Sergei Cheban: Dodon’s Statements Are a Curtsey to Transdniestria

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During his visit to Moscow, Moldovan President Igor Dodon gave an interview to the Russian TASS news agency, where he spoke about his own vision on determining the status of Transdniestria. I must say that the concept of settling the Transdniestrian issue, voiced by Dodon, looks quite bold.
“I always told Vadim Nikolayevich Krasnoselsky (the leader of Transdniestria – author’s note) that we are in the same boat. We can have a future together, or no one will have a future. What kind of future it will be, in what form, what status will Transdniestria have and so on – we need to sit down and negotiate. We have our own draft, developments, and our colleagues know that we shall leave to Transdniestria everything they have. We should have a common border, we should have some common things, but as regards the flags, the parliament, the president, it all remains as it is,” said Dodon in an interview to the TASS Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman.
The Moldovan media have already made notice of the statements of Igor Dodon, noting that the head of state is ready to “leave to Transdniestria everything it already has” in exchange for border control. RTA asked political expert Sergei Cheban about what the President of the Republic of Moldova really meant. Igor Dodon’s statements definitely deserve attention. Do you think this is really a novelty in approaches of the Moldovan president, or we are dealing with some ‘visit rhetoric’? — First of all, it must be remembered that Igor Dodon and the Party of Socialists have their main task today to hold on to power and even strengthen their positions after the parliamentary elections of 2019. President Dodon always feels the context. He understands perfectly well that the Transdniestrian problem is painful for Russia, which has a peacekeeping operation in Transdniestria, and hundreds of thousands of compatriots. Therefore, in an interview after a meeting with Putin, Dodon speaks about positive things and in every way demonstrates a benevolent attitude, including in relation to Transdniestria. Peacefulness to Tiraspol is, of course, a tribute to the time and place of the interview. On the other hand, I mentioned the upcoming elections for a reason. The pro-European Moldovan government harshly criticizes the federal idea of solving the Transdniestrian problem. Igor Dodon, on the other hand, speaks almost of a confederation – in an interview he talks only about common borders with certain “additional points”. The president makes a poorly concealed curtsey to Tiraspol, obviously trying to gain its confidence, some kind of support or, at least, ‘neutrality’ before the elections. Positivity in relations with Transdniestria can bring additional political points to Dodon: especially in the eyes of residents of the unrecognized republic, who have Moldovan citizenship and electoral right in Moldova. Therefore, the current context has greatly influenced the tone and nature of Dodon’s statements. — That is, Dodon would like to see the leadership of Transdniestria as his allies before the parliamentary elections? — Surely, the words that the February 24 elections “will decide a lot” and that Dodon “perfectly” understands the “fears” of Transdniestria is an invitation to support. Favour of the Transdniestria’s residents is desirable for the leader of Moldova, but is hardly achievable following the results of 2 years of his presidency. Last year, after two meetings of the president with the leader of Transdniestria, their relationship deteriorated, which was loudly confirmed by subsequent exchange of ‘courtesies’ and mutual accusations. It would be naive to think that these events have not leaved its mark. Besides, the population of Transdniestria lives in its information space, and therefore they follow the political processes in Moldova as observers, preferring to stay away from the intra-Moldovan nitty-gritty. — It turns out that Igor Dodon did not name any elements of a real settlement plan? — Not really, or rather not at all. Igor Dodon mentioned that the next package of agreements with Transdniestria will be “political”. However, this prediction looks too optimistic, given the fact that Chisinau and Tiraspol are objectively too far from politics. We remember, again, last year, when Dodon and Krasnoselsky made harsh and opposing statements about how to resolve the conflict. Moreover, even the current agreements from the so-called package of 8 are not implemented as smoothly as it may seem. According to the statements of Transdniestrian officials, the issue of telephone communication, for example, has not been resolved so far, although the agreement was signed almost a year ago. Apparently, there will be no progress in the near future on criminal issues either. Igor Dodon’s excessive optimism reveals Chisinau’s desire to get down to a political settlement as soon as possible and simply step over the entire array of existing problems. Relatively speaking, today agree on a telephone connection, and tomorrow unite the country. But we all know that a short path through space and time still exists only in science fiction, so I cannot share the president’s optimism. What is interesting Dodon emphasizes that the main thing is the “common border” and several other, so far unknown points. But, in fact, the process of building this very common border has been going on since last year. Moldovan security officials have already appeared in Kuchurgan and are going to be stationed along the entire border of the unrecognized republic. Transnistria’s leadership claims that Chisinau is planning to impose its jurisdiction and considers joint control a political step. And Igor Dodon, perhaps unwittingly, confirmed that Chisinau creates a “common border” and thus tries to spur the political solution of the Transdniestrian problem.