Geopolitical players bring talks on the fate of regions beyond the control of Kyiv and Chisinau out of hibernation
In the spotlight
As soon as the power of the “Servant of the People” was established in Ukraine, a rapid revival began around the settlement of the conflict in the East of the country. Volodymyr Zelensky gained unprecedented control over all branches of government, which created a convenient moment for the long overdue re-opening of the dialogue on the situation in Donbas.
The first shot is believed to be the Ukraine-initiated telephone conversation between Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, who launched an active phase of negotiations on the exchange of prisoners. Despite the fact that the dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow is not easy, we must not miss a landmark moment — for the first time in a long time, the Ukrainian leadership is acting in the nature of a compromise. Kyiv even agreed to release Volodymyr Tsemakh, one of the key witnesses in the case of the downed Malaysian Boeing in 2014.
This step has already caused a mixed response in society and a negative reaction of some partners in the West, but it gave the desired effect: following it almost immediately, Vladimir Putin personally announced the close exchange of prisoners, calling it “a good step towards the normalization of bilateral relations”. Another conciliatory decision of Kyiv was the proposal to return Russian observers to Donbas, to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) on ceasefire. Recall that they left the territory of the ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ at the end of 2017 under pressure from the Ukrainian side.
Even these small steps were inconceivable for the regime of ex-President Petro Poroshenko, which blindly followed the model of tough confrontation. Now it is obvious that the conflict logic is gradually giving way to pragmatism: the exchange of prisoners was considered by many observers to be a key moment for the resumption of the Normandy format – and, apparently, for a reason. On September 2, an eight-hour meeting of political advisers of the Normandy four leaders was held in Berlin, which means that the summit of the leaders of the four is not far off. Another symptomatic point is the likely involvement of US representatives in the negotiations, which Kyiv insists on (and which does not seem to be strongly hindered by Russia, Germany and France). If Washington does join the four, the international configuration of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine will be almost identical to the one that has developed in the negotiation process on the unrecognized ‘TMR’.
There are also positive developments in Transdniestria itself, after a period of ‘stagnation’. So far Chisinau have not had time to come to grips with the Transdniestrian issue: in the first place the new Moldovan authorities were concerned about the unblocking of international financial assistance and the prosecution of the leaders of the former regime, along the elimination of their criminal schemes.
Now attention to Transdniestria is growing. Not without an impulse from the outside: the pace, as usual, is set by international partners. The recent visit of Shoigu and his initiative to dispose of expired ammunition in Cobasna, which was immediately supported in the United States, open the way to the rapprochement of the two geopolitical giants, and as a result to a completely different dynamics and meaning of the international dialogue on the future of the region. A new round of talks in the 5+2 format will be held in October, in addition, at about the same time, Transdniestrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky is expected to meet with the President of Moldova Igor Dodon.
Apparently, the processes in Donbas and Transdniestria are built in parallel logic. In both cases, the restart of the talks was preceded by a strong-willed ‘replacement’ by the West of toxic and discredited oligarchic regimes in Kyiv and Chisinau. They were replaced, as in Ukraine, by people of a completely different type, or by ruling coalitions, which until recently seemed unreal – as in Moldova. They have one thing in common that is a fundamentally different policy agenda, if only because the population of the two countries hardly expects the new government to behave the same way as the deposed Plahotniuc and Poroshenko.
In fact, both Europe and Russia have an almost unique period of time when the leaders of Moldova and Ukraine can and seek to find constructive approaches to cooperation with Moscow and Brussels. The chance to resolve the long-standing and relatively new geopolitical problems of Europe such as unrecognized Transdniestria and still warring Donbas is more than obvious.
The only thing out of the equation of the ongoing processes is the final destination and profits of all parties to the settlement. Certainly Moscow expects to receive totally different benefits in Donbas and Transdniestria besides the general warming of relations with the West. In particular, the Kremlin may assume quite exotic targets in Moldova, offering slow and steady disposal of ammunition in Transdniestria on their own.
One way or another, none of the goals of the world players on the Moldovan and Ukrainian tracks can be achieved bypassing the problems of Donbas and Transdniestria. This means that the processes around the self-proclaimed republics in the near future will only accelerate.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.