Publication: Russia and Eurasia Review Volume: 1 Issue: 4

By Vladimir Socor

At a five-party meeting on July 2-3, ambassadors of Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officially submitted to Moldova and secessionist Transnistria a project to federalize Moldova, under joint mediation and guarantees by Moscow, Kyiv and the OSCE. The full text was published by the government newspapers Nezavisimaya Moldova and and Moldova Suverana on July 9.

The project is in the form of a draft agreement, to be signed by Moldova and Transnistria, as contracting parties to the federation-in-the-making, and by Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE as mediators in the negotiations and guarantors of the agreement’s observance in the future. This group would, in effect, arbitrate federalized Moldova’s institutional and security arrangements.

The document is the most detailed proposal ever offered by all mediators for settling this decade-old, Moscow-engineered conflict. Throughout these years, Russia and Transnistria had proposed solutions that would have dismembered Moldova, creating a semi-legalized state of Transnistria and perpetuating Russia’s military presence there. Neighboring Ukraine, though aware of the potential security risks to itself from this Russian military exclave, did precious little to help settle the conflict on terms consistent with Moldova’s sovereignty and international legal standards. Western diplomacy neither generated specific political proposals on settling this conflict, nor seriously tackled the egregious violations of the rights of Transnistria’s native population by the mainly nonnative ruling minority. For their part, Moldova’s weak authorities long failed to defend their own state’s interests with any consistency vis-a-vis Tiraspol and Moscow.

It is, therefore, a tribute to the OSCE’s Chisinau mission under its current American chief, Ambassador David Swartz, that a comprehensive draft agreement has at long last been issued as a basis for serious discussion on settling the conflict. This document is, however, a composite product of divergent interests that must present an appearance of unity. It consists of two distinct parts. First, Moldova’s federalization. Second, a Russia-Ukraine-OSCE mechanism to arbitrate and guarantee the settlement. Turning Moldova into a federation is conceptually legitimate in the contemporary, post-nation-state Europe. This experiment might ultimately prove successful. But failure is certain if the federation’s functioning and its security are–as the draft agreement envisages–to be guaranteed by that peculiar tripartite mechanism, especially if Russian troops are allowed to stay on as “peacekeepers.”