Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 35

“Ukraine is the start, next up is Moldova,” Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski told the Wall Street Journal on February 17, referring to Poland’s active role in shaping European Union policy in the region. Citing the Russian military presence and transnational crime haven in Transnistria, the Polish president wondered aloud, “Why has Europe accepted this for such a long time, 12 or 14 years already?” Kwasniewski regards the upcoming general elections in Moldova as an opportunity for defining EU policy in terms of “reuniting Moldova and ultimately bring it into the EU with Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasyuk, in one of his first statements on returning to that post, described the “frozen-conflict” enclaves in Moldova and Georgia as “a serious challenge” to Europe, and Transnistria moreover as a “major issue for Ukraine’s national security.” Addressing an international conference in Kyiv on “Ukraine, the EU, Russia: Challenges and Opportunities for New-Type Relations,” Tarasyuk noted, “The Transnistrian and other puppet regimes are obstacles to the edification of a united Europe . . . It is high time to acknowledge frankly that authoritarian enclaves persist in Europe, and to finally tackle these problems. The illegitimate, corrupt regimes in these unrecognized republics have nothing in common with the rights of the populations there,” he continued, thus challenging official Russian policy that equates those regimes with the populations’ rights.

Urging “the EU to become actively involved in resolving the problem of Transnistria,” Tarasyuk called for planning the solution in terms of “demilitarization and democratization.” This formula signifies a nod to the “demilitarization, democratization, decriminalization” concept, recently publicized by representatives of Moldovan civil-society groups as an approach to post-Soviet conflict settlement under Western auspices (see EDM, October 28 and 29, 2004). Tarasyuk urged European diplomacy to abandon such notions as “cordon sanitaire,” “red line,” and “sphere of influence” in shaping policy for the EU’s eastern neighborhood, situated between the enlarged EU and Russia (Infotag, February 14; Vremya [Chisinau], February 15; EDM, February 9).

At the moment, the EU’s decision to relegate Moldova — on the EU border, 800 kilometers distant from Russia — to a “common EU-Russia neighborhood” looks like a tribute to just those notions; in this case the basis for a de facto condominium. In line with this approach, the EU avoids taking the initiative on conflict-resolution in Moldova. It concedes to Russia the lead role to the point of declining to interfere with the Russian-controlled negotiating format. Ukraine had adhered to Russia’s line in opposing Western participation in the negotiations. Following the change of system in Ukraine, however, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleksandr Motsyk announced that Kyiv has no objection to internationalizing the format: “Ukraine regards the possible participation of the EU and the United States as useful for resolving this problem” (Zerkalo nedeli, February 5).

In Moscow, the political operatives Gleb Pavlovsky and Sergei Markov regard Moldova’s upcoming elections as an opportunity to influence the country’s policy, if the Western-oriented President Vladimir Voronin is forced to accept coalition partners to Moscow’s liking in the post-election government. The duo’s recent defeat in Ukraine has discouraged them and their Kremlin employers from carrying out their earlier intention to intervene in Moldova’s elections in favor of three “centrist” groups in the Moldova Democratic Bloc (BDM). Interviewed in a Chisinau newspaper, Pavlovsky and Markov clearly imply that a Moldovan coalition government (presumably including those groups) could present Russia with opportunities for political maneuvering in Chisinau on the Transnistria problem. But they seem to have lost hope in influencing Ukraine: “The appointment of Borys Tarasyuk as minister significantly lowers that possibility” from their standpoint. (Vremya, February 16).