The current Bucharest and Brussels’ approaches synchronization to the Transdniestrian problem is largely tactical in nature and does not mean that Romania has abandoned its dissenting opinion regarding the final conflict resolution formula
The Republic of Moldova is traditionally one of the priority directions of the Romanian foreign policy. Bucharest is showing a keen interest in the neighboring republic and is trying to achieve the role if not of a leader, then at least of an important organizational force in the political fate of the Moldovan state. Close coexistence and even being part of a single country (from 1918 to 1940), including all derivatives of this difficult historical period has left a deep imprint on the national consciousness of Romanians and Moldovans, giving rise to endless disputes on the topic of kinship, identity and statehood.
Meanwhile, Romania’s increased attention to its closest neighbor and a special policy of bilateral relations with Chisinau implementation is still resting against the harsh reality of the left bank of the Dniester, forcing Bucharest to formulate and adhere to an isolated position towards this difficult region. It so happened that sincere closeness between the two countries does not have the best effect on Transdniestrian settlement prospects. It is believed the unionist slogans sounding loudly in the streets of Chisinau in the early 90s to became one of the driving forces of protest movement in Tiraspol.
The left bank of the Dniester topic is not new and one way or another, has long been present in the internal political discourse of Romania. Throughout the XX century, Romanian scientists have repeatedly tried to form a more or less clear idea of the Romanian statehood geographical area. As a result, the ideological inspirers of Romanian geopolitics quite clearly drawn the so-called Eastern Frontier on maps, periodically shifting it starting from the right-bank Dniester region and ending with the Bug River (modern Ukraine). According to well-known Romanian ideologists, both rivers are of great strategic importance in terms of delimiting Europe and Eurasia, the Latin and Slavic civilizational space. In addition, according to the Bucharest thinkers, effective control over the Danube river system makes it possible to firmly hold Russian expansionist aspirations on the Dniester-Bug borders.
For the most part, modern Romanian politicians rely on their classics’ conceptual views and proceed from the importance of crowding out the Russian factor as deeply as possible. Moreover, just as several decades ago, Romania is still bearing the burden of a border area ensuring the Euro-Atlantic space security. At present, Bucharest has been entrusted with complex tasks to stop any military-political risks in the zone of responsibility, the source of which might as well be the unresolved conflict in neighboring Moldova or the Russian troops illegally deployed there.
Thus, the Transdniestrian issue acquired a certain geopolitical significance for Romania, primarily due to its deterrent function not allowing for a strategic deepening in the Moldovan direction. It is no secret that it is precisely the maintenance of the political subjectivity of the left bank of the Dniester that remains the main obstacle hindering the development of an intensive and systemic rapprochement between Moldova and NATO institutions.
Romania began formulating its strategic attitude towards the rebellious region most clearly after the settlement crisis in 2006. The National Security Strategy, identified then the conflict in the Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova being among main threats to security and factors of instability in the Black Sea basin. The presence of unauthorized foreign troops near Romania was mentioned in 2010 in a similar document as one of significant threats.
Since 2009, during the period of well-known political transformations in Moldova, the Romanian side for the first time made active attempts to involve in the Transdniestrian settlement process, thus, Romanian diplomats began furnishing ideas about the need for Romania’s direct participation in resolving the conflict, not limiting itself only to general approaches agreed at the Brussels level. However, despite the tough and principled position and the particular importance of the Moldovan direction, official Bucharest was never able to offer its conceptual vision of resolving the problem of the left bank (unlike Ukraine, for which the Moldovan-Transdniestrian region is also of great importance). The practical developments of the Romanian expert community, both modern and earlier do not contain any novelty and originality since they provide for a temporary abandonment of the left bank and the rapid integration of the right banked Moldova into Western structures.
At the same time, despite the existing ideological vacuum, Romania’s increased interest in the Transdniestrian settlement along with its potential influence on this process become an objective factor that even major international players could mention. Recall, back in 2010, at a time when European and Russian leaders came close to resolving the conflict on the banks of the Dniester, the Russian President publicly admitted that determining the final solution on the Transdniestrian issue depends among other things, on the position of Romania.
Today Bucharest continues to firmly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, while not showing any independence in the process of the Transdniestrian settlement and acting in it in a collegial format, i.e. in line with the common European position. Nevertheless, Bucharest and Brussels’ approaches synchronization is largely tactical and does not mean at all that has abandoned its dissenting opinion regarding the final conflict resolution formula. The Moldovan-Pridnestrovian region remains a zone that apart from the geopolitical significance also bears an important for the Romanian state ideological one; over the last thirty years, this significance has created a solid framework of its influence on neighboring Moldova and has become an obvious factor that will have to be taken into account when developing a model for resolving the conflict.
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