Will Washington Offer Transdniestria a Confederation?

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A week ago, Moldovan President Igor Dodon paid an official visit to Moscow. The head of state and the de facto leader of the Socialist Party again spoke with Vladimir Putin, and afterwards even called the meeting “a breakthrough”. The Moldovan President claims that he has reached an agreement with Putin on an amnesty for 200,000 Moldavian guest workers, lifting duties on wine and fruit from Moldova, as well as Russian investments in the infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova. The presidents also discussed Transdniestria - so that the results of this conversation had already been brought to Washington by Dodon’s advisors.

The practical results of any summit are always achieved in advance as a result of the preliminary work of officials. Diplomats painstakingly coordinate the positions of the parties, and only then come to a mutually beneficial decision. Probably, all the directions of the recent meeting of Moldovan and Russian presidents were agreed the day before, and it is more interesting that among them was the “Transdniestrian dossier”. As Dodon says, an international consensus on the prospects for the Moldovan state will help kick start many of the vital issues for Chisinau. The President of Moldova sees two key elements that need international approval, first of all, by Moscow and Washington. This is neutrality and a political model for resolving the conflict in Transdniestria, and since both issues are interconnected, they are considered together at the international level. So, as of today, consultations with Vladimir Putin took place, the positions of the leaders of the two countries have been agreed, and Dodon’s advisers are going to Washington for consultations on the Transdniestrian issue. It is almost impossible to literally find out what the presidents agreed on, but the interview with the Moldovan president after the meeting shed some light on certain aspects of the current Transdniestrian settlement model. This is what Dodon said about the neutrality of Moldova:
“We will strive to ensure that the neutrality of our country is internationally recognized at the level of the UN Security Council. Such a solution exists, for example, in Austria. Then we and both, the East and the West will be satisfied. And this, by the way, will be a solution to the Transdniestrian conflict.”
Such a statement by Dodon indicates that his advisers will almost certainly report in Washington on the fundamental readiness of Russia to secure the permanent neutrality of the Republic of Moldova at the level of the UN Security Council. However, following the repeated speeches of Moldovan politicians, the real neutrality of Moldova means the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone. This means that a model for settling the Transdniestrian conflict has already been agreed. This is the vision of the Moldovan president:
“We have our own project, developments, and our colleagues know that we need to keep for Transdniestria everything that it holds. We should have a common border, we should have some common things, but as regards the flags, the parliament, the president, all this remains as it is.”
Any textbook on political science easily qualifies such a model of territorial structure. Dodon proposes to preserve Transdniestria’s elements and symbols that represent and symbolize a country, and above all the constitution, which proclaims the independent status of the republic. At the same time, he offers to create some “nation-wide” components: common borders, military neutrality, a common trade and economic zone, a socio-cultural and humanitarian space. Simply put, Dodon proposes to create a classical confederation, where Moldova and Transdniestria will be two equal subjects within the framework of the general state formation. There is no doubt that such a proposal will cause within Moldova a flurry of indignation. Conservative patriotic circles of the country insist on the unitary status of the country and consider the idea of giving Transdniestria any independent status as a high treason. In addition, Moldova will have to change the legislation, at least - the constitution - in order to shape a confederation with Transdniestria. Igor Dodon has no political resource for such reforms. But everything will change if the Moldovan president “brings” to Chisinau a ready-made conflict resolution model agreed with both Moscow and Washington – the United States will be fine with this model at least politically and militarily, since European security issues are of fundamental importance for the White House. For American diplomacy, the neutralization of the Russian military presence in Transdniestria, close to the borders of NATO, will be an important achievement. Russia, in turn, will find a way out of the Transdniestrian impasse and solve the problem with few losses, instead of trying to achieve the demilitarization of the whole future confederative union. At the same time, the nature of the current Russian-American relations shows that there is a little space for excessive optimism about the Moscow-Washington agreements – the parties distrust each other and they are only looking for points of contact so far. Nevertheless, joint success in Transdniestria could be an unprecedented impetus for a new “reset” of relations between the two world powers.