Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 171

While the OSCE’s new framework for the demilitarization of Transnistria is flawed in principle, the proposed verification and inspection system opens more loopholes, and again in Transnistria only, where much is hidden from view. By contrast, right-bank Moldova hardly has combat forces or arms factories, and has long been fully transparent in any case. The system would involve notification, exchanges of information, and on-site visits by the Parties (Moldova and Transnistria), the Guarantor States (Russia and Ukraine), and the OSCE Mission. Their inspectors would visit military units and declared or undeclared arms factories.

Access to such sites may for various reasons be delayed, limited, or (in unspecified force-majeure cases and at unspecified “sensitive points”) refused by the “inspected party.” Even when inspections are not obstructed in those ways, the “host party” is granted up to 13 hours from the inspection request to the arrival of inspectors at the site. In many cases this should leave sufficient time to hide or relocate materiel and personnel or to briefly interrupt arms production. Moreover, inspectors’ use of advanced monitoring or detection equipment is “subject to approval by the inspected party.” Inspectors would be received in a “briefing room” and shown “diagrams” of the military site or arms-production plant. The plan does not provide for physical or informational access beyond the conference hall or the “inspected party’s” handouts.

The “Parties” are to create a Joint Security Commission, chaired by Heads of Defense (Moldova’s Minister and Transnistria’s “minister”), with military representatives of the OSCE Mission and the Guarantor States (Russia and Ukraine) taking part. Any disagreements would be referred to “mediation of the OSCE and the Guarantor States.” Decisions would be made “by consensus,” thus ensuring double veto power for Russia: in its own right within the OSCE, and through Tiraspol within the Commission. This military format would also reproduce the old political format that worked to Moscow’s and Tiraspol’s advantage.

The documents barely touch on the problem of small arms and light weapons (SALW), which are known to be massively stockpiled in Transnistria and are believed to be produced there for export. The problem of ammunition stockpiles is only mentioned in a noncommittal manner, possibly because most of that ammunition belongs to Russian forces and is therefore beyond the scope of these documents.

Under the Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBM) plan, Chisinau and Tiraspol would form a joint a peacekeeping unit for participation in international peacekeeping operations “outside Moldova.” The OSCE and the Guarantor States would oversee and train the proposed unit. Again, this would mean a Russian lead role in practice, as well as Russia’s participation in the unit itself through Russian soldiers wearing Transnistrian uniform. The plan makes no attempt to tinker with Russia’s “peacekeeping” operation within Moldova.

The plan rationalizes the case for CBSM as “arising from lack of trust between the Republic of Moldova and the Transnistrian region.” This misstatement adheres to Moscow’s thesis that a conflict exists between two parts of Moldova’s population. In reality, lack of trust exists between Moldova and Russia, including Russia’s military in Transnistria and the Moscow-installed political apparatus in Tiraspol. These purported CBSM would perpetuate Russia’s presence on the left bank and create a mechanism for Russian military oversight on Moldova’s entire territory.

The Moldovan government regards this package as an unacceptable attempt to legalize “Transnistrian” forces, keep the Russian forces in place, and increase Russia’s military-political role in Moldova. This plan is closely related to the proposal for recognition of the Tiraspol authorities as legitimate. President Vladimir Voronin, on his official visit to NATO and the EU headquarters in Brussels in June, announced Moldova’s intention to be a “part of the European and Euro-Atlantic security space.” Russia and the OSCE, however, are telling Moldova in effect to go back to the “post-Soviet security space.”