The political year 2021 is ending with an acute geopolitical crisis around Ukraine. Many experts admit a military aggression on the part of Putin’s Russia against the neighboring Ukraine. Relating the real goal pursued by Moscow in this eventual war, the prestigious publication Washington Post recently had among its headlines “Putin wants a Yalta 2.0”, suggesting the Kremlin wants a new division of the world into spheres of influence between Russia and the U.S., this time excluding the Britons. Simultaneously, a German government source of AFP was quoted by Agerpres as saying that Germany and Russia agreed a meeting at the start of next January within the efforts made to resolve the Russian-Western crisis around Ukraine. Everything started after the Russian government, in a somehow surprising, even unusual way , published two draft treaties, complete with articles and formal legalistic language, on European security — one between Russia and NATO, one between Russia and the United States. Immediately, the central players in international affairs retorted and their reaction concerns the area in which the Republic of Moldova is situated, even if Ukraine is the main focus of attention. To realize the whole complexity of the situation created by the case of Ukraine in the international crisis, it is enough to relate the foolish warnings, some of which were completely diabolic, of particular Russian propagandists who threaten that the turning of the world into radioactive waste is the alternative to the abandonment of the Putin plan to solve the crisis.
Temptation to pay costs at expense of small players
Given the existential stake in the resolution of the ongoing crisis, the large players from the geopolitical chessboard, as it happened in the past not only once, can be tempted to eventually pay the burdening costs of the compromise solutions with the paltry sums of the interests of small players. Such a perspective turns into a real sign of alarm for a political subject like the Republic of Moldova whose interests easily can be encroached upon under international agreements concerning the geopolitical area under discussion. As evident is the sore point of the Republic of Moldova from the perspective of international, multidimensional agreements that are presented in the formula of the Transnistrian conflict. If the Putin plan to solve the crisis around Ukraine takes shape, the Republic of Moldova will run the risk of remaining inside a zone demarcated by the so-called red lines of the Russian geopolitical influence. So, together with the Putin plan for the whole geopolitical zone in general, the Kozak plan for solving the Transnistrian conflict that was earlier rejected by the official Chisinau will also come.
Kranoselsky suddenly eager to reach political solutions
Not at all accidentally, the leader of the Transnistrian separatists Vadim Krasnoselsky, who recently paid a periodical visit to Moscow, in an interview for the Russian news agency RIA Novosti accused the Moldovan authorities of not being interested in resuming the talks in the 5+2 format. These accusations served as a firework for the Transnistrian leader, who, immediately after his return from Moscow, sent a letter to President Maia Sandu by which he invites her to a dialog. In his letter, he asks for a “personal meeting or a meeting in a format accepted by both of the sides” for restoring the dialogue between the two banks of the Nistru. “I’m convinced that it is now possible to solve the historical problem, one of the most protracted conflicts in Eastern Europe,” runs the letter. “At the end of this year, I will make one more attempt to restore the dialogue with the right side of the Nistru so as to solve the problems that accumulated in time.”
This surprising change in Tiraspol’s position on the political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict comes after during many years the separatist administration categorically refused any approaches to the political settlement of the conflict, preferring only economic or humanitarian discussions with Chisinau. A natural question appears, as regards the real reasons for the change in Tiraspol’s position on the political Transnistrian settlement process?
Who pulls the strings and why?
A partial response to this question is suggested by the much swifter reaction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Krasnoselsky’s initiative. In a press release, this said that “Moscow welcomes Tiraspol’s readiness to start a discussion on the method of bringing the banks of the Nistru closer and of resuming the talks in the 5+2 format”. According to the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, this initiative “can actually give an impetus to the Transnistrian settlement process and can overcome the prolonged stagnation of this..., we call on the administration of the Republic of Moldova to adopt a constructive approach and to positively respond to Transnistria’s initiative.”
After this quick reaction of Moscow to Tiraspol’s initiative, it becomes clear where this idea was actually planned and with whose interests it is directly associated. The so-called president of Transnistria in this case is not only a docile executor of a strategy that was thought up not by him and that is applied in the geopolitical interest of Moscow. In light of the crisis around Ukraine, where Russia is expected to act as an aggressor, the Russians need an operation to blur international public opinion through an initiative looking pacifistic. For the purpose, the Transnistrian conflict in which Russia plays the role of international mediator and of guarantor of the future agreements, perfectly suits Moscow. Even more important for Moscow, alongside image-related reasons, is to create precedents beneficial to its geopolitical interests in the process of solving a separatist conflict, applicable to the separatists areas in Ukraine. In fact, the Republic of Moldova is tested by Moscow as a field for creating the necessary precedents if Ukraine “is made submissive” through the agency of so-called solutions to separatist conflicts in this country.
Chisinau sees things in a different way?
But these plans of Moscow unexpectedly met with a new approach to the Transnistrian settlement process that is being designed in Chisinau. The final form of this new approach hasn’t been yet shaped, but some of its elements were articulated. This way, President Maia Sandu, in a recent televised appearance, made it clear that she does not intend to continue her predecessor’s noxious practice of formal meetings with the Transnistrian leader. All contacts between Chisinau and Tiraspol are to be taken over by the Government’s Reintegration Bureau. Such an approach seriously affects the prestige of the so-called presidential institution in Tiraspol, diminishing its political status and stripping it of legitimacy. On top of that, in this approach Chisinau excludes the precedent concerning the possible forcing of Kiev to accept direct contracts of the President of Ukraine with separatist leaders from Donbas, by the Moldovan model that had been in force until recently. Moscow’s anger was so great that it made itself heard in the Kalashnikov gun shots in the security zone of the Transnistrian conflict, even if these were fired in the air for now. But the bellicose warning for Chisinau is more than suggestive.
While everyone keeps a close eye on Eastern Europe and attentively fellows the tense relations between NATO, Kiev and Moscow, the official Chisinau and civil society experts try to precisely assess the risks and threats to the Republic of Moldova is exposed in the short and medium terms. It is evident that this ongoing crisis is outside the Republic of Moldova’s capacity to cope alone. For now, the state authorities are maximally activating information collection mechanisms. The protocols for each situation apart are being updated, including for possible military operations. Given the existence of a potential conflict of interest with the Russian Federation, the Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs Popescu reminded of the availability to resume the process of using and withdrawing the armament stored in Cobasna that was expressed by Moscow the previous months. President Maia Sandu also didn’t hesitate to criticize the participation by Russia’s Ambassador in Chisinau Oleg Vasnetsov in the so-called “inauguration” of the separatist leader given that the Republic of Moldova does not recognize the presidential election held on the left side of the Nistru and considers it null and void. To anticipate any attempt to decide the fate of the Republic of Moldova without her participation, Maia Sandu said the solution to the Transnistrian conflict should be worked out inside the country, not outside it and this solution should be supported by all the forces and the citizens, even if foreign support is also needed for this solution as this is the geopolitical reality embracing the republic.
Judgment exercises dictated by similitudes
The official Chisinau’s efforts to cope with the geopolitical crisis in the area are joined by the voice of civil society, which by definition enjoys greater freedom than the authorities in formulating possible solutions. Namely civil society reminded of the historical experience of 1918, when the Romanian Army intervened in Bessarabia, saving it of the atrocities of the Russian civil war. The Moldovan press underscored the intensification of the political and military cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and Romania, including the solution in case Russia invades Ukraine, which consists in the opportunity for the troops of the Romanian Army to move towards the line of the Nistru, which had been the old border of Greater Romania until 1940, so as to defend the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Even if such proposals now seem rather unfeasible, if Moscow stages a military attack on Ukraine, the traditional political and security order will be disrupted and place for unordinary solutions will appear.
Moldova: at the table or on the table?
Regrettably, in the created situation, the Republic of Moldova does not have good and easy solutions. It has only difficult and risky solutions. Therefore, preventive actions on the part of the Moldovan political class are more than necessary. Someone should not think that the policy of the head hidden in the sand can be rescuing if a military aggression is staged against the neighboring Ukraine. In the strategic plans of Moscow, the border of the so-called preferential zone of geopolitical influence and military security of Russia cover the whole post-Soviet space and therefore goes along the line of the Prut. Now more than ever, the great political chancelleries of the world should officially affirm the Romanian character of the Republic of Moldova, the fact that we historically do not belong to the Slavic world and are not part of the Eurasian civilization area, but are a part of the European civilization by the affiliation to the Romanian historical and cultural space.
Such a position that would be clearly articulated by the Government and Parliament will serve as a basis that cannot be neglected at the future peace talks that follow any war. At the current crisis resolution stage, the Republic of Moldova should have a distinct position and voice. As, if you do not have a place at the table with dishes, you will definitely form part of the menu. The duty of the current ruling political class in Chisinau is to keep at any cost the European perspective of the Republic of Moldova, which can be achieved the easiest by officially affirming the Romanian character of the Moldovan state, which excludes the attachment to the preferential geopolitical influence space of Russia.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.