West is drawing Moldovainto a dangerous game

West is drawing Moldovainto a dangerous game

Mikhail Katkov

PACE adopted a declaration that not only condemns Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, but also accuses Moscow of occupying Transnistria. Before that, the Moldovan authorities applied for membership in the European Union, and in T-iraspol they expressed a desire to achieve independence from Chisinau. However, the wording ado-pted by the Europeans, apparently, unpleasantly surprised both sides – the West is actively drawing them into the conflict.
Disrespect for Chisinau
Having learned about how the EU proposes to interpret the Transnistrian events, the Moldovan authorities rushed to reassure everyone. Vice Speaker of the Parliament Vlad Batryncha regarded the PACE declaration, in which, at the initiative of Romania, Pridnestrovie is called the “zone of Russian occupation” as an attempt to draw Moldova into the conflict in Ukraine. At the same time, he stressed that the document was adopted without taking into account the opinion of the Moldovan side, the delegation of the republic did not participate in the voting and considers what happened to be disrespectful to Chisinau. According to Batryncha, his country does not want to interfere in the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation at all.
Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister of Moldova Nikolai Popescu said on Wednesday that the PACE declaration is advisory in nature and does not affect anything. In addition, the diplomat pointed out that the constitution provides for a neutral status and the republic does not want to lose it. As for Tiraspol, Chisinau will solve territorial problems exclusively at the negotiating table.
In turn, the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, at a meeting with the head of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, stressed that her country has always been for a peaceful solution, but Russian troops still need to be withdrawn from the region. Meanwhile, in January 2022, the Moldovan leader said the following:
“The war in Transnistria was an attempt to stop the process of gaining independence by Moldova. The forces that did not want us to become independent from the USSR tried to stop this process… It is very clear to everyone that Russia sent its people to participate in this action against Moldova”. It would seem that after the PACE declaration, Sandu could well have uttered the word “occupation.” But she didn’t.
It is noteworthy that Russia and Moldova, in a sense, found common ground. Like many Moldovan politicians, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova considered the adopted document unacceptable and inconsistent with the real state of affairs. However, in assessing what happened in the early 1990s, she radically diverged from Sandu.
Zakharova recalled that a limited contingent of Russian military personnel is in Transnistria in accordance with the “Agreement on the Principles of the Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Transnistrian Region in the Republic of Moldova dated July 21, 1992.” The purpose of the Russian troops is exclusively a peacekeeping operation, which they have been successfully carrying out for 30 years, and the protection of warehouses with Soviet ammunition in Kolbasna. At the same time, the representative of the Foreign Ministry assured that the Russians would leave the region as soon as the Transnistrian problem was fully resolved. But this is still a long way off.
Discord talks
The quality of the negotiations on Transnistria really leaves much to be desired. Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebrian believes that the document adopted by PACE will not lead to a restart of the process. The dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol has been stagnating for a long time, and against the backdrop of the Ukrainian events, it is unlikely that anything will change here. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) Vitaly Ignatiev said he was ready for the meeting, but Chisinau only imitates violent activity.
The last time they tried to reach an agreement was in February – then Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Andrei Rudenko visited Moldova and Transnistria. The Russian diplomat suggested resuming negotiations under the “5+2” formula (Moldova, Transnistria, OSCE, Ukraine, Russia and US and EU observers). After that, Ignatiev spoke with Serebryan, and they were even going to organize a summit at the level of heads of state, but the date was not determined. As you know, Maia Sandu, who has ruled Moldova since December 2020, has never met with PMR President Vadim Krasnoselsky, although her predecessors did not hesitate to do so.
In 2003, the conflict was practically resolved on the basis of the so-called Kozak Memorandum. Dmitry Kozak was then the first deputy head of the presidential administration of Russia. He almost convinced Chisinau to sign a plan according to which Moldova was to become an asymmetric federation, and Transnistria would have the right to block bills that were undesirable for itself. However, at the last moment, on the night of November 25, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin refused to sign the document. Kozak explained this by direct pressure from Washington, while the Moldovan leader attributed the failure of the negotiations to “demonic forces.” Since then, there has been no real chance to unite the country.
When they found out in Pridnestrovie that Chisinau was striving for the European Union, they demanded a civilized but final divorce. And they called on the UN to finally recognize their statehood, which has actually existed for more than 30 years. Back in 2006, Tiraspol held a referendum, as a result of which 97 percent of the inhabitants of the republic spoke in favor of joining Russia.
At the same time, the authorities of Transnistria did not recognize the DPR and LPR and did not publicly support the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine. Instead, Krasnoselsky said that he was watching the events in the neighboring country with concern and regret.
Moreover, the action in support of the special operation, which was held by enthusiasts in Tiraspol, was called a “provocation” by the Transnistrian authorities.
Left Bank Sheriff
A significant part of the Transnistrian economy is controlled by the Sheriff holding. It forms 52 percent of revenues to the budget of the unrecognized state. In addition, the company owns the football club of the same name, which in 2021 for the first time in the history of Moldova reached the Champions League.
According to the customs service of Pridnestrovie for 2021, the trade turnover of the republic with the EAEU countries (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) accounted for 34.7 percent, with EU members – 26.8, and with Moldova and other states – 18,6.
Gas in Transnistria comes from Russia, but the pipe goes through the territory of Moldova, they also have one contract for two. But the authorities of Tiraspol sell blue fuel to the population at a price nine times cheaper than the Moldovan one. At the end of last year, in Transnistria they paid 1.25 lei per cubic meter of fuel, and in Moldova – 11.08 lei (almost seven and 60 rubles, respectively). At the same time, the proclaimed republic, according to Chisinau, does not pay for gas. As a result, in 2021, their total obligations to Gazprom, according to some sources, amounted to about $8 billion, but the share of the Moldovan authorities was only about $715 million.
The average salary in the unrecognized republic is about three to four thousand Transnistrian rubles (about 25 thousand Russian rubles), in Moldova it is twice as high. Young people are trying to go abroad to work. It is easy for them to obtain a Moldovan passport (the country has a visa-free regime with the EU states) and Russia (which distributes citizenship in a simplified manner, by analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia).
Consequences of reckless steps
The PACE resolution is only a consolidated opinion of the EU countries, but its wording regarding Pridnestrovie almost completely repeats the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Moldova in 2017. Including the occupation, points out Natalya Kharitonova, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor at the RANEPA. In addition, in 2018, Chisinau initiated the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly, in which for the first time at such a high level there was a call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria.
“Nevertheless, the Moldovan authorities understand that rash steps can lead to very unpleasant consequences. Therefore, representatives of Chisinau were not among the initiators of the PACE resolution – it was introduced by the Romanian delegation,” the expert says. “Romania, backed by the United States, wants to realize an old dream about a state of which Moldova would be a part without Transnistria. In turn, Washington, obviously, hopes for an aggravation of the situation on the Dniester in order to stretch Russia’s forces and exhaust it. Against this background, several provocative reports have already appeared in the local media that from the territory Transnistria, someone is allegedly bombing Ukraine.”
According to Kharitonova, Maia Sandu is well aware that the conflict with Russia, whose peacekeepers and the operational group of troops are located in the security zone on the Dniester, is likely to lead to a change of power – her rating is already low. Firstly, Moldova is experiencing a gas crisis and problems with food supplies, and secondly, refugees from Ukraine have poured into the country, and there is a catastrophic lack of funds for their maintenance.
“The Americans and Romanians are trying to draw Moldova into the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, to make it larger. But Sandu does not want such a scenario. Although in recent days, the official opinion of Chisinau on the Ukrainian case is getting closer to the position of the West. In turn, the Transnistrian authorities are waiting. The fate of the republic depends on the success of the Russian operation in the Odessa region. Since the key problem of the unrecognized country is that it is an enclave that is sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine, the establishment of control by Russia on the border with the Odessa region will mean the unblocking of Transnistria,” the expert notes.
Moldovan political scientist Vitaly Andrievsky also emphasizes that in the past, the authorities of his republic from international tribunes have repeatedly stated the need for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Pridnestrovie.
According to Andrievsky, for the local authorities, being drawn into the Ukrainian events is like a nightmare. “Someone is trying to provoke the population of Transnistria into a conflict with Ukraine, but the official Tiraspol understands that as soon as this happens, it will be in economic isolation,” the political scientist points out.
It is one thing to verbally demand independence, and quite another to take concrete steps towards it in the current conditions.

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