MILITARY FORCE CUTS, FORCE INTEGRATION PROPOSED.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 153

On July 31, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin announced his decision to reduce Moldova’s military manpower from 10,000 to 7,000 Army and Carabinieri troops. Simultaneously, the Moldovan government announced its intention to sell the largest still-serviceable chunks of its otherwise paltry, decrepit military hardware. And in accompanying move, Moldova’s military began implementing Voronin’s recent initiative to unilaterally reduce the Moldovan component of the tripartite, Russian-Transdniester-Moldovan peacekeeping troops in the “security zone” along the Dniester River. That Moldovan disengagement includes manpower cuts, withdrawal of some armored personnel carriers and turning some fixed checkpoints into mobile patrols. At the same time, Voronin publicly urged Tiraspol to match Chisinau’s force cuts and disengagement initiatives. Furthermore, Voronin called for a gradual integration of Moldova’s army and the “military formations” of Transdniester. In an August 6 statement, he proposed a program of confidence-building measures, such as installing “hot lines” between the two sides, publishing data on force structure and armaments, appointing liaison officers for both sides, giving advance notice about military exercises and troop movements, and ultimately unifying the respective forces under a single command of the Moldovan state. The Chisinau mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has underscored the constructive nature of these initiatives.

On August 1, Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov publicly rejected Voronin’s proposals. Smirnov reaffirmed the familiar set of demands: “guarantees against military aggression [by Chisinau on Tiraspol]”, “implementation of all documents signed earlier” (meaning first and foremost the 1997 Moscow memorandum) and “recognition of Transdniester’s statehood.” To these old conditions, Smirnov added the recent set, with which he upped the ante after Voronin’s election as president. These include conferring official status on the Russian language in right-bank Moldova, including Transdniester and rump Moldova in the Russia-Belarus Union, and Chisinau’s abandoning the OSCE’s 1999 decisions on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova so as to legalize the Russian military presence. And on August 8 in Tiraspol, Smirnov declined to negotiate substantively on Chisinau’s set of military initiatives. At the concluding news conference, in Smirnov’s presence, Voronin declared that it had once again become evident that negotiations with Smirnov lead nowhere (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, August 1-8; see also the Monitor, May 22, July 16, August 2, 8).

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