Opinion – Geopolitics of Transnistria. Momentum?

The political situation in Moldova was particularly intense at the end of February. Organized by Transnistria on February 28th 7th During its 34-year history, extraordinary parliaments have been held with members of all levels. There were many signs of concern about holding such an extraordinary session. According to history, this type of eventThe adoption of important decisions is usually preceded by a call to Moscow to recognize the declaration of independence in 1990, the recognition of the constitution and national symbols in 1991, and the independence of Transnistria in 2006. be exposed. The convening of the congress in the midst of the war in neighboring Russia and Ukraine (just after Russian forces captured Avdiivka and the day before President Putin’s address to the congress) and highly strained relations with Moldovan authorities raised many questions. A common question asked by commentators was whether Transnistria would once again seek annexation to Russia.of War Research Institute It went further by engineering a dire scenario in the aftermath of the Congressional meeting. However, despite the complexity of the situation, the Transnistrian conference ended seemingly without incident. declaration First, it calls on Russia to protect Transnistria and Russian nationals living there in the face of increasing pressure from Chisinau, and second, it calls on Chisinau to stop violating the human rights of people living in Transnistria. , calls on international and regional organizations to decide on resuming appropriate policies. Dialogue for conflict resolution. One cannot help but wonder whether Transnistria’s declaration is as defensive as it appears, or whether there is some geopolitical layer beneath the pacifist rhetoric. It is argued here that there are geopolitical implications that are part of Moldova’s current geopolitical conundrum in a broader perspective.

Transnistrian separatism during the Ukraine war and Moldova’s quest for EU integration

Readers are probably familiar with Transnistria document. For context, Transnistria, geographically located in eastern Moldova and on the southwest border of Ukraine, is a territorial non-state entity separate from Moldova that has developed and strengthened state-like characteristics over time. I did. In legal terms, Transnistria is within Moldova’s jurisdiction and is located within Moldova’s internationally recognized borders. However, in reality, Transnistrian authorities regulate life in the region.It is also widely known that Russia is conducting military exercises. effective control Conquer the region through military, economic, political and financial means. Since 2005, a solution to the Transnistrian conflict has been sought domestically. 5+2 A negotiation process in which Chisinau and Tiraspol are parties, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE are mediators, and the United States and the EU are observers. In the current Russia-Ukraine war, this formula is not working, despite Tiraspol and Moscow calling for a restart of talks in a 5+2 format. However, efforts by the parties to continue negotiations in this format are welcomed. 1+1.

The war in Ukraine brought the issue of Transnistria back into the spotlight for other reasons, but just as well. First, Transnistria is considered to be an important military base.This region is home to the largest amount of ammunition Depot In Eastern Europe, outdated and expired Soviet ammunition is already being stored. It is also home to a Russian military operational group that guards the warehouse, as well as a Russian peacekeeping mission stationed in the demilitarized zone. Second, it raises security concerns. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, several attempts have been made to destabilize the peaceful situation in the region. The latest one is March 17th When military facilities in Transnistria are destroyed by drones.Chisinau calls these acts provocationTiraspol talks about terrorists attack and calls on all parties involved in the 5+2 negotiation process to prevent the situation in Transnistria from escalating. Third, the pro-Russian regime in Tiraspol generally supports Russia and maintains strong political, military, economic, and financial ties with Russia. A recent example is vote Participated in the Russian presidential elections in Transnistria, in violation of Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (see previous post on the illegality of such actions) here).

Transnistria is located between the EU and Russia. Geopolitical moves?

Despite its moderate tone, the declaration, adopted in the aftermath of Transnistria’s parliamentary meeting, hints at geopolitical alignment with the East (i.e. Russia). This geopolitical choice is not new. Since its founding, Transnistria has looked eastward. Russia’s support for Transnistria speaks volumes about this. So why is Tiraspol attracting attention now? Chisinau’s policies, including those toward Tiraspol, could be the answer. Apart from the blockade of Transnistria due to the Ukraine war, Chisinau enacted a series of policies that probably put Transnistria at a disadvantage. First, in February 2023, Chisinau amended its penal code to include an article criminalizing secessionism.As I wrote somewhere other than that, the adoption of such an amendment in a state facing separatism is commendable. However, questions remain about its effectiveness. To date, there have been no prosecutions of Transnistrian leaders within Moldova, but legal prerequisites exist.

Another move in Chisinau was the adoption of a new customs law with provisions for Transnistria. company Import and export duties must be paid to both Chisinau and Tiraspol. Of course, these were upsetting news for Tiraspol.somewhat modest protest Actions were organized in this area, but without success. The abolition of discriminatory treatment of Transnistrian companies is welcomed. However, we cannot help but regret that these measures were adopted in a very complex and tense situation, which could ultimately lead to further escalation of tensions between Chisinau and Tiraspol.

The militarization policy adopted by Chisinau can be seen as follows. Tiraspol as a worrying factor destabilizing relations between Moldova and Transnistria. In fact, Moldova has recently increased military spending to strengthen its military capabilities. army ability.it also deepens it military cooperation Agreement concluded with France security agreement The route between Chisinau and Paris reflects this.Moldova’s population not cooperative The idea of ​​joining NATO was recently acknowledged by the newly appointed president. minister Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Moldova.

There is no doubt that all these factors influence the relationship between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Therefore, calls for aid to Transnistria, and especially Russia, are not surprising. Furthermore, Tiraspol is playing the card of protecting “Russian citizens.” In fact, more than 200,000 Russians live in Transnistria. Russian foreign policy strategyRussia is committed to ensuring effective protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of Russian nationals and organizations abroad, and this protection has been achieved in Ukraine and Georgia.

Some people claim that economically Transnistria is more aligned with the EU than with Russia. Economic relations between Transnistria and the EU are DCFTA.Moreover, this economic partnership with the European Union could bring Transnistria closer to the path of EU integration, so the president SandhuHis statement that Moldova would join the EU first, followed by Transnistria, could have some merit. However, it is argued here that joining the EU without Transnistria should not be an option. Moldova should become part of the EU with all its regions, including Transnistria and Gagauz Yeri, which currently share a pro-Eastern geopolitical policy.

Outside the Transnistrian dilemma.Moldova’s geopolitical challenges

The Ukraine war as a catalyst for change undoubtedly influenced Moldova’s geopolitics. Moldova’s accession to the EU The bid is due to the Ukraine war. This is evidenced by the fact that Moldova is integrated with Ukraine in the accession process. In the June 2021 survey, 59% of Moldovans He was in favor of EU integration.To strengthen Moldova’s path to the EU, Moldovans are expected to vote for a constitution in the October 2024 polls referendum About the EU integration project. The political and legal premises of a referendum held on the same day as a presidential election are as follows: criticized by both pro-Western and pro-Eastern parties. Without delving into the reasons for these criticisms, it makes sense to observe that Moldova’s political class, and therefore society, is somehow divided over which geopolitical position Moldova should choose. Is EU integration the only way forward, or is non-alignment, which respects the neutrality enshrined in the constitution, the right path, or should we turn to a pro-Eurasian union? It may become somewhat clear. But it could also open up a “Pandora’s box” of geopolitical challenges for Moldova.

Apart from the Transnistrian dilemma discussed above, the Gagauz Yeri Autonomous Region, through the voice of the region’s president (Bascan), has expressed that: Pro-East geopolitical preferences. It is argued here that special attention should be paid to Gagauz-Yeri.according to Article 111 The Moldova Constitution provides extensive autonomy for Gagauz-Jeri, which was further developed in the 1995 Basic Law on the Legal Status of Gagauz-Jeri. Article 1(4) This law provides that the Gagauzia people have the right to external self-determination in the event of a change in the Republic of Moldova’s status as an independent state. Of course, invoking this article is an extremely difficult task and such an attempt should be avoided at all costs, as it could spark a new separatist movement within Moldova and, in the worst-case scenario, lead to the dissolution of the Moldova state. Should. So while the upcoming referendum may be an opportunity, it is also a failure. It may lead to the unification of Moldova’s population around the EU integration project, which is the most desirable outcome, but it may also put the spotlight on Moldova’s mere existence as a unitary state. Moldovan politicians therefore need to play the geopolitical game very carefully to avoid unintended consequences.

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