Mittwoch, 25. April 2012

Transnistria: From the Department of Nothing Left to Loose

Russia meanwhile appointed Dimitry Rogozin not only as Deputy Prime Minister, but also as “Russian presidential envoy for Transnistria” and as the Russian head of the Russia-Moldova intergovernmental cooperation commission. These steps are really lovely moves, since Russia previously only had special envoys for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What this amounts to is nothing less than an implicit endorsement of Moldova's partition. Russia is moving quickly to establish more direct relations between Moscow and Tiraspol, Chisinau increasingly finds itself bypassed or over-ruled. As if this would not be enough, Russia has also signalled that it will introduce new and better equipment to its forces in Transnistria, a move that would normally need the host nation's consent. That of course would be Moldova and the government in Chisinau would surely reject any such permission. But Moscow is unlikely to even ask. And in contrast to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Moscow is not on route to recognise any sort of independence. In fact, Rogozin is a strong nationalist and just like his new boss, Vladimir Putin, he regards it as the Kremlin's duty to protect all citizens of the former Soviet Union and that includes Transnistria. During the last presidential elections, Moscow had opened 24 polling stations in Transnistria, again without seeking Moldova's approval. Rogozin explicitly stated that in order to resolve the conflict, Moldova should recognise Russian authority over the region and refuse the participation of what he calls non-involved powers, a not so subtle hint at the European Union and the United States.

The Kremlin obviously does not mince words. And in a way it does not have to. If Moldova does not obey Russia's suggestions, or seeks membership in the EU or NATO or wants to become part of Romania, Russia might always move to recognise Transnistria. And if Moldova does not move, so won't the Kremlin. The status quo, after all, benefits Russia more than it does any other country. But it is also indicative of a foreign policy, in which Russia tries to re-assert itself. The message its sending is clear: It feels entitled to predominance in the CIS space and sooner or later that sense of entitlement will clash not only with the EU and NATO, but with the independence and sovereignty of the states in the former CIS space. Some will acquiesce to Russian pressure, but others might look to the West for protection. We better brace for impact.   

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