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The leader of the Transnistrian region of Moldova, Vadim Krasnoselski (L) shakes hands with the President of Moldova Igor Dodon (R) during a meeting in Condrita village, at presidential residence, 36 kilometres West from Chisinau, Moldova, September 6, 2018. Winding along the eastern border of Moldova with Ukraine, the unrecognized state of Transnistria—named for its location across the River Dniester—bears the imprint of a Soviet past long since abandoned by the rest of Europe. The PMR controls the main part of this region, and the city of Bender and its surrounding localities on the west bank, in the historical region of Bessarabia. Georgia, for its part, says these statements may be part of a policy to place pressure on the new authorities of Abkhazia. Considered by all UN member states to be a region of Moldova, Transnistria nevertheless maintains a full complement of parallel institutions, complete with a university and a standing army. Russia Pulls Transnistria Strings, with Eye on Ukraine, Moldova’s Democrats Seen Pulling Strings in High-Stakes Election, With Cheap Energy, Transnistria Taps Cryptocurrency Potential, Moldova in 2019: Year of Elections May Redefine Politics. Just months after Moldova’s August 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, a delegation in Tiraspol declared Transnistria’s independence from Moldova, marking the beginning of a frozen conflict that persists today. Transnistrians would like to be part of Russia but since Russia doesn’t want them – because the territory doesn’t have much value – and they don’t want to be part of Moldova, they are kind of stuck in between. The territory has enjoyed de facto independence since a brief military conflict in 1992, though it is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova. In October 2018, Dodon visited the Kremlin for the first time in his presidency to discuss trade policy and other “regional issues,” telling Russian reporters that NATO “should not be [present]” in Moldova. Ukraine, the EU and US say that move … Proposals are sounding in Russia to annex Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and the Donbass.. Russia’s approach throughout the negotiation period has been the combination of unilateral and multilateral steps to secure its interests. On its streets … Almost three decades on, Zelensky is president of Ukraine, and the peacekeepers in Transnistria are still there. In comparison to Ukraine, Moldova is of relatively small strategic importance to Russia, and is not the object of nationalist ambitions; nonetheless, its position as a country prepared to pivot either eastward or westward makes it an important geopolitical consideration. Russia’s interest in Moldova is itself part of its larger bid for influence over post-Soviet states, as well as its posture against the eastward expansion of Western institutions like NATO and the European Union. Although Russia does not recognise Transnistria as an independent state, it maintains a consulate in Tiraspol (the Transnistrian capital). Isac said Moscow had a willing collaborator in Moldova’s pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, who may gain voters in any re-integration of Transnistria. Transnistria (Romanian: Transnistria, [transˈnistria]; Russian: Приднестровье; Ukrainian: Придністров'я) is a region in Eastern Europe, which forms a narrow strip of territory to the east of the Dniester river. This raises questions about the validity of any general narrative The current President is Vadim Krasnoselsky. “I am cautious because I do not want a scenario similar to Abkhazia or Transnistria to be applied in Donbass,” he said during a conference in Kyiv. This does not mean, however, that it has become closer to the European Union. No wonder the 41-year-old leader described himself last week as “very cautious” on the issue of having peacekeepers deployed to oversee a ceasefire in the industrial Donbass region of eastern Ukraine between Kyiv government forces and Russian-backed separatists. This would, in turn, have ossified Russia’s political leverage over all of Moldova. The truth, it turns out, is far more complicated. In the rebel region, political analyst Anatoly Dirun of the Tiraspol School of Political Studies NGO, said Russian peacekeepers were still needed. Ukraine, its Western backers and Russia have been discussing for several years the possibility of deploying United Nations peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where a Russian-fomented rebellion escalated in 2014 escalated into a war that has killed more than 13,000 people and is now locked in a fragile stalemate. Time will tell whether Russia is successful in leveraging the combination of OSCE negotiations and unilateral policies to exert greater influence in Moldova. The tour will begin with a journey into the secretive state of Transnistria, which was commonly referred to as ‘’Europe’s North Korea’’ just a few years ago. On the unilateral level, Russia continues to station forces in Transnistria, deals directly with Transnistrian authorities rather than their Moldovan counterparts, and even conducts elections in the region. In both cases, the conflict has settled into a relatively stable status quo. Its absorption would formalise the de facto relationship between the Transnistrian capital, Tiraspol, and Moscow, but it would end a decades-old process aimed at conflict settlement, under the wing of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. This project started on November 1st, 2012 and aimed to boost the capacity of civil society organisations, the business community and the media to meaningfully participate in conflict prevention processes in Transnistria. Transnistria has sought to join Russia after breaking away from Moldova in 1990. As Transnistria slips away from Russia economically and toward the West, the soccer union between Transnistria and Moldova is getting stronger. A teacher there, who was critical of Russia, said parents and children choose to study in Romanian to be able to enter Moldovan or Romanian universities and later go elsewhere in Europe. On a multilateral level, Russia professes its acceptance of Moldova’s territorial integrity in accordance with its fellow “mediator” and “observer” states, while also leveraging its mediator status to advance its agenda. The Jamestown Foundation writes that the OSCE concept of a region’s “special status,” as currently applied to Transnistria, is a Russian creation. Transnistrian soccer clubs … Further, Russia depicts itself as a reliable geopolitical alternative to the European Union, with some success: one April 2016 survey showed that while 62 percent of Moldovans support Vladimir Putin as a popular foreign politician, only 30 percent favor Angela Merkel or Barack Obama. This tour coincides with the Transnistrian and South Ossetian National Day celebrations, two of the last surviving Soviet-style military parades left in Europe! On the unilateral level, Russia continues to station forces in Transnistria, deals directly with Transnistrian authorities rather than their Moldovan counterparts, and even conducts elections in the region. International observers from Russian pro-Kremlin youth organisation 'Nashi' camp at 2006 referendum, Transnistria, cc Romanstr. Transnistria is sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine, while Moldova itself is situated between Romania and Ukraine. Portraits of Putin and Lenin can be bought and sold on the city streets of Tiraspol, the de facto capital of Transnistria; storefronts and street signs almost exclusively feature the Cyrillic script, both for Russian and Romanian; even the flag bears the infamous Communist hammer-and-sickle. In July 2018, however, Dmitry Kozak—Deputy Prime Minister of Russia—returned to the scene as Russia’s “representative for the development of commercial-economic relations with the Republic of Moldova,” a role which has afforded him access to officials in the highest levels of the Moldovan government. Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria has asked its ally and sponsor Russia to allow it to issue Transnistrian “passports” at the diplomatic office it opened in January in Moscow. Just as Russia has promoted the idea of Moldova becoming a federal state, giving pro-Russian Transnistria an effective veto over the country’s Western integration, it has hinted at a similar solution for Ukraine. In this sense, Transnistrian autonomy may prove to be one element of a broader policy rather than an end in itself: the OSCE negotiations offer Russia an alternative pathway for achieving its long-term goal of wielding influence over the rest of Moldova. Transnistria is not just a concern for Russia and Ukraine, but its activities have potential international impacts on security. While small steps, including agreements on Transnistrian license plates and acknowledgement of Transnistrian diplomas, have been implemented over the last two years, the greatest winner from the OSCE negotiations may be Russia. The stationing of Russian troops in Transnistria offers Russia “hard power” in Moldova. Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia are members of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, an organisation of states in the former USSR which have limited international recognition. Russia’s approach throughout the negotiation period has been the combination of unilateral and multilateral steps to secure its interests. Volodymir Zelensky was a teenager when Russia sent peacekeepers into Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region in the early 1990s. Unsurprisingly, the plan was rejected by then-president Vladimir Voronin, with the support of the West. Photo: BIRN/Madalin Necsutu. Transnistria, too, says it will settle for nothing less than independence. Transnistria is already well primed for accession to Russia, as, in 2006, 97.2% of Transnistrian voters supported a referendum on joining Russia. Nearly three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, one could be forgiven for assuming the region is a veritable Soviet republic. Copyright BIRN 2007 | Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Powered by WordPress / WPML, A young man passing by an old-soviet tank in the centre of Tiraspol city. When Polyakov was 2, tensions between the country and the region led to a war, which was quickly put down by Russia's intervention. Most recently, talks arranged by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have featured a “small steps” approach, whereby participants reach a series of relatively small agreements in hopes of arriving at a final resolution. That most of the population of Transnistria is, and probably remains, strongly pro-Russian was suggested in 2006 when PMR organized a referendum in which 97% of those voting supported “independence from Moldova and free association with Russia,” as well as by the recent appeal of the region’s legislature to follow Crimea in joining Russia. Infographic: BIRN. Instead, Russia has continually advocated increasing autonomy for the region, but has stopped short of calling for Transnistrian independence or annexation. That is, in order to send troops there, Russia must invade either the territory of a NATO member state or Ukraine, thus burying the Minsk agreements and the entire peace process in Donbass. Most prominently are the region’s fragile and unmonitored borders. Transnistria, a mostly Russian-speaking region, broke away from Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian Federation comments on the statements of the President of Moldova on the need to withdraw the Russian contingent from Transnistria Today, 13: 59 The new President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu made a statement that is being actively discussed both in Moldova itself and in the Russian Federation. There are some 400, alongside 1,500 regular Russian troops. The last 20 years have seen a variety of diplomatic efforts to resolve the status of Transnistria, none of which have succeeded. Chisinau analysts see the Russian initiative as a trial balloon, testing the positions of Western powers with a view to other frozen conflicts and how to thwart the further Western integration of other former Soviet republics. Around one-third of the region's population of 500,000 is ethnically Russian and another one-third is Moldovan. The tactic promises broad applicability in other post-Soviet states, particularly in Ukraine, where Russia seeks to bolster its influence. Russia Hopes 5+2 Format Talks on Transnistria to Resume in 2016 Gubarev avoided supplying a date of when the final withdrawal of Russian troops and armory would occur because of the situation in Ukraine since cargoes would need to cross Ukrainian territory. Thus, any move towards “special status” in Transnistria will not only advance Russia’s prerogatives in Moldova, but will also be used by Russia to justify its foreign policy maneuvers in other former Soviet states. Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova in which ethnic Russians and Ukrainians together outnumber ethnic Moldovans. Russia’s continued military presence in Transnistria, and the influence this affords Moscow over Chisinau, offers a cautionary tale for Ukraine, experts say. This broader context of Russia’s push for influence in Moldova casts the OSCE negotiations as an ideal opportunity to accomplish in small steps what Russia has attempted before: the federalization of Moldova and Transnistria. Negotiations have proceeded under this framework since 2016, when the OSCE initiated its efforts in Transnistria. In the long run, Russia will earn from and improve this approach of pushing its agenda under the guise of a recognized international framework. The region is home to a large Russian-speaking population; many current inhabitants trace their origins to Soviet-era migrations of Russians and Ukrainians into eastern Moldova. In fact, Transnistria is an unrecognized country only recognized by unrecognized countries: Abkhazia – within Georgia. Transnistria has its own currency, passports and number plates which aren’t recognised by the vast majority of the world’s countries. The Trans-Dniestrian appeal comes as Moscow moves towards absorbing Crimea into the Russian Federation. Transnistria is emerging as the model for Russia’s strategy towards frozen conflicts across its ex-Soviet backyard, experts in Moldova say. Russia’s foreign ministry, however, termed “extremely dangerous” Şalaru’s 2015 claim that Russia is waging a “hybrid war” against Moldova via Transnistria. Originally published in the HIR Winter 2019 Issue. Indeed, Transnistria is precisely the model Russia has in mind, experts say – the rebel region, propped up by Russian political and military might, is increasingly seen as the forerunner for frozen conflicts in what Russia sees as its post-Soviet ‘sphere of influence’. As detailed by the Jamestown Foundation, the negotiations have gifted Russia a degree of international legitimacy in its push for greater influence in former Soviet states. Transnistria (locally called by its Russian name, Pridnestrovie (Приднестровие), and occasionally, in English, Trans-Dniester) is a country in eastern Europe.It seceded from — but is still claimed by — Moldova, and is only recognised by the other breakaway states of the former Soviet Union — Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. The Jamestown Foundation writes that Russia’s ultimate approach involves the “gradual transfer of sovereign prerogatives from Moldova’s central government to Transnistria’s authorities.” In reality, the end goals of the Kozak memorandum remain unchanged, but the “small steps” approach offers a likelier way to make them a reality. Transnistria is a presidential democracy. Russia has provided Transnistria with expensive military, political and socio-economic assistance without which Transnistria could not exist. Transnistria — lost in Moldova Conflicts stuck on repeat. Photo: Doru Dumitru. The success of Russia’s multilateral approach is predicated on the concept of “unity of mediators and observers” in the OSCE talks; any developments assented to by both the European Union and Moscow are implicitly forced upon Moldova, which would be pressured to accept the “unified” conclusion. Indeed, Russia’s Transnistrian gambit may prove a robust strategy for years to come. Defying Dictatorships: An Interview with Garry Kasparov, On Atlantic Alliances and Autocrats: An Interview with Jeanne Shaheen, Europe’s Awakening to China’s Tech Dominance. Russia came close to achieving this in 2003 with the so-called Kozak Memorandum, a policy proposal which detailed a vision of Moldova as an “asymmetric federal Moldovan state.” If accepted, the plan would have granted Transnistria a high degree of legislative power, both within Transnistria and within the federalized state as a whole. They remain at odds over the scope, makeup and mandate of such a force. Timeline of the Transnistrian conflict settlement. “At the same time, Moscow is using Gagauz autonomy to put pressure on Chisinau.”. The president is directly elected for a maximum of two-consecutive five-year terms. in Transnistria itself (Russia’s aim has been influence over Moldova as a whole), as well as of reactive policy making and frequently unsuccessful attempts to assert Russian control and to break through local intransigence and power configurations. whether it should ever join the European Union or NATO. Transnistria has now much more room for manoeuvre in its relations with Russia. “Moldova became a testing ground for the federalisation scenarios, which Russian may intend to apply also for Ukraine as well,” said Chisinau-based political expert Mihai Isac. The parliament of Abkhazia has reacted sharply and negatively, saying that joining Russia is out of the question. As a report from the Foreign Policy Research Institute details, the West offers Moldova the prospect of robust economic development while Russia offers a vision of stability. This is a non-starter for Moldova, not least given that Transnistria accounts for only four per cent of the country’s population and Gagauzia even less with four per cent. In the Moldavian SSR, as in many other parts of the Soviet Union, national movement… Between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova lies the breakaway region known as Transnistria. Ryan Cimmino. However, Russia has shown no such ambition in Transnistria. The region is made up of a majority of ethnic Russians, and many want to be part of Russia… Russian interventions on behalf of Russian-speaking populations abroad have frequently been the cause of much tension, most notably in Crimea, where expansionist strategic considerations and patriotic fervor precipitated Russia’s violent seizure of Ukrainian territory. “Moscow is trying to impose Tiraspol as an equal-rights player in the construction of a future Moldovan state,” said Isac. “So far, the population of Transnistria is regarded only as cannon fodder by Moscow and Dodon, without taking into account the economic and social disaster that has affected the region in recent years,” Isac said. Between the pro-Russian stance of President Dodon and the disarray of pro-Western factions in Moldova, it seems likely that Russia will at least see short-term success. The OSCE negotiations follow a “5+2” format, consisting of five “mediators”—Moldova, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE—and two “observers”—the European Union and the United States. Officially, Russia still positions itself as Transnistria’s main strategic partner in all spheres – political, humanitarian, economic, cultural, and educational. A closer look at two of these conflicts, the one in Moldova over Transnistria and Ukraine’s ongoing shooting war with Russia-backed insurgents in the Donbas, reveals a number of important similarities and differences. Transnistria’s authorities had tried to shut it down in 2004, but the OSCE intervened to save it, and it now belongs to the school system of Moldova proper. It was on the front line in the second world war from 1941 to 1944, and again in 1992 when Transnistria fought a war to split from Moldova. In particular, they have enabled Russia to leverage its political and cultural influence in Transnistria to maintain and expand its influence in Moldova. Transnistria’s proximity to south-western Ukraine has also played an important role in Russia’s calculations. Transnistria is emerging as the model for Russia’s strategy towards frozen conflicts across its ex-Soviet backyard, experts in Moldova say. During the last years of the 1980s, the political landscape of the Soviet Union was changing due to Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost, which allowed political pluralism at the regional (republican) level. “In the conditions of unresolved conflict, the withdrawal of Russian troops, which form the basis of the peacekeeping contingent in the security zone, will lead to a new round of escalation of the conflict,” Dirun told BIRN. However, for its control over Transnistria, Russia pays a high price. Recently, Russia has revived a 2003 plan called the Kozak Memorandum, which calls for an asymmetrical federal Moldovan state, with Transnistria and the autonomous, pro-Russian region of Gagauzia granted equal say in deciding the strategic course of the country, i.e. The pro-Western political movement, by contrast, is firmly controlled by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc and has become synonymous with corruption after a 2015 scandal in which US$1 billion—nearly 12 percent of Moldova’s GDP—disappeared from Moldovan banks. Russia sees Moldova as a nation highly susceptible to Western influence and as a potential gateway for the expansion of EU and NATO leverage in Eastern Europe. Perhaps more importantly, however, Russia has continued to pursue closer economic and political ties to build its “soft power.” At least in the short run, this policy seems to be working—the 2016 election of President Igor Dodon solidified pro-Russian sentiment in Moldovan government policy. 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