Moldova and Transdniestria: From “Mutual Trust” to Mutual Pressure Measures

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Sergey Ceban While Moscow and Kiev are busy with internal affairs, the confrontation between Moldova and Transdniestria is gaining momentum. The beginning of this week got rich in events, most of which can have a key impact on the course of events in Moldova same as on the Transdniestrian settlement process. On January 14, Tiraspol hosted the first 2020’s meeting of the political representatives of Moldova and Transdniestria, Alexandru Flenchea and Vitaly Ignatiev. Based on a whole range of negative aspects related to the disappearance of the “deserter” Rjavitin and transport bans for left-bank cars, the general dialogue background turned out not the most favorable one. The final statements of the negotiators, with all the restrained optimism could not inspire much confidence that Chisinau and Tiraspol would be able to agree on most acute problems. This confirmed the fact that the same day evening the leader of the Transdniestrian administration held a meeting of the local “Security Council” to discuss the central theme, and namely the ban on transport with the Transdniestrian numbers at the Moldovan checkpoints. A press release that appeared after, stated that political and diplomatic tools "are losing effectiveness", therefore "various response reaction measures the adoption of which will protect the interests and rights of residents of the left bank" were carried over for consideration. At present, there is no detailed information about the mentioned “response measures”, however, the general tone of Tiraspol’s declarations is alarming - after all, in recent years, the Transdniestrian settlement has not observed such parties’ readiness for mutual pressure. It seems that the conflict potential in the region is far from exhausted, and the peaceful course of the Transdniestrian issue without international trusteeship still has its limits. Meanwhile, as it became known, during the yesterday’s meeting of the Moldovan government, it was once again decided to postpone the introduction of the second phase of joint control at the Kuchurgan checkpoint until August ,1 current year. It is hardly likely that the decision of the Moldovan authorities was made under Tiraspol’s pressure or in order to convince the left-bank leaders to soften their positions in the context of the rigid line implementation in the Transdniestrian direction. It seems that the key factor in this case was the position of Kiev, which simply did not agree on the Moldovan representatives control strengthening functions on its territory. Thus, Ukraine solidified with the common position of Washington, Brussels and Bucharest on the need to minimize assistance to the current government of Moldova and personally to Igor Dodon. No less significant for the Transdniestrian settlement is the launch of political reconfiguration in Russia. A shift in attention to domestic political processes can also negatively affect regional stability. Since in the given conditions, it is namely Moscow that can make a decisive contribution to the de-escalation of the situation and return the dialogue of Chisinau with Tiraspol to a stable channel having good contacts with the leadership of both banks. Despite the fact that in the very near future Moscow will not change anything radical on the Moldovan agenda, the launched reform of the Russian political system will inevitably lead to personnel reshuffles. Therefore, the main issue today is the professional prospects of Dmitry Kozak, as well as a number of other Russian officials who are responsible for the Moldovan direction. It is also not yet clear what will happen to the visit of the Russian Prime Minister to Moldova, taking into account the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev. It is curious that personnel changes in the near future are expected in Ukraine. Now there’s unfolding a scandal on the leaked to internet working – meeting of Prime Minister Aleksey Honcharuk where he speaks impartially about the country's president Volodymyr Zelensky. One can confidently state that the predictable aggravation in the Transdniestrian settlement is now taking on distinct forms, especially against the backdrop of difficult internal processes in both Moscow and Kiev. It seems that the current situation provides Chisinau and Tiraspol with a unique chance to independently get out of the deep crisis without any preconditions and instructions from the outside.