Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 116

Analysts from Moldovan NGOs have drafted a concept for post-Soviet conflict settlement. Titled “Demilitarization, Decriminalization, Democratization,” the “3Ds” concept is tailored specifically to the Trans-Dniester conflict, but it can serve as a reference point in efforts to settle other conflicts in Eurasia. Discussion of this new concept began in the October 28 EDM and continues below.

Demilitarization Agenda: This will be the acid test of Russia’s intentions. The withdrawal of Russian forces is the first precondition to political settlement, decriminalization, and democratization. In compliance with Russia’s 1999 Istanbul OSCE Commitments, the troops are to withdraw in an orderly manner under international monitoring, evacuating the transportable arms and ammunition stockpiles and handing over the non-transportable ones for on-site scrapping under international inspection. The International Civilian Police Force would take over from Russian “peacekeeping” troops. Concurrently, Trans-Dniester’s arms-manufacturing plants would be decommissioned, and the Trans-Dniester-flagged military and security forces disarmed, preparatory to their demobilization. Criminal trials are not deemed desirable and therefore not envisaged.

Demilitarization Process: The International Administration would oversee the decommissioning of military plants and disarmament of Trans-Dniester’s military and security units. These units consist largely of Russian personnel, most of whom can be repatriated, while some elements can be selected for integration in a reformed Moldovan military. Personnel of Russian intelligence agencies and Cossack paramilitaries would be required to withdraw unconditionally. The OSCE, EU, Russia, and Moldova would monitor the disarmament and demobilization process in its various phases. The International Police would supervise, and work with, Trans-Dniester police to maintain order in the localities, while preparing police reform. Reintegration of Moldova’s military and police would go hand-in-hand with U.S.-led international programs to reform those institutions in accordance with Moldova’s constitution and international obligations.

Decriminalization Agenda: This would focus on curbing and ultimately suppressing the rampant contraband, arms and human trafficking, money laundering, and other transnational criminal activities centered in Trans-Dniester. This goal requires the eradication of organized crime structures ensconced within Trans-Dniester’s ruling authorities. Russia would be asked to recall those authorities, and Ukraine to work closely with the International Administration, International Police, and other bodies in securing the Trans-Dniester section of the Moldova-Ukraine border. Foreign-owned companies in Trans-Dniester (that is, local entities privatized by Russian capital in violation of Moldovan and international law) would be given the opportunity to re-register and operate in a law-abiding manner.

Decriminalization Process: The International Civilian Police Force would oversee cross-border traffic on railways and highways in Trans-Dniester. The EU and OSCE would lead an international customs mission to work with Moldovan customs there, opposite Ukraine. Moldova would request assistance from international civilian aviation authorities to establish control over the Tiraspol airport and all air traffic there (the airport currently serves as a “gate” for contraband, including arms traffic). Interpol and international financial agencies would be asked to identify the laundered funds and related assets of Trans-Dniester leaders in the West. Those unlawfully held resources would be seized and ploughed back into a Special Fund for Trans-Dniester Economic Development, to be administered by the International Provisional Civil Administration.

Democratization Agenda: This would be codified in an Action Plan with goals and timetables (Milestones) for the period 2005-2009. Basic goals include: dismantling the Soviet-type political and repressive structures; ending the region’s political, psychological, and informational isolation; assisting the local population to overcome propaganda-inculcated fears and stereotypes; ensuring a free flow of international and Moldovan information and media in Trans-Dniester; implementing international human rights standards; ensuring protection of civil and political rights; helping restore and upgrade basic public services; depoliticizing and modernizing the school system; instituting multi-annual programs to promote administrative capacity and rule of law, with assistance from the UN, OSCE, EU, and the Council of Europe; and creating a democratic climate, preparatory to the holding of local elections in 2006 and participation in Moldova’s general elections due in 2009.

Democratization Process: Its phases, under the International Administration’s oversight, envisage: removal of “structures hostile to peace and democracy” (Trans-Dniester’s top leadership, which seized power in the 1991 Soviet putsch; Russian intelligence networks; the apparatus of repression and indoctrination; organized crime groups) with EU and OSCE assistance and Russian cooperation; supporting local free media and NGOs, cultural and church initiatives, professional associations, pro-Europe youth groups, and international exchange programs, with assistance from international democracy-promoting organizations; engaging the local business community to promote law-based, market economics; creating a Civic Consensus Charter for the area’s democratization and its reintegration in Moldova; identifying and supporting democratic, European-minded local political leaders; and develop local autonomy with assistance from the Council of Europe’s Congress of Regional and Local Powers.

In parallel with that process, the Moldovan parliament and the International Provisional Civil Administration would work out a Special Status for the Urban Agglomeration Tiraspol. Such status would entail self-government under a free-city model and free economic zone. This solution would reflect the ethnic, social, economic, and political characteristics of the city of Tiraspol within Trans-Dniester. The region’s ethnic Russian minority (much of it non-native) is concentrated in heavily industrialized Tiraspol. All of the region’s five districts are predominantly agrarian and have Moldovan majorities or pluralities, with native Ukrainians the second largest element, and Russians a distant third region-wide.

Thus, there are no valid grounds for treating Trans-Dniester as a unit, let alone as a “Russian-speaking” unit. That notion was imposed by Moscow — capitalizing on the Russian military occupation of the region — in the course of negotiations with a helpless Moldova, and was accepted by Western diplomacy uncritically. It serves to perpetuate minority rule (under leaders sent in from Russia) over Trans-Dniester’s native majority; a unique situation in contemporary Europe. The proposed “federalization” and Russian “guarantees” would cement that state of affairs, legalize it, and moreover confer on Tiraspol’s Russian-installed leaders a share of “federal” power in Moldova’s central government.

Western engagement based on Western values is the indispensable dimension to a credible and sustainable settlement. However, this is the weakest — in fact, almost lacking — dimension to the U.S. and EU position. When asked to face up to that fact, their diplomats have tended to reply by challenging Moldovan critics to produce an alternative concept for conflict settlement. Thus, paradoxically, Western diplomats with massive analytical and other resources at their disposal were shifting onto struggling Moldovan NGOs in a distant European corner the onus of producing a settlement concept that would reflect Western values. The 3Ds document is that concept. It is not a finite document. It is a basis for discussions, intended to elicit the Western engagement that has been lacking.