Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 47

A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) made a “get-acquainted visit” to Moldova on March 1-3. Evidently motivated by the wish to help break the deadlock in the Chisinau-Tiraspol negotiations, the group–or at least its leader, Kimmo Kiljunen of Finland–decided to offer precedent-breaking concessions to the Tiraspol leadership. Kiljunen publicly called on Chisinau to include members of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet in the Moldovan parliament’s delegation at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA). He promised to help draft, for the upcoming OSCE PA session, a resolution on Transdniester which could be “accepted by consensus”–a formula which can only refer to Russian consensus, which Kiljunen said he would seek from the Duma in Moscow. He hoped aloud that his OSCE group might help “the two sides find a mutually acceptable interpretation of the ‘common state’ concept.”

The delegation leader appeared to overlook the fact that the Transdniester Supreme Soviet is not recognized by any international authority as legitimate, inasmuch as it resulted from Soviet-style elections, conducted by an avowedly pro-Soviet group of Russian citizens under the protection of Russian troops. The Moldovan leaders and parliamentarians are, by contrast, the product of elections certified as fully democratic by all international organizations, including the OSCE. The legitimate central authorities have already objected to the inclusion of Tiraspol Supreme Soviet leaders and Russian citizens in Moldovan government and parliamentary delegations. Perhaps with an eye to that difficulty, Kiljunen cited a 1999 case in which Transdniester Supreme Soviet members “participated” in an OSCE AP meeting in St. Petersburg. That episode was, however, choreographed by host Yevgeny Stroev, chairman of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, to mislead foreign delegates into concluding that the Moldovan parliament had accepted Tiraspol Supreme Soviet members in its delegation. Only the Communists in the Moldovan parliament would in fact be willing to do so.

Kiljunen’s stated willingness to promote the “common state” concept could only prolong, instead of overcome, the deadlock in the Chisinau-Tiraspol negotiations by rewarding Transdniester’s intransigence. As Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov explained to Kiljunen, Tiraspol insists that “common state” means two distinct and coequal states in a contractual relationship, each of them with its own army, security apparatus, borders, customs and other state attributes. This has been Transdniester’s position ever since seceding from Moldova by force of arms in 1991-92–a position labeled “common state” in a 1998 “memorandum” which Moscow cowed Chisinau into signing. Settling the conflict along those lines would have entailed Russian arbitration of the manifold disputes bound to occur among the parties to a “common state” in the future.

As Vasile Nedelciuc, chairman of the Moldovan Parliament’s Foreign Policy Commission, observed at the conclusion of Kiljunen’s visit, the “common state” concept exists neither in international law nor in European practice. “The signing of the memorandum was a blunder,” he noted, but one without legally binding consequences. The challenge, he said, before diplomacy is to leave that document behind, instead of becoming mired in it. Azerbaijan and Georgia never accepted the “common state” scheme which Russia proposed in the guise of solutions to the Abkhazia and the Karabakh problems. Tbilisi and Baku are therefore likely to resist any precedent-setting discussion or legitimization of that scheme in international forums.

Considering the Russian Duma’s known position–with which Kiljunen should become acquainted on his upcoming trip to Moscow–any OSCE PA resolution on Transdniester would be doomed to irrelevancy if reached, as the Finnish deputy hopes, through “consensus” with the Duma. The views of the relevant committee chairmen, Dmitry Rogozin and Boris Pastukhov, are if anything more nationalist than those of their recent predecessors. Pastukhov, one of the main authors of the “common state” scheme while first deputy foreign minister, would surely welcome a resuscitation of his moribund brainchild (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, March 2-4; see the Monitor, January 14, February 10; Fortnight in Review, February 18).