended to force Ukraine to devote resources to countering an imaginary threat.

Alternatively, Ukraine could be threatening an invasion of Transnistria in retaliation for Russia’s invasion. This would almost certainly require the cooperation of Moldova.

The bombings could also be the work of an unaffiliated group of actors working to spread chaos and draw Transnistria into the war without a conscious decision from either government.

Regardless of who is responsible, tensions are rising in the area and fears of an expanded war are increasing with each new report of attacks in Transnistria.

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