Tricky Maneuvers of Transnistrian Settlement

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The situation around the Left Bank fuels tensions again. This is confirmed by a new wave of international attention to the Transnistrian issue.
Yesterday, despite the violent dispersal of the tent camp in Chisinau, the Shor party has arranged another street protest, albeit pushed back by law enforcement from the central square of the city. As a result, a spontaneous rally took place near the prosecutor’s office demanding to understand the actions of the police last weekend. Despite the steadily growing number of participants, the organizers are in no hurry to escalate and, apparently, are waiting for suitable occasions. And there will most likely be reasons, especially given the latest uncertainty in the energy sector. Last week, the Transnistrian administration announced that it was refusing to supply the volumes of electricity contracted by Chisinau due to a lack of gas and leaving them at a level of only 30%. Thus, from today there is a significant deficit in the country’s energy system and, consequently, the risk of power outage during peak consumption. In addition, regardless of the decisions that the government will resort to, an increase in the tariff for consumers is almost inevitable due to an increase in the purchase price. At the same time, it is likely that the leadership of the republic will still be able to agree with its neighbors and start buying the missing volumes in Ukraine. Despite the complex situation, Kyiv has a supply of electricity due to the stopped production and the existing potential of generating capacities. In addition, not so long ago, Maia Sandu mentioned Andriy Spinu’s conversations with Ukrainian colleagues in a raised voice. Perhaps a month ago, Kyiv knew something and tried to convince the Deputy Prime Minister in advance to refuse supplies from MoldGRES in favor of Ukrainian producers. The Transnistrian authorities claim that, unlike the right bank, they have a small margin of safety and have additional reserves of solid fuel in order to provide the left bank with electricity for two months in the event of a complete cessation of gas supplies. However, the provision of electricity does not solve the problems that arise against the background of a lack of gas for the entire block. Therefore, taking into account the stoppage of production at several large enterprises in the region, Tiraspol appealed to Moscow with a request to provide economic assistance. It cannot be ruled out that the next energy cataclysms provoked by Moscow will lead to a sharp increase in social tension and further internal political destabilization in Moldova. At the same time, a characteristic feature of the current situation is that Moscow does not voice any threats and demands, and the announcement of problems is entrusted to Tiraspol. One gets the feeling that the Russian Federation has handed over additional levers of influence on Chisinau to the hands of the left-bank administration in order to either force it to resolve specific issues, or to seat it at the negotiating table in order to determine the model for a final settlement. In addition, the efforts of politicians, media and network resources loyal to Moscow attempt to militarize the Transnistrian settlement. Over the past few weeks, there has been an active information pump up about the intention of Chisinau by military means to solve its tasks on the left bank of the Dniester. This is primarily due to the increased frequency of the Moldovan military exercises in partnership with foreign contingents. The concentration of militaristic rhetoric reached such proportions that the authorities were forced to issue a refutation and declare that they managed to maintain stability and dialogue between the parties, having no plans to destabilize the already fragile situation in the region. Last week, we evidenced another wave of international attention to the Transnistrian settlement. The new head of the OSCE Mission in Chisinau, Kelly Keiderling, began to flicker on the radars meeting representatives of both the central authorities and the Transnistrian region. Moreover, today the OSCE representative Thomas Mayer-Harting arrived in Moldova, whose visit some experts associate with a possible aggravation and some gap between the banks, which is unlikely to have a positive impact on the overall regional situation. The current phase of the energy crisis is capable of destroying the existing status quo during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, namely the contract between Chisinau and Tiraspol, which is based on the energy contract and the Moldova Steel Works. Until now, it has ensured the functionality of other agreements in the field of agriculture, transport, education, etc. Despite the statements of Oleg Serebrian that such an energy-metallurgical deal saved more than a billion lei and, apparently, the authorities are ready to extend it, there is no reciprocal readiness from Tiraspol yet. This means that the further nature of the relationship between the banks of the Dniester becomes unpredictable. The resuscitation of the Transnistrian issue can also be explained by calendar. We are talking about preparations for the annual meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council to be held in early December. By the way, it was precisely the coordination of actions between Chisinau and Kyiv on the eve of this event that was recently discussed by representatives of the Bureau for Reintegration and the official representative of Ukraine in the negotiation process. Most likely, the international players have decided to get down to work on the annual declaration on the Transnistrian settlement. This document specifies the basic parameters and principles for the settlement of relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, allowing, among other things, our authorities to further appeal to the formula agreed by the international community, which preserves territorial integrity and the need to grant a special status to Pridnestrovie. Taking into account Poland’s chairmanship of the OSCE, the final summit will most likely be held in Warsaw, and the situation in Ukraine will certainly become the central topic. If the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation remains tense till December, it is quite possible that Russian representatives will not dare to leave for the Polish capital, both in terms of personal security and the inevitability of a demonstrative diplomatic “flogging”. We have to understand exactly how Moscow will behave in relation to the declaration on the Transnistrian settlement. Should we expect inertial tactics, or will there be an attempt to disrupt the approval of the document. It cannot be ruled out that under the conditions of energy pressure, and with it political pressure on Chisinau, Russian diplomats will try to get additional concessions from our authorities in order to include them in the final statement and thereby set a certain trajectory for the settlement.