In Moldova, Europe bids to show Putin united front
European leaders meet Thursday at a summit held on one of the most vulnerable points on the continent's strategic frontline, in a show of diplomatic force designed to pressure Moscow.
The European Political Community (EPC), which groups 27 EU members with 40 of their allies and excludes Russia and Belarus, chose Ukraine's tiny neighbour Moldova for its second summit.
Less than an hour's drive from a Russian-backed breakaway Moldovan region and not much further from war-torn Ukraine, they will try to send a message to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.
First and foremost, holding the summit outside Chisinau shows solidarity with Moldova in the face of Russian destabilisation operations and support for its EU membership bid.
It is also an opportunity for European states -- whether EU members, recent leaver Britain or candidates for future membership like Ukraine -- to work together on regional crises.
"We must also think of a wider Europe," France's President Emmanuel Macron, who first promoted the EPC, told reporters in Bratislava on the eve of the summit.
"We must think of our Europe not simply from a security point of view within the framework of NATO and not simply within the framework of the European Union."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's travel plans are never announced in advance, for security reasons in the wake of Russia's invasion of his country.
But if he takes up his invitation to the EPC, he will be seeking not just solidarity but progress on Ukraine's parallel bids to join NATO and the European Union.
The Moldova summit also came as NATO ministers, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, met to discuss the agenda of the alliance's next summit.
The NATO summit in Vilnius...