Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 199

In Moscow yesterday and in Chisinau today, Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a declaration rejecting Moldova’s recent appeal for observance of the unhonored agreement of 1994 on the withdrawal of Russian troops (Itar-Tass, October 26; Flux, October 27. On Moldova’s appeal see the Monitor, October 22).

The Russian declaration contends five points. First, the troops have gradually been reduced to 2,600. Second, their ultimate withdrawal is conditional on a negotiated agreement between Chisinau and Transdniester regarding the latter’s “political status.” Third, Transdniester’s “leadership and population categorically oppose” the removal of the Russian troops and arsenals. Fourth, the Russian-Moldovan agreement on troop withdrawal in any case requires ratification by Russia’s Duma. Fifth, the Russian force “upholds regional stability.”

The first of these understates the actual number of Russian troops and fails to count the servicemen who were released from the Russian army directly into that of Transdniester. The second neatly illustrates Moscow’s and Transdniester’s coordinated tactics: Transdniester blocks the “political status” negotiations through unacceptable demands for recognition of its secession, then Moscow cites the impasse as an argument against withdrawing the troops. The third point seemingly concedes to the unrecognized communist authorities of Transdniester both a veto on an international agreement and a claim on the Russian arms stockpiles. It also obscures the fact that three-quarters of Transdniester’s population consists of Moldovans and Ukrainians, most of whom by no means “oppose” the withdrawal of Russian troops. The fourth point is also inaccurate, because the troop withdrawal agreement only refers to “internal state ratification procedures,” not to parliamentary ratification. However, the Kremlin hides behind the Duma in sabotaging the agreement’s implementation. The fifth point arrogates for Russia a unilateral right to play the role of arbiter of stability in an international crossroads area. This point directly challenges the successive OSCE resolutions which have called for the unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova.

The declaration signifies in practice that Moscow intends to keep its troops in Moldova indefinitely, or as long as the international community does not go beyond words in trying to restore the supremacy of international law in this region (see the South Caucasus section below concerning a similar problem in Georgia).