Opinion: “Any Threats to the Security of the Country Must Be Removed”

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Sergiu CEBAN
Removing any elements threatening Moldova’s security in the current geopolitical conditions should become a priority for the country’s leadership, including in the reviving Transnistrian settlement
Last week, the Transnistrian settlement process began to show life signs: the main negotiators from Chisinau and Tiraspol met for the first time in several months. Judging by the dry press releases, the conversation was short-lived and its participants were sticking to listing pressing problems. Nevertheless, there seems to be a joint desire to continue negotiations, including in industry working groups and the 5+2 format. In general, it is clear that with the appointment of a new deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, we can expect a revival around the Transnistrian issue. Especially now, considering the events taking place in the region, it really needs the closest attention of the authorities. No one needs the situation in this zone to start getting out of control, and in this context, our development partners have considerable interest in the topic. Therefore, during the week, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebrian managed to see representatives of almost all key players: the United States, OSCE, Germany, Russia and Poland. It is worth saying that all sorts of events temporarily shifted the Transnistrian case to the periphery of the country’s internal political life. There were even ideas to freeze relations with the left bank until better times. This is what would have happened if not for all the external factors threatening a sharp destabilization of the status quo around the Transnistrian problem. Experts reasonably urge the leadership to take the situation into their own hands. After all, whether we want it or not, Moldova, with an unresolved conflict on its territory, is becoming part of a large regional game with an outcome and consequences for our country that are not yet completely clear. A few days ago, Maia Sandu, perhaps for the first time since the “initiative” visits of Moscow and Tiraspol to discuss the political settlement of the conflict, made several interesting statements on the Transnistrian topic at once. First, the president stated that she had not seen any “plans” for the left bank when discussing the gas contract, but at the same time Dmitry Kozak was allegedly convinced that the conflict could be resolved very quickly. Sandu herself believes that the decision should be based on both domestic and international consensus. The President also “noted” in an interview with a Romanian TV channel, leaving no illusions for Moscow that Chisinau would turn a blind eye to the past and, as if nothing had happened, decide to complete the Transnistrian settlement. The most resonant words were that the armed conflict in Transnistria was an attempt by certain forces to prevent the independence of the Moldovan state, and that Russia sent its people to participate in hostilities against our country. As for visiting the Russian capital, the probability is still vague. Apparently, our leader has nothing much to negotiate with Vladimir Putin yet. Although, according to Maia Sandu, there are signals from Moscow about possible progress on the disposal of ammunition in Cobasna depots. This topic became one of the central ones during the recent MFAEI delegation’s trip to Moscow. They also talked about resuming the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed on the left bank of the Dniester, which could follow after the elimination of weapons depots. In the meantime, apparently, the government is trying to maintain stability, including the economic situation of the left bank, which, in fact, lead to another wave of criticism from the right-wing opposition and representatives of civil society. We are talking about the petition of the Cabinet of Ministers to the European Commission with a request to lift the ban on the export of scrap metal to Moldova, that is, to supply the steelworks in Ribnita. There were no attempts made to figure out the reasons for this decision or the leadership’s explanations, but it became obvious that there is a serious demand in society for a tough policy towards the Transnistrian region and local business. By the way, against this background, in Transnistria, the OGRF exercises are held almost weekly, and while all international attention is focused on the Russian-Ukrainian border, the situation here is also changing rapidly and not for the better. The President recently, of course, tried to reassure everyone that Chisinau is closely monitoring how things unfold on the left bank of the Dniester and that the actions of Russian troops in the region has not changed. But it is difficult to fully believe in such pacifying statements when, almost at the same time, the head of government is talking about the need to increase defense spending in the state budget. Increased attention to the topic of security and unfinished conflicts on the continent, personnel appointments, Moscow’s obvious desire to deal with the Transnistrian case – all this indicates that a certain restart of the Transnistrian settlement is around the corner. And, therefore, we need to prepare for any scenario. The results of the recent negotiations on Donbass, in which Dmitry Kozak personally took part, turned out to be unsuccessful. This once again confirmed Washington’s lack of desire to seriously put pressure on Kiev to make concessions to the Kremlin, which believes that the time has come for final (and positive for the Kremlin) decisions on Donbass and Transnistria. Therefore, despite the possible surge of activity on the Transnistrian topic, at least we can count on a space for wide maneuver and setting the most advantageous position for ourselves, which is likely to be supported by our partners in the West. Some experts have long said that the actions of the republic’s leadership should not be limited only to trying not to annoy Moscow excessively. It is quite strange to constantly state the “need for the withdrawal of Russian troops” and at the same time not to talk about the direct danger emanating from the Transnistrian paramilitary structures and OGRF. So, on the eve of the next 5+2 meeting, it would be necessary to come up with several important initiatives affecting, first of all, the security sphere. It is this moment that should become a priority, because in the current regional conditions, the most important thing is the removal of any elements that threaten the security of the republic. It can also create a good basis for a final political settlement, which is extremely unlikely in the current context.