US Closing In On Transdniestria. Washington Creates Conditions for Russian Troops’ Withdrawal

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On March 6 the arms depot in Floresti was full of people – it was visited by the German Ambassador to Moldova Angela Ganninger and Head of the U.S. Embassy Dereck Hogan, accompanied by a group of military attaches accredited in Chisinau and representatives of humanitarian funds.

The United States and Germany has invested heavily in modernization of the Moldovan national army not for the first year. Donor funds and methodological assistance go towards re-equipping, rearmament and training of the Moldovan military. Specifically, in Floresti a diplomatic away team of NATO leaders met on March 6 on the occasion of another modernization of ammunition depots, according to the head of Floresti district Stefan Panis. Germany contributed armored trucks for the transportation of ammunition worth more than a million euros. The International Red Cross plans to encircle the depots with protective dams. The US has invested in equipment, training and new depots buildings. The “military-humanitarian” assistance of NATO countries – namely, such a controversial definition is best suited for Moldova – has nothing to do with charity. On the one hand, the contribution to the security of arms depots is really important for the local population, but no less important for the Alliance countries, as Moldova remains the sphere of immediate interests for NATO. On the other hand, investments in military infrastructure of the Moldovan army also have geopolitical significance, which the words of the German Ambassador best reflect: “The storage and safe destruction of ammunition and weapons and the management of ammunition stockpiles remain a serious problem in Moldova.” A few tens of kilometers to the east of Floresti is another depot that is much better known to the public – Cobasna. The largest in Eastern Europe Soviet ammunition depot has been the cornerstone of the settlement of the Transdniestrian issue for many years. Cobasna is a village on the Left Bank of the Dniester, controlled by the unrecognized Transdniestria. The depot itself is guarded by the Russian military from the Operational Group of Russian Troops. The safeguarding of depots is believed to be the main task of the OGRT, so the removal of expired ammunition from Cobasna is a key factor in the withdrawal of the entire Russian contingent from Transdniestria. Some of the weapons were removed in 2000-2004, then the process stalled, and after the Ukrainian crisis and the conflict in the Donbas, the transportation of almost 20,000 tons of ammunition to Russia hardly seems a good idea. But who said that the multi-ton arsenal can not be disposed of on the spot or partially taken to neighboring Moldova? Moreover, in case the Republic of Moldova will have the appropriate infrastructure for its disposal. Floresti and Cobasna, by the way, are on the same railway line – although, this may be just a coincidence. Anyway, the interest of NATO countries in the modernization of the infrastructure of the Moldova’s national army, which will allow to store or dispose of ammunition, does not look accidental. It is extremely important for the West, under any plausible excuse, to start the countdown timer for the withdrawal of Russian troops, starting with the depots: whether it is concern for the safety of the population, for the environment or for anything else, the main thing is to impose on the international community a sustainable view that there is a serious acute problem in this area. The creation of conditions in Moldova for the storage of Russian weapons in Transdniestria creates an important argument in favor of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Left Bank of Moldova and seriously undermines Moscow’s arguments in favor of preserving its contingent in the unrecognized TMR. After all, no ammunition need no safeguarding. In this light, the strategic goal of the multi-million dollar investments of the US and Germany in the military storages of Moldova becomes quite clear. Probably in the coming years, NATO will try to prepare the territory of Moldova to receive tens of tons of ammunition from Transdniestria. In order to start this process, Chisinau will need only a few provocations near the Security Zone against the background of constant pressure on Moscow in the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe. Although how things unfold will depend mostly on the position of Moscow, Moldova and its allies will get more leverage over the Kremlin. It is not known how the residents of Moldova will regard ‘extra’ expired mines and shells in the country. Just ‘public fears’ may become the reason to introduce a limited consolidated contingent of NATO into the Republic of Moldova under the pretext of safeguarding of explosive goods. It is obvious that the Alliance’s strategists are also working out such a scenario, which means that further financing of Moldova’s military infrastructure implies a whole range of strategic goals, both military and geopolitical.