Amidst Azerbaijan’s new military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with the capitulation of the region, some experts began to speculate about the application of this experience to the Transnistrian settlement. However, as current events suggest, our territorial conflict needs a completely different tactic of action
The zone of international instability is expanding, now that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has entered another phase of aggravation. After the most diverse statements at the highest level in Yerevan and Baku, as experts assumed, the denouement around the Karabakh region has come. The day before, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense announced the launch of an anti-terrorist operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The goals are to restore the constitutional order and eliminate illegal armed formations.
In turn, Yerevan declared the absence of its forces in the separatist region and called on international partners to provide assistance to stop Baku’s aggression. At the same time, the Armenian authorities refused any military countermeasures to protect the Karabakh population and demanded that Russia respond with a peacekeeping contingent. In addition, the Armenian ambassador-at-large asked the United States to intervene in the situation. A day after the start of the military operation, Washington made a statement on the need to stop hostilities, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Following the disputes between Moscow and Yerevan, which became public, Baku, presumably, decided to take advantage of the opportunity’s window (perhaps with the Kremlin’s permission) to take final control by force of the rebellious region, which has existed for more than 30 years as an unrecognized state. To all appearances, Baku succeeded: already today Karabakh has announced its capitulation.
Interestingly, Moscow took a watch-and-wait stance, reacting moderately to what was happening. Moscow was worried only about its own peacekeepers stationed in the region. For two days, they were engaged in evacuating the civilian population and also mediated a ceasefire agreement.
Other regional actors have also called on to cease hostilities and resort to international mechanisms, including the UN, to stabilize the situation. By the way, this whole week is passing under the banner of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. So, if the parties wanted to draw attention, this escalation has come at the right time.
Some experts in our country found it useful to draw lessons and learn from Azerbaijan’s successful experience in resolving the longstanding frozen conflict. In their opinion, Moscow’s reduced role in Armenia has created favorable conditions for ending an old dispute, going back to the Soviet period. Of course, the level of Russia’s influence in the South Caucasus is an open question, but the direct extrapolation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation to the banks of the Dniester looks more than contrived.
In order to cool down some hotheads, it is quite appropriate to refer to the recent statements of parliamentary speaker Igor Grosu, one of our political hawks, who shared the opinion that “there should be no hurry in the Transnistrian settlement process”. He believes that Chisinau has achieved quite good results. First of all, it managed to preserve stability and peace in the region, and now we should wait for the right moment.
Despite all the similarities between Karabakh and Transnistria, with Russian military presence, support from Moscow and a certain structure of the negotiation process with international participation, the situation in the South Caucasus is very different from ours. First of all, we should take into account that the unresolved conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol is in a different regional space and is influenced by a completely different factors, therefore, the final resolution of the problem will be absolutely different.
It is worth to mention the latest statement by the head of the MFAEI that the territory controlled by Chisinau can join the European Union regardless of what happens in the east of the country, including the situation in Transnistria. According to Nicu Popescu, no one wants to see divided countries within the EU, but “keeping countries at the mercy of geopolitical manipulation and separatist conflicts would be even worse for the continent and for Moldova.” This indicates that a qualitatively different tactic is likely to be applied to the Transnistrian settlement, largely via the soft engagement of the region and its adaptation to new living conditions, not without Kyiv’s participation.
We could ignore the working meeting that took place not so long ago in Chisinau between Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebrian and Ukrainian Ambassador-at-Large Paun Rohovei. Judging by the press releases, they did not discuss anything special. However, it is noteworthy that the repair of a railway bridge blown up back in early 2022 in Ukraine, which is located at the junction of the Transnistrian section of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, followed after the meeting.
It is hard to imagine that Chisinau has radically reconsidered its position and that, according to the logic of the MFAEI chief, we do not care what happens on the eastern borders. Most likely, Ukraine, which seeks to maximize its logistical opportunities, plays the decisive role in what is happening. It should be assumed that Kyiv and Chisinau are already working to restore routes and transport corridors, including through the Transnistrian region, for Ukrainian agricultural products, without fearing military threats as before. In addition, our authorities may be ready to listen to the hopes of Tiraspol, as confirmed by the meeting on economic issues held yesterday after a two-year break.
Amidst such cooperation, it is likely that in the near future we will witness more and more signals aimed at de-escalation of the regional situation. For instance, Mircea Geoana, NATO Deputy Secretary General, who visited Chisinau recently, quite calmly stated that he sees no signs of Russian military resources which can ensure connection with the Transnistrian region, and therefore there are no grounds for worry and anxiety.
If we draw parallels with the situation around the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, our picture is completely different and the processes undergo their own special geopolitical scenario in conditions of growing international instability. A number of signs are already pointing to attempts to reduce tension and to include the left bank in current business processes and supply chains that enhance economic activity.