Moldova/Transnistria topped the agenda of talks held by the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office, Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on July 13. In their concluding press briefing, Rupel resurrected the Kremlin’s defunct Kozak plan that would have cemented Transnistria’s secession from Moldova under Russian protection. Drawn up in 2003 by the then-first deputy chief of Russia’s Presidential Administration, Dmitry Kozak, the plan was rejected by Moldova with encouragement from the United States, the European Union, and other international actors, infuriating the Kremlin. In 2004, Moldova withdrew from the Russian-controlled “five-sided” negotiating process. This year, Kyiv proposed a plan labeled “Yushchenko” that only Russia has, if mildly, endorsed.
On his visit to Moscow, Rupel declared: “Elements of the Yushchenko plan and the Kozak plan can be combined into a single project. The negotiating process must continue in order to arrive at a settlement as quickly as possible. This is the OSCE’s position.” (Interfax, July 13). With this, Rupel becomes the first Western official to attempt to rehabilitate the Kozak plan since what was thought to be its final death in early 2004. A delighted Lavrov seemed content to allow Rupel to carry the burden of refloating the Kozak plan under OSCE colors. As regards the “Yushchenko” plan, Rupel completely ignored the additions and conditions, voted by the Moldovan parliament unanimously on June 10, that — in contrast to Kyiv — call for demilitarization and democratization of Transnistria as sine-qua-nons of a settlement. Those stipulations seek to avoid Russian control in Transnistria and indeed dominance over Moldova, which Kyiv’s unprofessional plan would permit.
The idea that the Kozak plan has its “good parts” that should remain on the table originates with William Hill, the American chief of the OSCE’s Moldova mission. Hill and other OSCE officials attempted to salvage the OSCE’s 2003 year-end Maastricht conference by combining the Kozak plan with an earlier, Russian-inspired OSCE proposal, into a single document, sacrificing Moldova for an OSCE “consensus” at Maastricht. That conference ultimately collapsed over this issue. In early 2004, Hill and Moscow jointly pressured Chisinau to continue the negotiations by combining the Kozak plan with the Russia-OSCE joint proposal into a single document toward “federalization” of Moldova under Russian “guarantees.” Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin’s reorientation to the West in 2004 frustrated those intentions. The OSCE’s 2004 year-end Sofia conference collapsed, in part, over the same issue.
At this moment, Rupel is anxious to prevent another collapse — it would be the fourth consecutive one at Russia’s hands since Porto 2002 — at the OSCE’s year-end conference in Slovenia. As in previous years, the OSCE’s chairmanship, its Chisinau mission, and some Vienna officials are treating Moldova as a currency of exchange for “consensus” with Russia. This would not only “save” a conference, but would enable the OSCE to remain, at least on paper, a European security actor by providing cover for a Russia-driven settlement in Moldova. This is Europe’s last unadjudicated country, and thus the last place where the OSCE might play that role in any significant way.
Thus, the OSCE is again pushing for a “quick” settlement in Moldova under OSCE political aegis, though shaped primarily by Russia on the ground; and complete with an OSCE-mandated peacekeeping operation, even as Russian troops (Russia-flagged and Transnistria-flagged) remain in place. This is also the meaning of the resolution, recently pushed through the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, paving the way for recognition of Transnistria (see EDM, July 11).
On July 12, the “mediators” Russia, Ukraine, and OSCE presented to Chisinau and Tiraspol a detailed military plan for confidence- and security-building measures, which Rupel is now asking Chisinau to accept. Chisinau is the party being pressured as usual, while the Moscow-backed Tiraspol is beyond pressuring. Drawn up by Hill and his mission’s French military officer in 2004, this proposal has since been “improved” — according to Rupel’s accompanying letter — by Russia and Ukraine. It envisages legalizing Transnistria’s army and “defense ministry” for a transitional period, during which Transnistria and a rump Moldova would maintain military-to-military relations on an equal footing and gradually reduce their respective forces, until full demilitarization of the entire territory. Thus, the goal of demilitarizing Transnistria is distorted into that of disarming an ostensibly reintegrated Moldova. Meanwhile, the OSCE says nothing about withdrawal of Russia’s troops.
Rupel’s Moscow visit shows an about-face since his first visit to Moldova in February 2005 (he plans his second visit for October). Prior to that get-acquainted visit, Rupel thoughtfully solicited and accepted expert advice. As a result, he became the first OSCE official ever to abandon the decade-old system and terminology invented by Yevgeny Primakov for the “negotiating process” on Moldova. On that visit and for some time thereafter, Rupel did not mention, much less endorse, the “five-sided” format, the role of Russia and Ukraine as “guarantors,” a “common state” or “federalization” (as per Kozak) of Moldova and Transnistria, or treatment of these two as co-equal parties; and he did call for the withdrawal of Russian troops and a democratic dimension to conflict-resolution.
An endorsement of Kozak by Rupel would have seemed inconceivable earlier this year. Meanwhile, however, Moscow’s budgetary and political blackmail to the OSCE has intensified; the institution’s fate is at risk, short of significant concessions to Russia; and preparations for the year-end conference have to be set in motion (as usual) prior to the summer recess. The OSCE seems set once again to offer up Moldova as a price for institutional perpetuation.