Beyond the Transnistrian issue there are three identitery issues, three “party and state” manipulations, officially speaking, in the Republic of Moldova.
The first is the existance of the Plahotniuc-Dodon binomial, publicly presented as a radical confruntation between the two. Obviously, a distortion, “a Tom and Jerry” fight, which in the end no one gets hurt. This mimicked confrontation is often presented as a life or death geopolitical war and got developed as time passed. Today, with the exception of the “by party and by state” ideologies, none are convinced anymore.
The second manipulation, also exposed by LARICS, is in reference to the billion theft, where officials declare that it is the main priority of the authorities, that a heavy investigation is currently undergoing to identify the thieves. In fact, the efforts are to hide and not to identify. After five days there are no official suspects for this “state-owned business” that stole at least a billion from Moldavian banks and left the financial banking system in the air.
The third is the Transnistrian issue. Why a manipulation? The same game rules to play for both sides which left a mark on the Moldavian politics since the state was founded. Including the relation with Tiraspol. The rare consistency episodes (repealing the Kozak Memorandum in 2003) lasted very little, the balance leaning, again towards submittion and concession, to Moscow. Today we assist to a more growing rate of concessions from Chisinau. The Transnistrian issue has become a real time bomb.
Two recent developments.
Look there are the troop, look they there aren’t! A Manipulative Resolution
UN Resolution from 13th of June 2018
In a recent article published on this page, we wrote that the main political goal in R. Moldova is that the Plahotniuc-Dodon binomial keeps its power and, after parliamentary elections in November 2018, is, in fact, a geopolitical one. Invalidating the mayor’s election in Chisinau and maintaining a belligerent state towards the EU only confirms what LARICS has been saying for a very long time. The ultime tasks for the Binomial are geopolitical, meaning “solutioning” the Transnistrian issue which today can only be done in the Russian Federation’s favour. Transnistrizing systematically right in front of our eyes. The fundamental element for this scenario is validating the Russian army’s presence in RM, through the resolution voted at the UN that will legalize Russian troops in RM. More precisely the so-called peacerkeepers that appear in the Agreement for Cease-Fire between Chisianu and Moscow in 1992.
The resolution voted at the UN on 13th June 2018 is an extremely problematic document. In appearance it is a major diplomatic success. In fact, it is a major trap. The experts in Chisinau are right when they declared that the document has some major issues. First, the name of the resolution does not make any reference to the Russian troops, using the sweeter term “foreign military forces”. The title of the resolution is “Complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova”. So no Russian troops. Secondly, it does not provide any deadline for withdrawing the troops and munitions, so, there is no practical use for it.
Beyond all of these the most serious issue is the discrepancy between the title and the content. Many people, willingly or not, quote only the title of the Resolution and who does not know the content is easly misled. In fact, it is not about the “complete and unconditional” retreat of the Russian troops, but according to the Resolution it refers to the troops from the so-called Russian Operative Group of Russian Troops and its munition from RM’s territory. That’s all! There is nothing about the so-called peacekeepers, the second Russian troops “category” present on RM’s territory, to which the Resolution does not refer to and does not request Moscow to withdraw, as it can be seen in the Resolution’s text below.
The fragment from the Resolution which discusses strictly about the OGRT, not all Russian soldiers
The same thing is explained in the UN Resolution, even though the title implies resolution which is not covered in the text. Also, the officials from Chisinau underlined, emphasizing every time, that the resolution refers only to OGRT troops not all Russian troops. Adrian Candu, RM Parliament spokesman said it more obviously: “With regret, many speculated that the resolution which the Republic of Moldova proposed to the UN in reference to the Russian military troops. Many confussions have been added intentionally. We are referring to the withdrawal of the Russian Federation’s military troops and not to the peacekeepers”. Also, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration from Chisinau, Tudor Ulianovschi: “It is important to specify that the Moldavian authorities insist on the unconditional and complete withdrawal of OGRT (Operative Group of the Russian Troops) given its illegal residing on RM’s territory, but not the rotating contingent that is part of the military component of the Joint Control Commission, deployed in the eastern districts of the country (subl. N.) in accordance with the Moldo-Russian Agreement for Cease-Fire signed on 21st of July 1992”.
In conclusion we are not dealing with a complete retreat of the Russian troops. This is what we are tackling, this the manipulation.
“The Withdrawal” which legitimates
It is a manipulation with major consequences. The suspicious persistence from the authorities in Chisinau to underline that the Resolution refers strictly to OGRT, leads to the following conclusion. When they wrote the Resolution, Chisnau ignored all the decisions made until now, including the OSCE Resolution in Istambul 1999, in which there was no distinction between the peacekeepers and OGRT. Moreover, Chisinau steped on its own legislation, which talks about clearly, explicitly and beyond doubt about the withdrawal of all Russian soldiers and munition.
- Moldova’s most important document on this matter, Law 173 No 22.07.2005 on “About basic provisions of special legal status of settlements of left bank of Dniester (Transnistria)”, this genuine legislative shield, according to Vladimir Socor’s expression and efforts, clearly emphasizes that “accomplishment by the Russian Federation of the obligations undertaken at the Istanbul summit of OSCE (Istanbul, 1999) on complete, fast and transparent withdrawal of troops and arms from the territory of the Republic of Moldova”.
And this the current legistation of R. Moldova! This law does not make differences between the troops in R. Moldova, no OGRT and “peacekeepers”. In reality, this distinction is only on paper, Russian soldiers operate as both “pacekeepers” and OGRT troops. No one can make the difference between the two. Practically they are the same.
Moreover, the Resolution’s consiquences are more serious. Through this Reslolution, we deal with step backs from international documents issues in the past, but also in RM’s own legislation. We can assume a full assault on Law issued on the 10th of June 2005, adopted at that time without abstentions, which can be modified by three fifths of the number of the Parliamentary’s members. The final strike against this law will happen after the parliamentary elections, where the future “patriotic” majority, of over 62 members, PD (Plahotniuc) – PSRM (Dodon) – independents, will be annulled because it clearly provides a political solution for the conflict implies the withdrawal of Russian troops and their munitions, a whole withdrawal, without technicalities. But the 2005 Law is off the table in Chisinau today, no one is speaking about it anymore.
Russia wins strategically in R. Moldova
After the UN Resolution the Russians have an excellent precedent, referring to it very enthusiastic and will negociate the OGRT withdrawal, having a guaranteed assurance in the field as “peacekeepers”. Moscow will negociate the troop’s “withdrawal” having a guaranteed assurance in the field! The Resolution leads to this situation.
The fact that Chisinau accepted this document is not out of pure coincidence. It knew very well what it was doing. The UN Resolution is a trap in which everyone fell, it is not about the Russian authorites nor the ones in Chisinau. They knew well what they were doing. In 2017, Chisinau willingly entered the path for transnistrizing R. Moldova and the UN Resolution is part of this process. The Russian were pretending to protest, but they are laughing behind everyone’s backs…
For Moscow is crucial that it maintains its so-called peacekeepers in this strategic project. Russians do not even accept synchronizing the withdrawal and solutioning the political status for the separatist region. They want to negociate the political status and afterwards negociate the withdrawal. And now they want something else.
In 2017, Moscow came up with the idea to introduce the “blue helments” in Donbas, with the clear Russian involvement in the peacekeeping mission. This was Vladimir Putin’s proposal. Russians were aiming to legitimize their military presence in the field as peacekeepers at the Russian-Ukrainian border, part of a larger military mission which in the end would have been controlled by Russia. Russians would control the mission, OSCE observers etc. This is the core reason for proposing international troops for peacekeeping.
President Poroșenko sharply disagreed, under the correct pretext, with the fact that Russia being an aggressor cannot be part of peacekeeping troops. Ukrainians had been coherent. Unable to destabilize Ukraine, Moscow is focusing on the weaker actor, secondary and more willing to make compromises, meaning the Republic of Moldova. RM is doing exactly the opposite what Ukraine is doing when it comes to frozen conflicts. It is the weakest link. Russians understood this and that is why they want to obtain everything they could not get from Ukraine. Through the UN resolution, they assured their “peacekeepers”. A major step forward.
After “solutioning” the conflict in R. Moldova, they will come back to Ukraine with a greater pressure. This is the goal of the discussion. If Russia obtains, after the political solutioning for the Transnistrian conflict (meaning “special status” equivalent with federalization), deployment for an “international mission” with Russian participation – repeating that it is already accepted and validated by the UN Resolution -, winning everything and the following negociations with Ukraine will turn out very differently. Kiev will be constrained to accept Russian troops based on the Moldavian precedent. Our feeling is that Ukraine is worried about Chisinau’s systematic concessions.
Russia is betting on R. Moldova and other European actors who are tired to hear about the Transnistrian issue and want to resolve it. Also, there are some American availabilities which can now be seen very clearly given that the OSCE agenda is coordinated by an American ambassador.
“Peacekeepers”, not OGRT, shot Moldavians
Photo: Young Vadim Pisari was not shot on 01.01. 2012 by a OGRT, but by a “peacekeeper”
„Pacificatorii”, nu GOTR, au împușcat moldoveni
Fundamental side note. For those to credit the idea the there is a difference between “good soldiers” and “bad soldiers” among the stationed Russian troops in Transnistria, making a difference between “peacekeepers” (“good”) and OGRT (“bad”) we should remind them another problem.
On 1st of January 2012, young Vadim Pisari, original from Pîrîta (Dubăsari), was shot dead on Dniester bridge between Vadul lui Vodă and Coșnița municipalities. The young man was in his car with a friend passing on the right side of the Dniester from Transnistria. He was shot with war munition not by a OGRT soldier, but by a … “pacekeeper”.
The investigation had shown that he was killed with special bullets used in wartime, used by “pacekeepers”, forbidden through UN conventions. Obviously, the investigation did not lead to any conclusion and silence settled.
Of what kind of “pacekeepers” are they? They are exactly the “pacekeepers” Chisinau just accepted by intentionally omitting them from the UN resolution on 13th June 2018.
Dmitri Kozak re-visits Chisinau. Moscow is maintaining its positions
Photo: Dmitri Kozak, the ex-Vice President of the Russian Presidential Administration
Appointing the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Kozak, as Vladimir Putin’s representative for developing economic and commercial relations with the Republic of Moldova has deep connection with the matter in discussion now. Given that Moscow gave up the President of the Russian Federation’s position of special representative on Transnistria, positioned previously filled by Dmitri Rogozin.
The Dmitri Kozak’s “title”, who is a very important person, does not fool anyone. To take seriously the title would mean offending the person. How important is R. Moldova in economic terms for Russia as well as the relations between governments and other commissions to send a special representative of the president on economic issues? It’s obviously ridiculous. It’s about something else. It is about the strategic objective, more precisely Russia’s strategic objectives in the region. They want to stop the NATO border at Prut, this can be made only through transnistrizing, meaning federalization/”special statute”, which would asure the separist region from R. Moldova to decide the foreign affairs and security policy for Chisinau.
Appointing Dmitri Kozak means a new step in reaching this objective. We will start seeing a syncronicity, in the background and on paper, between the requests coming from Transnistria, eventually Gagauzia and the separatist region in Ukraine. Everything will be in compliance with the Kozak Memoradum (2003), transformed in a Kozak 2, with the same strategic objectives, with some slight unessential changes in its content.
Giving this position to Dmitri Kozak in Chisinau will be a clear sign of intransigent concessions toward solutioning the Transnistrian issue. It is not willing, with the exception of lables – there is no longer a discussion about federalization, but about “autonomy status” for Transnistria – to make any essential concession.
The Republic of Moldova is playing an extremely dangerous game. There is no longer a discussion about this state, it is about the region neighboring EU and NATO. The immediate neighbor of Romania.
*Dan Dungaciu is a member in the Expert Council in LARICS.