In the Republic of Moldova, preparations are beginning for the elaboration of a new national security strategy. For now, among analysts, those at the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Moldova (NATO CID) and the Center for Conflict Prevention and Early Warning (Bucharest). The two non-governmental organizations first commissioned and published a survey to find out the public’s perceptions of security. We analyze the study together with Elena Mârzac, director of the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Chisinau.
Elena Mârzac: We are currently implementing a project called “People’s Perception of Threats and Security Institutions of the Republic of Moldova”, which from the beginning involved both conducting a survey and interpreting these results, because we often have the results, but we have less interpretations, analyzes and a group of experts from both the Republic of Moldova and Romania, because it is a joint project implemented with the Early Warning Conflict Prevention Center Bucharest, analyzed these data.
Indeed, at the end of August we presented only the results of the survey, without interpreting them, and during September this team of experts worked together and interpreted several topics from several blocks. To understand, due to the fact that there is no wider specialized survey on security and defense in the Republic of Moldova, there are 2-3 questions in the Opinion Barometer, but these are too few for us to make an analysis and understand which would be the perception of citizens towards issues such as: what are the security threats; what would be the internal, external and societal threats; what would be the strategic orientation of the Republic of Moldova; what do they expect from security institutions, because when we develop documents, policies, studies we always need mechanisms or tools with which we can measure, because it could be a subjective opinion of experts or representatives of the institutions state that, for example, the population knows or does not know, but this survey allowed us to extract some information that we hope and propose to government institutions to use in particular for the national security strategy. “
Russia, the biggest security threat?
Free Europe: At the time you presented the research, the headlines looked like this: “Russia – the main threat”, I would like an interpretation of you on the most important findings of the study.
It is an excessive, incorrect and speculative interpretation.
Elena Mârzac: “The study aimed to analyze, first of all, the threats we face, the strategic threat, the interests and, indeed, one of the conclusions is that Russia is the biggest threat, but, we believe, it is an excessive interpretation. , incorrect and speculative, because, on the one hand, it appears as a threat, and on the other hand, when analyzing which states could come to our aid, the Russian Federation is among these states.
Again, what does this survey show us?
First, there is the lack of a security culture of the population and often certain interpretations are made speculatively or based on press articles that are more manipulative, not based on analysis or knowledge of certain security and defense issues, but, At the same time, we say it is excessive, because according to this survey, Russia is the main threat and Russia has only 24%, followed by terrorist organizations, but if we look at this question in full, we see that the US and NATO have less than 10% and these answers, together with those relating to separatism and Transnistria, mark nothing more than the fact that part of society considers it so.
We have a polarized society, including on the dimensions of strategic orientations.
So now let’s say that the whole population thinks that the Russian Federation is a threat is incorrect and, indeed, the headlines you referred to simply extracted only certain information, because only 24% consider Russia as being a main threat and of which there are about 24 Bessarabian Romanians, but also 20% of the minority or those identified as Moldovans who see the threat coming from Russia, but it is also part of the citizens who believe that the threat comes from the US and at NATO, which shows us that we have a polarized society, including on the dimensions of strategic orientations. “
Free Europe: What other conclusions of the study would you highlight?
Elena Mârzac: “The most important result – and this will be the recommendation for government institutions and all societal actors involved in education, promotion, information – the most important is the lack of concern, lack of interest and underfunding of this sector or the field of defense and security of the Republic of Moldova.
Security: an area that is not of interest and is underfunded
Again, the answers to these questions showed a lack of a culture of security, of objective information that would come from the institutions or from specialized centers that could demonstrate or bring some concrete arguments. So, one of the recommendations would be to promote the culture of security and the involvement of all actors.
Plus is the fact that certain minorities such as Gagauz, Bulgarian, Russian, of course they are pro-Russian oriented, citizens from rural areas or certain areas, such as the northern area or certain regions of the Republic of Moldova are more influenced. from the outside media, so another conclusion would be that information on security, defense, foreign policy is both in Russian and in the language of minorities to properly inform citizens, plus a concern of state institutions would be and the level of trust of the population towards the profile institutions.
They have the greatest trust (…) in the president of the country than in the institution itself.
Of course, they have the greatest trust in the institution of the presidency, we understand that this trust is more towards the president of the country than the institution itself, they have the greatest trust in SMURD and firefighters, followed by the other institutions, which again proves that it is a low degree of trust, a lesson to be learned for institutions is to be more transparent, to be more open to the press, to collaborate with the media, with civil society.
Also one of the conclusions is that Transnistria is seen as a security threat and it is interesting that as an external threat, so the world does not perceive it as an internal threat and this threat is seen in the presence of Russian troops stationed in the eastern districts of The Republic of Moldova and as a solution the population believes that the unitary state and integration, for example, such as the status of Gagauzia would be a solution.
Likewise, the results of this survey tell us that the world does not know very well what the real threats are and there is a tendency for it to state, so I look at the presence of Russian troops already as a fact. On the one hand, Russia is a threat, on the other hand, another part of society sees Russia as a good partner and considers that it is not appropriate to come into conflict with the Russian Federation.
Stereotype: NATO is waging war
Of course, I would have liked to highlight the opinion of the citizens towards NATO. In their opinion, if we join NATO, then any neutrality is automatically canceled, the men will be sent to the battlefield, so this stereotype that NATO is waging war. It is also a task for both government institutions and organizations to inform the public about our status as partners and that cooperation is not to the detriment of neutrality and being neutral does not mean being isolated.
Plus what it shows us is that the population watches more TV, so again a conclusion for those who have the information to use as many television channels as possible to transmit this message and again return to the fact that the low level of security culture would require very well-targeted information campaigns to address all target groups, because we have analyzed that those who are young people with higher education in urban areas are more oriented towards the strategic direction of cooperation with the European Union, those who are in the 60+ category, especially in rural and Russian-speaking areas, they are certainly more oriented towards cooperation with the Russian Federation.
Again, we believe that this is the effect of the propaganda of the Russian Federation, which skillfully uses tools such as television and social channels that transmit these anti-Western messages. “
Free Europe: Why did questions like Lenin and Stalin appear in the questions in your research?
65 percent of the population is oriented towards Europe.
Elena Mârzac: “We aimed to identify the identity of the population, for example, Moldovan, Romanian, Russian, to understand in what area and how the population is perceived, but also the orientation in foreign policy and we saw that 65 percent of the population is oriented towards Europe, but also what would be the models of leadership or development of the country, when the country developed best, again to report to a certain period and to see in which period the population was considered the safest and security was ensured. That is why names like Stalin, Bodiul and characters have appeared since the Middle Ages, like Stephen the Great, again to report and understand the opinion of the citizens towards the political or historical personality who fought to ensure a high level of security. and defense.
And 33%, so most of the population answered that Stephen the Great, compared, for example, with Vladimir Voronin – 6%, Maia Sandu – 1%. Vlad Țepeș, and Stalin, and Mihai Viteazul, and General Lebed and others appeared here, and again were chosen by the sociological research company, so by sociologists certain personalities who represent a certain historical period to identify, which proves us the fact that the population, on the one hand, identifies the safest and best level of leadership in the country for security and defense such a character as Stephen the Great. We understand that he is a historical personality, there are more interpretations or maybe even legends of what Stephen the Great was doing in those times, but again this also demonstrates the level of knowledge of the security system and the security sector was not a main question. , more to understand how the population interprets certain actors and what would be the role of leaders in ensuring security and defense. “
Free Europe: And you got relevant answers, didn’t you?
Elena Mârzac: “Stephen the Great remains the most worthy leader for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, no current leader manages to get close to him as a percentage and, nevertheless, Moldovans invest great confidence in the president, and Soviet nostalgia is present at 13% or appreciates between Stalin or the others from the Soviet period. This is what I wanted and I found out, in general, to see if there is this Soviet nostalgia and for which categories of citizens. “