RTA expert Sergey Cheban predicts that the experience of Chisinau in the field of security can be an example for the settlement in Donbas
Another incident in the Black Sea was unexpectedly easily resolved, when the Security Service of Ukraine detained the crew of the Russian tanker Nika Spirit in Izmail. The crew was soon released and sent to fly to Russia through Chisinau. And although the flight through Moldova was solely because there is no air communication between Russia and Ukraine, there is a certain symbolism in the flight through Chisinau.
In 2019, Moldova for the first time in a few years at the official level has ceased to be 100% the country of the victorious Russophobia. Chisinau’s tough anti-Russian campaign ended with the Plahotniuc’s regime, and now has shrunk to rather traditional statements about Russia’s participation in the 1992 conflict and the need for an early withdrawal of peacekeepers from unrecognized Transdniestria.
A few years ago, security agencies of Chisinau would have thrown a show around the departure of Russian sailors: they would have been interrogated by SIS officers after the Ukrainian special services, kept at the airport for several hours, and finally banned to enter the country. Reasons would have been found, as there were reasons to send home – and in fact, straight to prison – Turkish teachers of the Orizont lyceums network.
Today Moldova is different. The European Union has generously allocated money to the coalition government of the pro-European bloc ACUM and the pro-Russian Party of Socialists, and the closest ally of President Dodon Zinaida Greceanîi is kindly invited to Brussels. Experts agree that the common favor of Russia, Europe and the United States to the current Moldovan authorities hides serious behind-the-scenes agreements and common goals and to achieve them the key centers of influence ‘squeezed’ Vlad Plahotniuc from Moldova.
In fact, there may be several such agreements. One of the main ideas is that Moldova is being made a serious mediator between the EU and Russia, through which the parties will be able to establish fairly damaged relations after the Ukrainian crisis. The current state of contacts between Europe and the Kremlin does not allow to abandon mutual sanctions and not to lose face in the eyes of the patriotic public. A joint success story is needed, which Moldova is becoming.
The second component of the international consensus on Moldova has a concrete practical meaning: Chisinau can be a mediator in negotiations on gas transit through the territory of Ukraine. The ruling coalition in Moldova is handshakeable in the Kremlin, Brussels and Kyiv, albeit in different cases through various political leaders. There is nothing to prevent Chisinau from bringing the position of the interested parties under the guise of working visits to Kyiv and Moscow – again, in the conditions of total distrust and obvious mutual dislike of Ukrainian and Russian politicians.
The incident with the Russian sailors leads to a much more ambitious guess: Moldova can become a mediator in the process of ‘reconciliation’ of Moscow and Kyiv. A certain military status quo is established on the territory of the Republic of Moldova: the country cooperates with NATO, and its unrecognized region across the Dniester contains a Russian military base. The situation of the military-political confrontation between the US and Russia in Moldova is somewhat put on pause, and nothing prevents Chisinau from being a little more actively involved in mediation between Russia and Ukraine.
The fact is that the security agencies of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have been exchanging data for a long time. In addition, the Ukrainian and Moldovan military interact directly in the management structure of the peacekeeping operation in Transdniestria, which operates under the direct auspices of Russia. Moldova may become a platform for multilateral contacts between representatives of security agencies of several countries for a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, demilitarization of the zone of hostilities and launching of a peacekeeping mission in Donetsk and Lugansk. Today, such a direct dialogue is extremely difficult to imagine even in Minsk, as Belarus is a member of the CSTO and is a direct military ally of Russia, and the armed forces of Ukraine and Russia consider each other as potential and (or actual) opponents.
Conditionally neutral Moldova in this sense can seriously enhance its status in the regional arena and fully justify the international trust, once again quite generously vested in Chisinau. In addition, in this way, the Moldovan authorities can move the situation around their own territorial problem of left-bank Transdniestria from a dead point, which the Republic of Moldova, as it seems, can hardly seriously approach.
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