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Jeffrey Goldberg

Is Moldova Next on Putin's Hit List?

It can be safely assumed that Russia, which seems intent on swallowing Ukraine, also has certain designs on Moldova. 
Next stop, Chisinau? Photographer: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images
Next stop, Chisinau? Photographer: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

The newly appointed defense minister of Moldova -- the charming but intermittently hapless ex-Soviet Republic stuck between Ukraine and Romania -- is a sturdy-looking ex-prison official named Valeriu Troenco. He seemed, from a slight distance, to be an affable fellow, but he was deeply, dismissively uninterested in answering a question that I asked him after his swearing-in ceremony.

The ceremony was held in the presidential offices. While on a trip to Moldova and Ukraine earlier this month, I was invited to witness this stripped-down affair: a line of middle-aged, sagging bureaucrats standing impassively during a set of blessedly brief remarks; a piped-in version of Moldova's national anthem (in English, more or less, "Gentle Dniester, which in ripples/Carries morning star's flickers," etc., etc.); a brief, awkward, bent-knee kiss of the flag and swearing of an oath to defend the nation.