Moldovan President Igor Dodon is still confident that the Transnistrian problem is easier to solve than any other conflict in the post-Soviet area. He expressed this opinion in an interview with Moskovskij Komsomolets. Message about the closest solution of the Transnistrian issue has been repeatedly heard in various forums. Some experts, however, point out that Transnistria remains the most long-standing frozen conflict, and one should not underestimate its complexity.
Igor Dodon himself started talking about Transnistria during the interview. The President said that he had discussed this topic with French President Emmanuel Macron. According to him, France and Germany, as two active members of the European Union, together with Russia can write a “success story” and play a decisive role in solving the Transnistrian problem.
One should agree with Igor Dodon in assessing the influence of international mediators in the negotiations between Tiraspol and Chisinau. Once, the failure of the Kozak Memorandum illustrated it, when disagreements between Moscow and Washington prevented from putting an end to the Moldovan-Transnistrian conflict. According to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister’s current statements, Russia is interested in a new reintegration project. Moreover, Moscow, as the President of the Republic of Moldova notes, will not sacrifice Transnistria, since it already considers the unrecognized republic “part of Moldova”.
«This position is inherent not only to Chisinau. Everyone upholds such position, including Moscow. The leadership of the Russian Federation at all levels has always said that Transnistria is part of Moldova»,
Indeed, the position of Moscow is well known. However, it is no secret that the Kremlin has repeatedly acted according to the situation and in a prompt manner abandoned its approaches when they contradicted Russian interests. Russia’s position on South Ossetia and Abkhazia also came down to supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia –just before the events of August 2008. A similar situation exists with Russia’s recognition of the territorial integrity of Ukraine: this approach existed until spring of 2014.
Moscow’s arguments for the Crimea, as you know, are based on the will of the peninsula residents. According to a number of experts, after the Crimean referendum Moscow had an “option” to take into account the Transnistrian plebiscite of 2006, when the residents of the self-proclaimed republic spoke in favor of independence and integration with Russia. Thus, in restrained terms, the Kremlin will easily put on the table such a settlement project, where the notorious referendum will be the cornerstone.
Anyway, given the current geopolitical situation, this approach is not applicable to Transnistria. Russia has no common borders with the self-proclaimed republic, and its recognition may be followed by an unprecedented round of pressure and sanctions not only against Russia, but also against the huddled between Ukraine and Moldova Transnistria. There is no doubt with the present course of events, Chisinau would withdraw from the 1992 Peace Agreement, according to which still successful peacekeeping operation has been performing its duty on the Dniester for 26 years. Thus, Moldova would erase the legal basis for the Russian military presence, and the situation itself will return to the state of military conflict of the early 90s of the last century.
The dismantling of the status quo foundations in the Transnistrian issue will lead to a cardinal reformatting of the regional space, and there is no guarantee that only by means of diplomacy. It is logical enough that no one is in a hurry to open the Pandora’s regional box, sealed nearly three decades ago. Interested international participants seek not to make sudden movements and play a long geopolitical game on several boards at once.
Igor Dodon is also trying to get into the game. Recognizing the role and rendering homage to international mediators, he consistently asserts that the Transnistrian conflict can only be resolved on the basis of the Moldovan plan.
«I do not know all the details of the negotiations on the Kozak plan. But it is already past. In future, we have only a Moldovan plan»,
This plan, or “principles for a political settlement of the conflict”, according to the Moldovan President, was developed by one of his advisers, Vasilii Șova. The latter headed the ministry for reintegration under Vladimir Voronin, who himself failed the final settlement based on the Kozak Memorandum.
Vasilii Șova has repeatedly stated that the basic principle of the Transnistrian conflict settlement should be the granting the so-called “Special status” to the unrecognized republic within unitary Moldova. This position of the Dodon’s adviser is based on the same model as the law of the Republic of Moldova of 2005, which grants the autonomous status to Tiraspol. Considering that Igor Dodon himself often speaks of a “special legal status”, it is possible that the secret “principles of a political settlement of the conflict” will be consonant with Șova’s previous proposals and, in general, the current Moldovan legislation.
Anyway, the president’s special emphasis on the need to resolve the conflict according to the Moldovan plan catches the greatest interest. It is obvious that Igor Dodonis well acquainted with Moscow’s position on this issue: once in an interview with Kommersant Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin noted that both parties to the conflict should determine the model of the conflict:
«Moscow does not intend to enter into any serious negotiations on the Moldovan-Transnistrian settlement without the participation of Tiraspol … Sit down at the negotiating table with your Tiraspol colleagues, if you want – invite us, we don’t mind, but Tiraspol and Chisinau should be the main parties to the negotiations. We believe that this all is possible»,
It is noteworthy that for many years other international participants have a similar position, inviting the parties to the conflict to negotiate and solve problems at the negotiating table. Otherwise, negotiations with Tiraspol would have ended long ago: instead of rounds of the “5 + 2” format in European capitals there would be a single international plan for the practical implementation of the 2005 law on Transdniestrian autonomy within Moldova.
In reality, the situation is fundamentally different: everyone understands that Moscow, which has defense and energy enterprises, about a thousand soldiers and twenty thousand tons of ammunition in the territory of the unrecognized republic, will not agree with taking over Transnistria. Entering into open conflict with Russia is unpredictable, unprofitable and dangerous. Chisinau, Brussels, and Kyiv know this. Igor Dodon understands this too.
It turns out that Igor Dodon’s position is not mainly aimed at international partners, but chiefly at representatives of Tiraspol. As mentioned above, the Moldovan president is trying to engage in international bargaining over Transnistria – but prudently bypasses knocking on the door, which everyone considers tightly closed. The head of the Moldovan state deliberately draws attention to the plans of Chisinau in order to anger Transnistria, to cause a response jealous reaction of Tiraspol and to spur the leadership of the unrecognized republic to develop its response plan of settlement.
It turns out a kind of invitation for a discussion with far-reaching consequences.
Will Tiraspol respond?
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