Are Tensions around Moldova Scaling Down?

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Sergiu CEBAN
It seems that a “war-jittery” wave that hit Moldova in April after the statements of the Russian military command and Ukrainian officials is gradually rolling back, at least for now
After another series of incidents, the situation on the left bank of the Nistru is still anything but calm. The local authorities decided to extend the high level of terrorist threat until May 25. The nature of last week’s attacks can be interpreted as a hidden message to the Tiraspol administration that any mobilization plans in the region should better be abandoned. Yet, there is still no certainty as to the origin and authors of these new incidents. The only thing that is definitively clear is that there are indeed forces who have a huge interest in further anxiety on the Nistru banks. At the same time, Kyiv’s clearly improved rhetoric regarding the Transdniestrian region cannot but rejoice. For example, Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with a European media outlet that the Ukrainian military no longer believes that paramilitary groups in Transdniestria pose any real threat. Kyiv, of course, in no way disregards the risks, including those posed by the Russian grouping in Tiraspol, but does not consider them dangerous for itself. In this softened stance we can see that Ukraine, at least for now, does not feel it necessary to wage a military operation against our left-bank territories. Another major sign of stabilization were the statements by U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Kent Doyle Logsdon. He confirmed that the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau is fully staffed and operating as usual. Moreover, according to Logsdon, despite the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, Washington has currently no evidence that Moscow is intent to export the conflict to Moldova. It is fair to say that the U.S. Ambassador’s words had only soothing effects on the public, after national intelligence chief Avril Haines recently stated during her speech in the Senate that Russia had a desire to build a land bridge to Transdniestria. The American intelligence reports were also refuted by Russian representatives. The other day, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy responded to the statements made not only in Washington but also by the Russian military about the “corridor” to Moldova’s borders by saying that all such comments had nothing to do with Moscow’s official stance. And the main goal of the military operation is ostensibly to save Donbass. The deluge of reckless and aggressive statements and accusations relayed by various capitals in recent weeks has predictably gone too far, and the situation had to be defused somehow. Of course, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Western countries – all have militarist-minded political forces interested in fomenting the flames of war as much as possible, so as to accelerate the current pivotal stage of history. Last week, however, this matter was seemingly brought to a close. It became clear that the international community is not interested in escalating the situation around Moldova - at least for now. It is for this reason that our country was mentioned in the final statement of the G7 meeting. The G7 foreign ministers expressed their concern about the attempts to exacerbate the situation in the Transdniestrian region and reaffirmed their support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Now, with such an international “consensus”, we need to send a firm message to those forces that are tempted to draw Chisinau into the conflict. By the way, Nicu Popescu made it clear that the government condemns artificial tension and hysteria on both banks of the Nistru. In addition, Popescu conveyed Chisinau’s principled position on our intention to resolve the Transdniestrian conflict only through diplomacy both to Kyiv and Moscow. The former should understand that no one will request their help in restoring constitutional control over the left bank by force, while the latter should not fear and plan all kinds of land corridors. By the way, the UN Secretary General, during his recent visit to Moldova, also noted that our state is “on the frontline of preservation peace and stability”. At the same time, António Guterres expressed the hope that all the actors on both banks of the Nistru River would show a sense of responsibility and do everything to prevent any threat to Moldova. Tiraspol, as always, interprets the calls of international partners in its own way. Nevertheless, the leader of the left bank also stated that the Transdniestrian settlement should be achieved peacefully, “in a democratic and evolutionary” way, without military actions and losses. No doubt that the local political and business groups are not tuned to a confrontational scenario, but rather are interested in maintaining working relations with Chisinau. We should also note the reciprocal openness on the part of the government. Many experts have already commented on the deal reached by the parties late in April. Despite the criticism, it helped defuse much of tension that had accumulated between the banks of Nistru over the past few months. Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu is already optimistic that we will manage to reach an agreement with Tiraspol and the Moldovan GRES again, so that we can get electricity at favorable prices in the coming months. It seems that the “war-jittery” wave that hit us in April after the statements of the Russian military command and Ukrainian officials is gradually rolling back, and the probability of Moldova’s involvement in military action is much reduced. Chisinau and Tiraspol are slowly accepting the idea that in the current context cooperation, despite the diametrical views on the conflict resolution formula, is a much better option than further squabbles with the risk of unfreezing the conflict. It will hardly be possible to completely defuse tensions around our country before the end of hostilities in Ukraine, especially if they are not localized to the Donbass region. However, it is important for our leadership to demonstrate that the internal and external policies mainly seek to consolidate the economic potential, develop the country and distance itself as much as possible from the militaristic logic of regional processes.