joi, 18 iunie 2015


Summary: Annexation of Crimea by the Russia, military escalation in Eastern Ukraine produced a change in region. In this new geopolitical context the influence of Transnistria on security of Moldova concerns the scenario that it can trigger a new war on the Dniester, in response to the statements of officials from Chisinau about the need to withdraw Russian troops and the replacement of them with civilian observers. In the event of bloodshed, Moscow could argue that keeping Russian peacekeepers in Moldova is still necessary.   
Transnistria influences Eastern Ukraine by example, by some cadres of the leadership in Donetsk and Lugansk. There are possible challenges to destabilize the situation in Odessa region. To reduce the possibility thereof, Kiev has proceeded to dig a trench along the Moldovan – Ukrainian border.
The influence of Transnistria on Romania's security is less pronounced, taking into account the fact that Romania is under the protection of NATO umbrella.

Keywords: Security, Frozen Conflict, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Romania.   

Transnistria is a region that formally (de jure) is part of the Republic of Moldova, but uncontrolled (de facto) by the authorities from Chisinau. 2/3 of the population of the region is Russian speakers. The region occurs "in more and more political and security analysis as one of «serious and dangerous conflict outbreaks» in NATO and EU proximity"[1]. De facto Nistrian Moldovan Republic (Transnistria) functions as a stand-alone state: it has an area of ​​about 4,100 sq km (as a county of Romania), and a population of half a million people. It is a region located between Bessarabia and Ukraine, landlocked, without an exit to Black Sea, with its capital in Tiraspol city. Transnistria has its own currency, its own passports and car specific registration plates, although not recognized by the international community. That is why "current importance (...), in fact, is due not to its intrinsic value, but to the new geopolitical situation created in South-Eastern Europe"[2].  
The current importance of Transnistria for the Russian Federation is in the fact that Moscow is using it as an instrument of its foreign policy in Eastern Europe – both in post-Soviet space (close proximity) to influence, to pressure on Moldova and keep in check Ukraine, but also in relation to the Euro-Atlantic area. Thus, the importance of the Transnistrian region is reflected in its use by Russia as a "bridgehead and important node in the context of geopolitical and geostrategic EU and NATO borders at Black Sea"[3]. Especially in the context of US military base deployment projects at Deveselu, where have to be placed antimissile systems, Russia relies on its military base in Tiraspol as a means of countering the threat emanating (as it is perceived by Russia[4]) from Romania (it is considered also the US military base in Dobrogea – in the village Mihail Kogălniceanu). Basically, the Russian military base, kept illegally in Transnistria (despite Russia's commitment at the OSCE summit in Istanbul, in1999, to withdraw the army until 2001), performs the functions that the 14th Army of the USSR had during the Cold War – which was a counterweight vis-à-vis NATO's southern flank, respectively to military capacities from Turkey and Greece. A target of the Russian army today is also Romania[5]. For the Russian Federation military base in Transnistria is a guarantee of stopping NATO expansion Eastward, over the Prut River. Meanwhile, the Russian base marks the border between the two civilization spaces: Latin – Western and Slavic – Oriental.  
So, it can be said that in the context of the USSR collapse, Moscow has used the Dniester conflict (which it did create and manage) in order "to take advantage to maintain its military presence in the area"[6]. Formally, according to Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation and to the Russian military doctrine, the Kremlin has assumed the role of defender of the Russian-speaking population in close proximity, offering to the Russian speakers from Moldova Russian citizenship – Russian passports. However, there are a few causes of conflict from the Transnistrian region of Moldova. It openly emerged on 2 September 1990, when the Nistrian Moldovan Republic (NMR), known in the media and in security studies Transnistria, was proclaimed, but was not recognized by any state until now, even by the Russian Federation that supports it totally (between 70-80% of Transnistria's budget consists of financial aid from Moscow).
However, the origins of the conflict can be identified in the "change of borders in the last century"[7], which created "ethnic differences"[8] by changing ethnic composition of the population of Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR), which during the collapse of the USSR (1990-1992) led to ethnic tensions. Within the borders of the Moldovan republic, created on 2 August 1940, did not entered southern and northern parts of Bessarabia (most of the counties Ismail, Akkerman and Hotin), but was incorporated western half of the Autonomous Republic of Moldova (MASSR), created on October 12, 1924 on the left bank of the Dniester River. The final version of the Ukrainian – Moldovan border was adopted by a decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 4 November 1940 and those boundaries are the today’s interstate Ukrainian – Moldovan border.
In order to understand the origins of conflict in the Transnistrian region of Moldova and its essence (after its hot phase, occurred between period from March 2 to July 21, 1992, where recorded over 1000 deaths) may be identified another 12 causes:
1. Political forces in Moscow (the head of the Soviet Parliament A. Lukyanov, etc.) instigated and supported the imposition of the regime that usurped power structures, as a means of blackmail on Chisinau, Moldova to maintain the USSR, and authorities Chisinau to sign the new union treaty;
2. The Moldovan Parliament adopted the law on use of languages ​​and the state flag – the tricolour, without taking onto account the reality from Transnistrian region – the reaction from there. Because in the region where located a major Russian-speaking population of settlers and Russified people who did not use Romanian/Moldovan language until 1989, these people were scared and began to take defensive measures which have led to unrecognized NMR; 
3. A large number of settlers were part of the state governing bodies (district, town) and state enterprises. Being afraid to lose their jobs and privileges, such persons proceeded to create structures of Nistrian Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (NMSSR). They did not want to share the profits of enterprises' of "union subordination" with the budget of the Republic of Moldova;
4. The existence of a large mass of Russian settlers in Tiraspol, Bender, Râbniţa and other Transnistrian cities, who did not want to be part of Moldova, which started on the path of independence and detachment from Russia;
5. Moldovan rural population, and not only that, was apathetic, confused and frightened, with a few exceptions: the villages who opposed armed resistance – Cocieri, Molovata Noua, Cosnita, Pohrebea, Pârâta, Doroţcaia etc.. Apathy was the consequence of the fear inoculated by Cossacks and "guardsmen" (the Transnistrian military forces);
6. Fear induced to the population on the left bank during the Stalinist terror – from 1917 to 1953, except for the years 1941-1944, was still felt in 1989-1992 – the period of the collapse of the USSR;
7. Some people in the Transnistrian region were more sovietised in mentality and in 1989 saw their way of life, constituted decades, ideological belief, and system of organization of life, threatened. In 1989, part of the population in the Transnistrian region was not yet ready to recognize the need for radical changes that were made in Chisinau: waiver single-party political system and communist ideology, emerge of germs of market economy, the introduction of Moldovan language in state institutions and enterprises (before was used Russian);
8. The left bank was not part of the Romanian state in the period in which Bessarabia was united with Romania (1918-1940). Consequently, there was a gap on the national consciousness of the Bessarabian and Transnistrian population; while Bessarabians pronounced for independence and freedom, many local Transnistrian Moldovans neither even did not conceived such a thing;
9. In the Soviet period, the Moldovans in Transnistria did not have enough kindergartens and schools with instruction in their mother tongue; children are forced to learn Russian language, especially in towns and villages with mixed population. Being Russified, they formed another cultural consciousness (a regional one) different from that of Moldavians from Bessarabia. The degree of Russification of Moldovans was much higher on the Left bank of the Dniester River and in Bender;
10. Soviet authorities exaggerated by propaganda and manipulation the Romanian government abuses from 1941-1944 in Transnistria. To the Transnistrian population was induced hatred and fear of Romania (Românophobia);
11. The Soviet 14th Army, stationed till now in the Transnistrian region, participated in the action of usurping power and imposing a regime of Russian military occupation;
12. Cossacks from the banks of the Don River, Russian mercenaries, soviet army reserve officers who received housing and settled in the cities of Transnistria region of Moldova before the conflict, people from force structures from other republics (especially from the Baltic) that were sheltered in Tiraspol after the putsch of August 1991, contributed significantly to the usurpation of power and imposition Russian military occupation regime.    
In conclusion, regarding the Transnistrian conflict, it can be found that although there was an ethno-political motivation, it is less important than the geopolitical motivation, since it is about a Russian-Moldovan dispute concerning a region of Moldova. Its value is linked with its positioning towards Moldova, Ukraine and proximity to the border of Euro-Atlantic area. Since 1992 "Transnistria became a black spot of the post-Soviet space"[9]. Transnistria has entered into list of a number of territorial conflicts (can be nominated Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia), control over which "allowed Russia to keep" its means of influence, its role as arbiter and saviour in conflicts in post-Soviet space, thereby justifying military presence in all parts of the CIS". As a result, the conflict in Transnistria was within the logic of maintaining Moldova in the Russian sphere of influence and prevented achieving union with Romania according to the "model of two Germanies"[10]. Thus, the Kremlin used "Transnistrian region in order to strengthen its control over Moldova, which is a constant in the Russian strategic political behaviour in post-Soviet space"[11].
In the context of the annexation of Crimea by Russia and of the conflict in the regions of Eastern Ukraine – Lugansk and Donetsk, is worth exploring the influence of unrecognized Nistrian Moldovan Republic (TMR) – Transnistria – on the security of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Romania

1. The Transnistrian case within the context of Ukrainian crisis
The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in March 2014, as well as the military escalation in Eastern regions of Ukraine (Lugansk and Donetsk), between Ukraine's state forces and pro-Russian rebels, produced a significant change in regional geopolitical context. By 2014 the two mediators and guarantors of the 5 + 2 negotiations on the Transnistrian conflict – Russian Federation and Ukraine – generally acted jointly to protract the conflict from Moldova, supporting the self-proclaimed republic. It is known that alongside Russian mercenaries (Cossacks and other categories) in the 1992 war against Moldovan police fought also several battalions of Ukrainian nationalists. After the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation the Ukrainian-Russian relations deteriorated and Kiev authorities attempted isolation of Transnistria, primarily in economic field, also imposing restrictions on persons from the Transnistrian region, crossing Ukrainian – Moldovan border on Transnistrian segment: Russian male citizens, aged 18-65 years, were banned in Ukraine. But there was attempted also a physical isolation by digging a trench on the Transnistrian segment of the Ukrainian – Moldovan border; the project was not yet completed.
There are several issues that are worth mentioning with regard to the current state of Chisinau – Tiraspol relations. In the context of seeking a solution to the Transnistrian conflict should not be underestimated the need and the importance of a high standard of living, a better state of socio-economic conditions of Moldova – factors that can make attractive Moldovan state for the population from the Transnistrian region. However, given that Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe because of corruption and bad governance of state affairs by the Executive, it is harder for the elites and for the population from the Nistrian strip to want to reintegrate into the Moldovan state with the boundaries of MSSR up to 2 September 1990. On the other hand, there are some doubts regarding the Moldovan authorities' willingness to reintegrate the Transnistrian region. Till now Moldovan officials have not developed and have not proposed for discussions in the 5 + 2 format any settlement plan. So far such plans developed and proposed the OSCE (2002), Russian Federation (Kozak plan, 2003), Ukraine (Yushchenko plane, 2004). The lack of Moldovan initiatives may be a result of the current balance of political forces in Republic of Moldova. At the last round of parliamentary elections on 30 November 2014, 56% of voters who opted to vote approximately 50% to 50% for pro-Western forces, and for the pro-Eastern parties. Voters from Transnistrian region would clearly tilt the balance in favour of the pro Customs Union (Eurasian Union) parties, so it is understandable a hypothetical hesitation of Moldovan government regarding the political will to solve the Transnistrian conflict, before accusing some lack of professionalism.
With the integration of Crimea into Russia can be admitted that the Transnistria partially has lost its geostrategic importance the Kremlin. Even by 2014 the fact that Transnistria has not an exit to the Black Sea made it vulnerable in the event of deterioration of Russian – Ukrainian relations, namely the closure of access of the Russian military forces to the area, by Ukraine and Moldova. However, it is expected that the presence of a large community of Russian citizens in the Transnistrian region will be fully exploited by the Kremlin to keep their positions on Dniester River by maximal plan is the preservation of military contingent – which has declared mission to protect the deposits filled with ammunition of the former 14th Army in Colbasna village.
2. Influence of Transnistria on security of Republic of Moldova
The implosion of the USSR in 1991 and the formation of the 15 post-Soviet states did not reduce the ambitions of the Russian Federation to promote a foreign policy "based on the idea that all the former Soviet space represents its sphere of influence, thus seeking «international recognition of its fundamental interests in this region»"[12]. After the three Baltic republics broke away permanently from the Russian sphere of influence through their integration into NATO and the EU, the Kremlin takes various measures to preserve other post-Soviet republics in its sphere, under its control. One of the tools used by Moscow in this respect in Moldova is undoubtedly the Transnistrian conflict. Basically, the stake of keeping the Transnistrian conflict in a frozen state aims keeping Moldova within the sphere of influence of Russia. The resolution of the conflict, the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent from Moldova, would be the equivalent of raising the main obstacle to Moldova's European integration; it would open up the possibility of accession of RM to the EU.
In the context of actions of approach of Republic of Moldova to the European Union, Transnistria as an uncontrolled Moldovan territory is an obstacle on the path of European integration and EU accession of the country (even more so – to NATO). 
The Transnistria tool can be used by the Russian Federation in various ways. One of the scenarios considered in the last period with a negative influence of Transnistria on the security of Republic of Moldova concerns the possibility of starting a new war on the Dniester (or defrost the existing conflict) in response to the statements of several officials from Chisinau (in first of President Nicolae Timofti) on the need to withdraw Russian troops from the territory of Moldova and the replacement of military peacekeeping mission with one of civil observers. This initiative was rejected by the Foreign Ministry from Moscow. In the event of bloodshed, the Russian authorities could argue that keeping Russian peacekeepers in Moldova and the military contingent providing security to deposits of ammunitions from Colbasna is still necessary.
Transnistria has a negative influence on Moldova also in terms of economic security. The debt of the company "Moldovagaz" to "Gazprom" is currently $ 5 bln 500 mln. 11% of this amount is the RM debt, and the rest – the debt of Transnistria. Since "Moldovagaz" is an economic entity registered in the Republic of Moldova, Moscow systematically requires Chisinau to pay the debt of Transnistrian region, which is a burden for the Moldovan state, and this is part of the strategies of Kremlin to weaken RM.

3. Influence of Transnistria on security of Ukraine
Transnistria has an undeniable influence on the security of Ukraine. Located on the Western Ukrainian border, the Transnistrian region is a part of a belt of the Russian-speaking and Russophile regions alongside Lugansk, Donetsk and Crimea, through which Ukraine is caught in a quite disturbing embrace. Since there is no a direct connection with Russia, the Nistrian strip is not a military threat comparable to that attested in Lugansk and Donetsk. However, being aware of the possibility of an attack from the Russian army in Transnistria on Odessa region, to reduce the possibility of such a scenario, the Ukrainian authorities proceeded to dig a ditch along the Transnistrian segment of the Moldovan – Ukrainian border (450 km). This trench would function as a obstacle to any attempt to invade Ukraine by Russian military contingent stationed in Eastern part of Moldova. Yet, the trench excavation project has not been completed. The fear of some possible challenges of the Russian military from the Transnistrian region to destabilize the situation in the Odessa region is based on consideration of the scenario to create the republic "Novorossiya" – from Lugansk and Donetsk to the Danube River. That is why Ukraine has placed military forces on the Transnistrian segment of the Moldovan – Ukrainian. These military forces could be used during the war in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The mere presence of Russian troops in Transnistria managed to distract forces that were kept in West, while they could have been used in East – in the conflict zone.   
Unrecognized NMR (Transnistria) influences Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk and Lugans), both by example and by some staff who worked in Tiraspol and have been co-opted to the management of the two self-proclaimed republics on Ukrainian territory (officials from Tiraspol offers Know How to structures from Lugansk and Donetsk). President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said in one of his statements to the media that he will not allow "the Transnistrization" of Eastern Ukraine[13], i.e. Russian troops in the two unrecognized "republics".
Events in Crimea and Donbas (Lugansk and Donetsk) have changed the attitude of the political elite in Kiev and of the Ukrainian society towards the Transnistrian conflict. If by 2014 some Ukrainian nationalist politicians declared that the Transnistrian territory is Ukrainian and in case of unification of Moldova with Romania it should be reincorporated into Ukraine, now their concerns to regain that strip are reduced. However, the Transnistrian authorities have taken steps to secure the area for a possible attack from the Ukrainian Nationalist formations (Right Sector, etc.) that would try to get revenge on the Russian army in Transnistria, before which suffered defeats in Donetsk and Lugansk.

4. Influence of Transnistria on security of Romania
Regional status of Romania suffered substantial improvement in 2000 years, with the country's accession to NATO (March 2004) and to the EU (January 2007). Accordingly the influence of Transnistria on the Romania's security is less pronounced, given the protection afforded by NATO umbrella (according to the Article 5 of the Treaty). It is known that the self-proclaimed NMR (Transnistria) is primarily a tool of Russia to influence the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. But it is clear that a military conflict in an active phase, at NATO and EU border would affect Romania. In such a scenario should be taken into account the possibility of refugee flows to Romania, which will request from the Romanian authorities expenses for accommodation and maintenance. Also, in the event of hostilities on the border of Romania and NATO, can not be excluded challenges regarding Romania's involvement in the conflict to destabilize the situation in the Euro-Atlantic (EU and NATO) space.
For these reasons the Romanian state must do everything possible to prevent the resumption of the frozen conflict on the Dniester. This requires both diplomatic efforts to help to resolve the conflict – possibly contributing to the elaboration of settlement plan – and strengthening defence capabilities. In the context of a special brotherly Romanian – Moldovan relationship, Bucharest can not exclude, if the field situation would demands it, the event of humanitarian interventions, to aid the civilian population and to secure the border area.

Although the conflict in the Transnistrian region remains frozen, Transnistria is still a source of instability for both Eastern Europe and throughout Europe. In the event of a wider conflict between NATO and Russian Federation, Transnistria can be involved.    
Paradoxically, the Transnistria provides a geostrategic value to the Republic of Moldova from Western perspective. Thus, US and EU support to the Republic of Moldova is also considering countering Russian influence in the region, reflected in the presence of Russian military contingent in Eastern Moldova. In addition, there is a strategic interest of both of Euro-Atlantic community and of Russia vis-à-vis Moldova, including Transnistria, because the country is located in the Black Sea area, in the space of transit gas pipeline to the EU.
There are several scenarios that can be considered regarding the evolution of the Republic of Moldova, respectively of the evolution of Transnistrian conflict:
1. In the case that Ukraine will hold its territory in South East region, in conflict with pro-Russian rebels, and will join the Euro-Atlantic space, Moldova can move decisively towards European integration and Transnistria, being isolated from Russia, will accept a status of autonomy within the Moldovan state, and its integration into the European Union, because of the economic benefits offered by the EU (outlet, investments) for the Transnistrian economic agents (outlet, investments). It is acknowledged that Russia could make this concession – could accept the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova – in exchange of a Chisinau authorities commitment to maintain the status of permanent neutrality of the country. Thus, Moldova could become a buffer zone between the Euro-Atlantic space and the Eurasian one. 
2. In the case that pro-Russians rebels, in battles with the Ukrainian army, would arrive in Odessa region, the Russian Federation could recognize the independence of Transnistria or either simply could integrate Transnistria into "Novorossiya" – a state structure which Moscow would intend to create the South-East Ukraine.  

  1. BABAN Inesa, Republica Moldova între Est și Vest, între Rusia și comunitatea euro atlantică, în GeoPolitica, anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, pp. 74-75.
  2. BALABAN Constantin – Gheorghe, Conflicte înghețate și crize la limita de est a NATO și a Uniunii Europene – obstacol major în calea cooperării și stabilității regionale, în GeoPolitica, Anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, p. 10.
  3. BLÂNDU Tudor, Crizele identitare în conflictele înghețate ale spațiului est european, în GeoPolitica, Anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, p. 25.
  4. CHAUDET, Didier, Parmentier Florent, Pélopidas Benoît, Imperiul în oglindă. Strategii de mare putere în Statele Unite și în Rusia, Chișinău: Cartier, 2008.
  5. CIOROIANU, Adrian, Geopolitica Matrioșkăi, București: Curtea Veche, 2009.
  6. FILIP, Corneliu, Dosarul Transnistria. Istoria unui „conflict înghețat”, București: Editura Institutului de Științe Politice și Relații Internaționale, 2011.
  7. MONGRENIER, Jean-Silvestre, Rusia amenință oare Occidentul?, Chișinău: Cartier, 2010.
  8. POPESCU, Nicu, Politica externă a Uniunii Europene și conflictele post-sovietice, Chișinău: Cartier, 2013. 
  9. SEREBRIAN, Oleg, Rusia la răspântie. Geostrategie, geocultură, geoeconomie, Chișinău: Cartier, 2014.   

[1] Constantin – Gheorghe BALABAN, Conflicte înghețate și crize la limita de est a NATO și a Uniunii Europene – obstacol major în calea cooperării și stabilității regionale, în GeoPolitica, Anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, p. 10.
[2] Inesa BABAN, Republica Moldova între Est și Vest, între Rusia și comunitatea euro-atlantică, în GeoPolitica, anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, pp. 74-75.  
[3] Constantin – Gheorghe BALABAN, Idem, p. 11.
[4] Daily Telegraph: Rusia ameninţă România cu rachete din cauza scutului de la Deveselu!, access 26.04.2015.
[5] Ibidem.
[6] Tudor BLÂNDU, Crizele identitare în conflictele înghețate ale spațiului est european, în GeoPolitica, Anul VI – Nr. 28, București, 2008, p.25.
[7] Constantin – Gheorghe BALABAN, Idem.
[8] Ibidem.
[9] Inesa BABAN, Idem, p. 78.
[10] Ibidem.
[11] Idem, p. 77.
[12] Ibidem, p. 73.
[13] Poroșenko: Pe teritoriul Ucrainei nu vor fi trupe de menținere a păcii, experiența Transnistriei este un argument, access 26.04.2015. 

Article published in ”Proceedings. International Conference Strategies XXI. The Complex and Dynamic Nature of the Security Environment”, June 11-12, 2015, BUCHAREST - ROMANIA, P.14-21:

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