Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 153

On August 18-19 in Kyiv, Presidents Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine and Petru Lucinschi of Moldova signed a Treaty on the Delimitation and Demarcation of the State Border between Ukraine and Moldova and an additional protocol on the exchange of equivalent areas along that border (Flux, Basapress, UNIAN, DINAU, August 19-21). The treaty should permanently lay to rest one of the most complex post-Soviet territorial issues, involving not only Ukraine and Moldova but also Russia and Romania. Potentially at stake since the collapse of the Soviet Union were:

–Southern Bessarabia, which was Moldovan and Ottoman from the Middle Ages to 1812, Russian from 1812 to 1917, Moldovan again in 1917-18, Romanian in 1918-1940 and 1941-44, Soviet in 1940-41 and 1944-91–attached during most of this time to Ukraine’s Odessa Region–and has formed a part of independent Ukraine since 1991. Southern Bessarabia’s population forms a bewildering ethnic mix of Ukrainians, Moldovans, Russians, Bulgarians, Gagauz and others.

–Northern Bessarabia, which experienced the same changes of sovereignty as its southern counterpart, but whose ethnic majority has long been Ukrainian, and which forms a part of Ukraine’s Chernivtsy [Czernowitz, Cernautsi] Region.

–Northern Bukovina, which passed through the same hands–plus a long Austrian interlude from 1776 to 1918–and was similarly lost by Romania to the Soviet Union during World War II. It is currently the core of the Chernivtsy Region of Ukraine. Three North Bukovinan districts had Romanian/Moldovan majorities into the post-war period and Romanian/Moldovan pluralities at the time of the last Soviet census (1989).

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Romania and pro-Romanian circles in Moldova posed direct or indirect territorial claims to southern and northern Bessarabia and to northern Bukovina. It was not until 1997 that Romania agreed officially to recognize Ukraine’s existing borders, after NATO had required such recognition in the context of considering Romania’s quest to join the alliance. Moldova, for its part, never raised territorial claims on Ukraine; the signing of the interstate border treaty, however, was held up for years by disputes over small sectors along the border critical to both Ukraine’s and Moldova’s international trade and transport.

Transdniester posed and may still pose a special problem. Home to Moldovans and Ukrainians–41 percent and 28 percent, respectively–and a mostly immigrant Russian population amounting to 25 percent of the whole, Transdniester is controlled by Russian troops and is being claimed as a historic part of Russia by nationalist-leftist circles in Moscow and Tiraspol. Transdniester’s Ukrainian population is not considered a diaspora, because it is indigenous to the region and contiguous to the Ukrainian nation. Some Ukrainian circles in Transdniester favor attachment to Ukraine, citing the region’s affiliation to Soviet Ukraine from 1920 to 1940. The Ukrainian government has never encouraged that idea. The treaty just signed in Kyiv, as far as Ukraine is concerned, sanctifies Moldovan sovereignty in Transdniester.

The additional protocol to the treaty provides for an exchange of territories along the following lines. Moldova cedes to Ukraine an eight-kilometer highway stretch which had cut communication between two parts of Ukraine’s Odessa region. Ukraine cedes to Moldova a part of the town of Basarabeasca, including the railroad sector which had cut communication across southern Moldova. Ukraine, moreover, turns over to Moldova a stretch of several hundred meters of Danube shore at Giurgiulesti. Moldova thereby becomes indisputably riparian to the Danube and will be able to achieve the goal of building the Giurgiulesti oil terminal, financed on credit by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The terminal should enable Moldova to import Caspian crude oil and refined products, so as to reduce reliance on Russian oil.

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