As anticipated on the morrow of the Istanbul summit (see the Monitor, December 6, 1999), Moscow and Transdniester soon moved to challenge the decisions made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at that summit with respect to Moldova. The OSCE required Russia to remove its military arsenals from the Transdniester region of Moldova by 2001 and to withdraw the troops to Russia by 2002, unconditionally and under international observation. The ink barely dry on those documents, however, Moscow reverted to the old position that the evacuation of its troops from Moldova is conditional on settling the Transdniester problem. The linkage, dubbed “synchronization,” confers veto power on Transdniester and enables Russia–as the mediator with troops in place–to manipulate the negotiating process into a permanent deadlock (see the Monitor, January 14).
The current nationalist resurgence in Russia seems to encourage the Transdniester leaders–who are, themselves, Russian citizens–to count on undiminished support from Moscow in bucking the OSCE’s decisions. On January 13, Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov turned down an American request for an OSCE commission to evaluate the actual volumes of weaponry, ammunition and equipment which are to be evacuated to Russia as per the summit’s decisions (Infotag, January 14; Basapress, January 15). On January 19 and 27, communiques of the Transdniester leadership expressed satisfaction with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaffirmation of the “synchronization” principle (Itar-Tass, January 20, 27).
On January 25 and 26, Transdniester troops–the existence of which is itself illegal–twice denied entry to a Spanish military inspection group which had been mandated to inspect the Russian troops’ combat hardware, in accordance with the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). That treaty gives all member countries of the OSCE the right to conduct challenge inspections of each other’s holdings of treaty-limited weapons, under escort of the host country’s military authorities. Transdniester, however, demanded that the Moldovan escort of the Spanish military group be dismissed and replaced by a Transdniester escort–a demand which, if granted, would have implied that it no longer recognized Moldovan sovereignty. The Spanish group–with the support of the OSCE’s permanent mission in Chisinau–refused that demand and was turned back from Transdniester’s “border.” The Russian military command was content to hide behind its proteges, declaring that the issue was one to be resolved between the central Moldovan government and the Transdniester authorities. In Moscow, a representative of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces sounded more openly cynical: “Russia does not interfere with the relations between Moldova and Transdniester,” Lieutenant-General Vyacheslav Romanov declared (Flux, Basapress, January 25-27; Itar-Tass, February 1).
This precedent-setting incident threatened to compromise the verification component of the CFE Treaty, the final text of which had just been adopted at the OSCE’s summit. From Chisinau’s perspective, the incident demonstrated yet again–as President Petru Lucinschi noted in a statement–that “we need international support and monitoring in this extremely difficult negotiating process” (Flux, Basapress, January 31, February 1).
From February 3-5, an American delegation under Craig Dunkerley, head of the State Department-Defense Department working group on the implementation of the CFE treaty, held talks separately with the central Moldovan government in Chisinau, with the Transdniester authorities in Tiraspol and with Lieutenant-General Valery Yevnevich, commander of the Russian troops stationed in that part of Moldova. The delegation renewed an earlier, standing offer by Western countries to cover the costs of transporting the Russian military property to Russia and to provide technical assistance for scrapping the untransportable ammunition and equipment. The financial aid currently on offer is US$30 million. While Yevnevich was said to display some interest, Transdniester leaders insisted that Russian troops stay put in order to “guarantee stability” in Moldova (Flux, Basapress, February 4-5, 7).
Russia’s new ambassador to Moldova, Pavel Petrovski, has not been quite a bystander to this flurry of visits. Petrovski declared that Russia is prepared to abide by the OSCE’s decisions and withdraw the troops, but “implementation will be difficult due to the absence of progress in the Chisinau-Tiraspol negotiations.” That equivocation implies two things: synchronization, and hiding behind a Transdniester “veto.” Petrovski, moreover, brushed aside a recent Ukrainian proposal to include the European Union among the mediators, alongside Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE (Flux, Basapress, February 2-3).
As the chairman of the Moldovan parliament’s foreign policy commission, Vasile Nedelciuc, summed up the situation, Russia has saddled Moldova with the onus of “resolving” the dispute with a Transdniester uninterested in a solution and through the mediation of Russia which pursues its own power interests in Moldova. “Russia’s actions arouse great anxiety in Moldova and place the international community, including the OSCE and the United States, in a rather delicate position. It has become a question of honor for the United States and the OSCE to see to it that the OSCE’s decisions are implemented” (Flux, February 3).
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