Last week, Igor Dodon said that the presidential administration has prepared a concept of a special status of Transdniestria within the Republic of Moldova as a “very strong autonomy”. The head of state is going to discuss it with his partners in the anti-oligarchic coalition in the Moldovan Parliament: that is, with the ACUM bloc.
It is no secret that the topic of the Transdniestrian settlement is one of the pillars for the political project called “Igor Dodon”. Since the Party of Socialists was established, Dodon has regularly generated various reintegration concepts for the Left Bank: in 2013, the PSRM presented a project of the country’s federalization. After taking the Presidential office, Dodon tried to make a weak, almost nominal presidency a functional state institution, including trying to become an important participant to the negotiations on Transdniestria. However, the President’s constant attempts to force the Moldovan politicians to discuss the model of the Transdniestrian settlement caused only irritation. Intentionally or not, Igor Dodon only strengthened the desire of official Chisinau to postpone this unpopular topic in Moldovan society, which became even more toxic and dangerous at the time of Plahotniuc’s overthrow. Hidden camera videos in the Moldovan media showed that Transdniestria is a ‘hot potato’ for politicians who seek to throw it to each other.
A similar situation exists with the new partners of the socialists from the ACUM bloc, when during the first months Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon talked about the lack of necessary external prerequisites for a thorough discussion on the formula for a political settlement of the Left Bank problem. If we sum up all the statements of Prime Minister Sandu and Head of the MFAEI Nicu Popescu, it becomes clear that the right bloc in Moldova is not ready to make the Transdniestrian issue a priority and include it in the government’s agenda.
The situation with Igor Dodon is the opposite. In August-September, after a visit of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his statements on depots in Cobasna, Transdniestria, the Moldovan President again stirs up the issue of “serious dialogue” with Tiraspol. Igor Dodon gently offers the public some kind of averaged ‘non-federal’ idea of “enhanced autonomy”. This means that for the first time since the video in Plahotniuc’s office, the Presidential administration is probing public opinion and the mood in the camp of allies. Igor Dodon need to understand the partners’ attitude to the Transdniestrian agenda, as it will largely determine the rhetoric of the head of state at the UN General Assembly in the United States at the end of the month.
Does the pro-European bloc need all this? Definitely not. In this environment, a major objective for political advisors of ACUM bloc is freezing of the political debate on the Transdniestrian settlement: reliable, so as not to stir the pot, and smart, so as not to break up the coalition.
It should be recalled that during the election race Igor Dodon promoted the idea of the so-called “big package for Moldova” presented even at the annual Munich Conference. Then the future political partners of Dodon Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase harshly criticized the President’s projecting.
The position of the right-wing forces has not fundamentally changed and will be based on the simple consideration that there can be no international consensus on Moldova, since the interests of global powers do not clash in Moldova. Here Igor Dodon rests on the mutual promise of socialists and ACUM to move away from geopolitics. In response to all the President’s ideas to agree on the future of Moldova with the big players, the pro-Europeans will be asking “what geopolitics?”. Therefore, international conferences in the spirit of forums on Syria, Iran or Afghanistan are extremely unlikely, and international players will simply continue the positional game on the field of the weakened Moldovan state. The inventions by the Moldovan President like “guaranteed international neutrality”, as history shows in the case of the Budapest Memorandum, are hard to be taken seriously.
Pro-Western forces in Moldova fundamentally believe that any projects on the Transdniestrian conflict settlement proposed by Dodon, “are cliched by the Kremlin”. As you know, Moscow’s main objective is to maintain its positions in Moldova, including its military presence and political influence on the left-bank voters. So when Dodon talks about the potential
success story in Moldova” meaning the Transdniestrian settlement, the ACUM bloc sees this as a Moscow’s success only.
It is obvious that the pro-Western forces dominating Moldova, both in power and in opposition, will never accept a settlement plan in which Transdniestria gains real political rights within Moldova. The case of 2003 is interesting not only because in the latest moment ‘demons’ bent Vladimir Voronin. No matter how pro-Russian the Communists were then, even they realized at the finish line in 2003 that the proposed format of relations with Tiraspol would result in a serious weakening of Chisinau as the political center of the country. Although the former PSRM insiders, of course, do not admit it – it is more profitable to blame external forces.
It is obvious that the pro-Western Moldovan politicians will avoid the Transdniestrian theme to the last and distance themselves from it as far as possible, only strengthening the further separation of the two banks. In this context, the statements of Vladimir Bruter, an expert of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies, that the Moldovan state can no longer be built without the participation of Transdniestria seem rather unpleasant, but justified. According to the expert, it is impossible to first build a state, taking all decisions in Chisinau, and then offer Tiraspol to join them. The Transdniestrian issue, according to Bruter, must be resolved either by returning the territory of Transdniestria to the Moldovan political field, or by the final division of the two banks of the Dniester.
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