In the run-up to the OSCE’s year-end conference, which began yesterday, December 5, the organization’s Moldova Mission made public on November 29 in Chisinau the hitherto secret package of force-reduction and confidence-building measures that Russia and the OSCE have jointly authored and proposed to the Chisinau and Tiraspol authorities. The original Russian text and English translation had officially been distributed at the OSCE in Vienna as restricted documents in July; but the documents ultimately surfaced in Chisinau, forcing the OSCE Mission to go public and defend the plan.
The plan would: a) allow Russian troops to remain indefinitely on Moldova’s territory; b) reduce, with the professed intent ultimately to abolish, the Moldovan and Transnistrian forces; c) however, legalize the “Transnistrian” forces (in fact, Transnistria-flagged Russian forces) for an open-ended transitional period, on a par with Moldova’s army; d) create a Russian-dominated mechanism of military inspection in right-bank Moldova, while shielding left-bank Transnistria from effective international inspection and verification; and e) invite Russia and the OSCE to train Moldovan-“Transnistrian” joint peacekeeping troops, thus preempting similar offers to train Moldovan peacekeepers by NATO member countries, as well as foiling Chisinau’s intention to rid the country of Russia’s “peacekeeping” troops (see EDM, September 15).
Moldovan experts Nicolae Chirtoaca, a retired intelligence colonel who is director of the Euro-Atlantic Center in Chisinau, and Iurie Pintea, a recently retired Army Lt.-Colonel, Harvard School of Government graduate, and military analyst for the Soros Foundation-supported Institute for Public Policies in Chisinau, have published highly critical commentaries on the plan in the wake of the OSCE’s briefing. (Chirtoaca had also criticized the plan when it leaked in October.) Their criticisms focus on the plan’s questionable official motivations and dangerous political ramifications.
The plan’s chief official motivation is to prevent military conflict between Moldova and Transnistria, on the stated assumption that both of those forces are a potential source of conflict. The critics describe such an imputation to Moldova as “sensational.” No international organization or inspection has ascribed such an intent or capability to Moldova, they note; to the contrary, the international consensus [minus Russia] holds that Russian/Transnistrian forces pose threats to security and stability. While Moldova’s army is regularly being inspected and found in compliance with international agreements on confidence building and transparency, Russian/Transnistrian forces are not.
The Russia-OSCE plan purports to be based on the military aspects of the 1997 Dayton peace agreements for Bosnia and the 1999 Vienna Document on confidence and security-building measures. However, these critics point out, those elements are “torn out of their context” in the plan for Moldova. The West implemented the “Dayton model” with local parties that accepted Western arbitration and enforcement of the agreements. And the Vienna Document is an international pact concluded among sovereign state-parties. None of those factors and circumstances exists in Moldova, however. Here, “shockingly enough,” the plan treats Transnistria de facto as if it were a sovereign state, and would empower Russia as the main inspector and “guarantor.” Thus, the critics conclude, application of those “models” in Moldova would only result in the recognition of Transnistria’s secession.
While the OSCE would function alongside Russia as “guarantor” (with Ukraine as another figurehead), “The OSCE has already demonstrated that it has no influence on Tiraspol’s authorities, it can only plead with them; while Russia has equally demonstrated countless times that it can not be impartial, so that its ‘guarantor’ role would rather guarantee perpetuation of the conflict.” Moreover, “these documents ignore the issue of [obtaining the] withdrawal of Russian troops.” (Moldova Azi, December 2). “If we accept these proposals, we are left at Russia’s discretion,” Pintea observes (Basapress, December 3).
The analysts also criticize the attempt to separate the military plan from the political resolution of the conflict, whereby the plan outruns the political negotiations. “This plan must imperatively be correlated to the political settlement process. The foreign forces stationed in Moldova — those of the Russian Federation and Transnistria — pose the most serious danger … If Chisinau starts implementing the OSCE’s plan, the ensuing developments would only favor Russia and its secessionist protégés” (Basapress, December 3). In an earlier analysis that had opened the series of critical comments, Chirtoaca noted that the plan “seeks a unilateral demilitarization of Moldova under the false pretext of disarming the ‘parties in conflict’ … The real goal can not be more obvious: disarming Moldova while retaining Russia’s own military presence” (Moldova Suverana, October 19).
(Basapress, December 3; Moldova Azi, December 2; see EDM, September 15, November 22, 23, December 1, 2)