- Geopolítica, Seguridad y Conflictos Internacionales:
- Geopolitical interest
- International Relations
- Research paper
Specifics of the Russian Federation interests in Moldova in the context of new geopolitical changes
Por Dra. Svetlana Cebotari
Después del final de la Guerra Fría y el colapso de la ex URSS, la Federación Rusa busca restaurar su condición de gran potencia. A partir de la segunda mitad de la década del siglo XXI, Rusia relanzó su política exterior para recobrar influencia en la arena internacional. El principal objetivo de Rusia es tener influencia en el espacio postsoviético, incluyendo la República Moldova, área que sigue siendo clave para la Federación Rusa porque manifiesta intereses tanto geopolíticos como geoestratégicos.
Al declarar los exterritorios soviéticos, incluyendo la República Moldova, como el área de influencia de Rusia, Moscú está utilizando varias herramientas para mantener y fortalecer su influencia en Europa del Este. De la multitud de herramientas, un lugar especial lo ocupan las militares y económicas. En términos generales, las acciones de Moscú se encauzan hacia la creciente presencia en la República Moldova. Este trabajo de investigación destaca los principales intereses de la Federación Rusa en la República Moldova.
Palabras clave: Federación Rusa, República Moldova, interes, potencia, arena internacional, exrepublicas sovieticas.
The USSR disintegration has generated for Russia a new geopolitical and geostrategic situation. Russia was “pushed deep inside Eurasia”, which was perceived as something inadmissible for a country that has been playing a major role in international politics and in Europe for centuries. Russian borders are restricted to those in the Caucasus Region, at half of the same century in Central Asia and for what was conceived as the west in 1600, immediately after the reign of Ivan “the Terrible”. At the same time, claiming to be qualified as a great power, Russia aspires to regain the former status – the superpower. Successive enlargements of NATO and the EU to the east have pointed out the inconsistency of Russian policy. As Georgia and Ukraine have embraced the Euro Atlantic vector and Moldova – the European one, then it was revealed that Russian interests derive from the main (unofficial) objectives of its foreign policy, but also of geostrategic interests, to maintain control over the former Soviet republics. In order to preserve its great power status, Russia needs to maintain its influence, including military presence in Moldova as an instrument of exerting political pressure.
The USSR disintegration and Ukrainian independence have diminished the strategic importance of the new Moldovan state. Getting out from the Soviet form of organization, the Republic of Moldova was proclaimed as a country (05.VI.1990 No. 70-XII) and the taken marks were a step toward strengthening national identity. It was adopted the normative act on “the state language” (31.VIII.1989), the national flag – “tricolor” (27.IV.1990, No. 5-XII) and the Declaration of independence in 1991. It means not only the separation from Moscow, but also recognition of the Republic of Moldova as a subject of external achievement in the international arena. The recognition and affirmation of Moldova as a state, its integration into the international system as an actor with full rights are the result of genuine efforts of our country abroad. Moldova has been recognized by over 180 countries, and maintains diplomatic relations with more than 150 of them .
For the first time in the history of Russian-Moldovan reports from the last 200 years, Moldova does not have a common border with its previous great neighbour, which creates a new geopolitical situation. For Moldova, according to the Concept of foreign policy in 1995 (a document, which is although exceeded, so far there has not been approved a new conception), bilateral relations with the Russian Federation are regarded as priority, the nature of relations is having an impact on political stability and the success of economic reforms . However, for a better comprehension of Moldovan-Russian relations, we have to consider the role of Russian factor in foreign policy, security and defence field and the ability of parties to adjust their positions in their own interests. Also, the swing evolution of Moldovan-Russian relations gives us a revealing picture on the course of promoted by Moldova.
Official relations between Moldova and the Russian Federation have started long before the USSR disintegration, by signing the Treaty on the principles of interstate relations between the Russian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) September, 1990 in Moscow by the Moldovan President Mircea Snegur and Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Supreme Soviet of Russia. This document contained a preamble and 23 articles of an “epochal matter” that throughout its value and significance, represents the second treaty between Moldova and Russia that occurred 279 years later after 1711, signed by Cantemir and Peter I in Lutsk . The signing of this treaty was an act of courage for both sides, if we take into account that the union centre had sufficient levers of intimidation, by name, by including aspects of bilateral relations, such as political, military, coordinating externally, by providing an exchange of permanent officials, having a character of an interstate treaty.
For Russia, the Treaty with the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic was the second interstate agreement concluded with a union republic that decreed its sovereignty, the first being concluded with Georgia. Unlike the Georgian-Russian Treaty, which referred only to economic and cultural cooperation, the treaty signed with the MSSR was “more valuable” because it contained several aspects of bilateral relations, including political and military ones abroad . The value of this Treaty was important as it was in the interest of Kremlin administration to diminish the role of union centre by promoting direct bilateral relations, neglecting the existence of the Moscow leadership headed by M. Gorbachev. Russian President B.Elţin declared openly these purposes, stating that “in order to destroy that vertical, based on super monopolization and super centralization in political, economic and social spheres, it was decided to initiate horizontal relationships” – the country with country, region with region and enterprise with enterprise. The Russian President was convinced that the sovereignty of republics was a “serious and irreversible thing”, which could not be ignored but rather respected. According to Russian leader, the solution lied in initiating some bilateral relations that could gradually lead to the emergence of a competitive economic system. Signing one more treaty with a declared sovereign republic, the Russian Federation strengthened its position in relation to union centre.
Signing the Treaty on the principles of interstate relations between MSSR and the Russian Federation, ratified , Moldova has won the declarative recognition of its sovereignty from the Russian Federation on 18 December 1991 and an indirect conviction of local secessionism which was escalating, being encouraged by the Centre . However the Russian Federation has not honoured its commitment to validate this Treaty. According to observers, Russia rush up to ratify the interstate treaty, for at least three reasons: First, the Treaty stipulated to respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of the parties borders; Second, Moscow also hoped to restore a new empire; Third, Russia has used the treaty over several years as a sphere of influence and blackmail on Moldova for it to make concessions in favour of authorities of so-called ”Transnistrian Moldovan Republic” in the settlement process of the conflict in this area and to impose its military presence in Moldova.
For several years the Russian Federation has been stating that it will not ratify the interstate Treaty until it is resolved the issue of special legal status of the so called state „Transnistrean Moldovan Republic” and it is clearly determined the rights of Russian speaking population, the problems of their language and culture. Moscow authorities believed that ratifying the Treaty, it will be automatically recognized the territorial integrity of Moldova, which was a very important step and in the West. Moreover, in the case of ratification, the Transnistrian problem will be turned into an internal issue of Moldova and Russia will lose the opportunity to influence on solving it, to defend the interests of Russian speaking population [8, pp. 19-21].
Signing on 19 November 2001, in Moscow, the problem of the Treaty on friendship and cooperation between Moldova and the Russian Federation is resolved. Thus, according to the Treaty’s text, Moldova and the Russian Federation, starting from the traditions of friendship, cooperation and good communication, are convinced that the development and further strengthening friendly relations and strategic partnership meets the interests of the peoples of both countries and contribute to their welfare and prosperity. Moldovan-Russian Treaty contributes to strengthening international peace and security, confirming the attachment of states to general human values: peace, freedom, democracy and social justice, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Considering the important political and economic transformations that occurred lately in both countries and in Europe as a whole, it becomes possible to develop better relations as well as to establish some mechanisms to ensure security of all states at the European level and to expand the interstate cooperation in various fields.
Reaffirming the commitment of both countries to the UN Charter’s purposes and principles, in regard with the principles and general norms recognized by international law and respecting the commitments made under the provisions of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the Charter for European Security and other fundamental documents of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and recognizing the principle of the primacy of international law in relations between states, the process of political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict where the Russian Federation participates as a mediator and guarantor, based on respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, it is firmly committed to promoting bilateral relations in various fields .
Also according to art.1 of the treaty, states will develop their relations based on mutual respect, trust and collaboration. Moldova and the Russian Federation will respect the principles and norms generally recognized by international law: the sovereign equality, non-use of force or threat of force, inviolability of borders, territorial integrity, political independence, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in internal affairs, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, equal rights and the right of peoples to self-determination, cooperation between states and the fulfilment in good faith of their commitments under international law.
Thus, in accordance with art.2 of the document, the parties will contribute to the development of international cooperation for maintaining peace and stability in Europe, considering it as an important contribution to the cause of defending peace and general security. To this end, as soon as possible Moldova and the Russian Federation will contribute by all means to the regulation of local and regional conflicts based on respect of the UN Charter, the purposes and principles of the documents of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as international acts in protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It also deserves attention the Treaty’s stipulation, where the contracting parties will further support the international efforts regarding disarmament, arms control, confidence building and security in the military field. In this context, it can be also included art. 3, where the parties, being deeply interested in ensuring peace and security, will carry out regular consultations in major international issues as well as issues related to bilateral relations. These consultations and exchange of views will include:
– International issues, including the situations generating tension in various parts of the world, particularly in the Eastern Europe in order to help promote international cooperation and strengthen international and regional security;
– Issues on cooperation within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe and other European structures;
– Issues which are the subject of multilateral negotiations, including those examined in international organizations and at international conferences;
– Problems related to extending and deepening bilateral cooperation in political, economic, legal, technical, scientific, ecological, cultural and humanitarian fields.
These consultations will take place at various levels, including meetings of senior state officials of the Contracting States, as well as visits of official delegations and special representatives. According to art. 5 each state shall abstain from any actions that would cause injury to the other country, related to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. In this context, according to the Treaty, the parties condemn separatism in all its forms and are committed to not support separatist movements.
Both the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova will promote equal and mutually beneficial cooperation in politics, economy, trade, defence, energy, environment, science, technology, culture, health and other fields. The Parties will conclude separate agreements in these and other fields of mutual interest (art.6) and will promote and expand bilateral economic relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and partnership based on trust. The main directions of interstate collaboration in the economic sphere will be the development and operation of the market of goods, services, capital and labour, promoting a coordinated policy in the field of taxation, finance and credit, currency and financial, trade, customs and tariff development of transport networks, energy and information (art. 7).
An important aspect stipulated in art.8 of the Treaty, states, guided by national legislation and international commitments, will provide to economic agents favourable economic, financial and legal conditions for entrepreneurship activity and other measures, including the mutual stimulation and protection of investments, avoiding double taxation, the creation and operation of companies and mixed financial-industrial groups, development of mutually beneficial economic programs. The parties will not apply discriminatory measures against one another in mutual economic relations and will develop their relations on the basis of separate agreements in the sphere of military and technical-military cooperation, achievements of exchanges on military line, securing state cooperation issues border (art.13) . Although the Treaty was signed, Russian-Moldovan relations still remain problematic; many of the provisions and commitments assumed by the Russian Federation until now remain only declarative.
Currently, there are reasons that could explain the assiduous efforts of the Russian Federation to keep the Republic of Moldova, as the rest of the Eastern European area, in sphere of influence. During the USSR, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) held a military-strategic importance. Moldova’s importance to the interests of the Russian Federation can be seen in the content of the discussions in Moscow, within the seminar „Transnistrian conflict settlement prospects”, a seminar which was organized by the Russian Association of theory and modelling of international relations and which had a limited character. Thus, it was found that Russian interests in Transnistria are determined by the following needs:
- a) to keep Russia’s strategic positions in South-eastern Europe;
- b) to defend the Russian population interests in Moldova and the representatives of other nationalities who consider Russia as their historic homeland;
- c) to keep business contacts with companies from Transnistria, some of them being unique in the industrial-military complex;
- d) to regulate the conflict in the interest of internal own stability and consolidation of Russia’s relations with neighbour countries where Russian minority is;
- e) to establish predictable and stable relations with Romania and to not allow increase its nationalist influence on Moldova [12, p. 6-7].
The strategic value of Moldova is attested by the presence of a military infrastructure in the eastern area of Moldova that could be used in a possible conflict between Russia and NATO. In addition, Russia’s access to Transnistrian region is blocked by Ukraine, which often adopts a different policy in comparison to Russia. In this case, Moldova could be used by Russia to control Romania and Ukraine. But Romania’s policy in the last decade, which refers to accession into the Euro-Atlantic security structures (joining NATO in 2004) and economic ones (joining the EU in 2006), does not leave a room for different speculations regarding the modification of the foreign policy vector [28, p. 300-320].
Currently, there is manifested a particularly intense attention to Transnistria. This is explained primarily by advancing the European Union border to Moldova. Thus, Europe discovers that at its border from the east there is a country with a frozen conflict, where on its territory there was created a state called Transnistria („Transnistrian Moldovan Republic” – TMR), unrecognized by the international community, but that, in fact, for 23 years it has been existing as an autonomous state within the Republic of Moldova, with its own constitution and legislation. In Soviet times, on the territory of the left bank of the MSSR was produced more than a third of all industrial production of the country. The industrial complex included the following branches: electro energy; steel; machine building and metalworking industry; electrical industry; chemical, woodworking and furniture industry; printing industry, glass, light industry and the construction materials. In Transnistria there are located power plants in Cuciurgan and Dubasari. The power plant from Cuciurgan only supply electricity for the entire MSSR (in case of functional industry), but also exported electricity in Ukraine and several states which are members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). All steel and laminate, 90% of the electricity of MSSR were produced in the eastern part of the country. The USSR disintegration caused also destruction of economic relations system, which has considerably destabilized the region’s economy. Some industrial branches have fallen overall. These processes were common for the entire post-Soviet space. In the Transnistrian region, the socioeconomic situation was also complicated because of its indeterminate status and permanent conflict between officials from Chisinau and Tiraspol. Transnistrian enterprises have passed a pretty long way – from state ownership of 100% (the early 1990s) to the general privatization (2002-2003). Until the privatization process, the industry included 144 enterprises with diverse forms of ownership: 113 from them were state enterprises, 11 – joint stock companies and 6 – collective enterprises .
The former MSSR had a special importance in geopolitical and geostrategic plans of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. On MSSR territory there would be deployed military units in the structure of land forces of Odessa Military District and an important part of land and air forces directly subordinated to the General Staff of the Soviet Army in Moscow. The 14th Soviet Army was created in November 1956 as a result of unifying the 10 and 24 Soviet army who were part of Odessa Military District. Its principal mission was to ensure the URSS’s military supremacy on Southeast Europe (Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy) in case of a military conflict with NATO and to perform a strategic offensive in the military operations in the Balkans called the Southwest Front of Soviet operations plans. The Suez Channel and the northern coast of Africa were at the same time a second strategic objective of the offensive Red army in a war against NATO and Europe. In the present building of the Ministry of Defence in Chisinau there were settled Headquarters and Weapon Control Point of the General Soviet Staff for Southwest operative direction. The building was equipped with the most modern and sophisticated technical systems and radio espionage and counterespionage. In the Republic of Moldova on the right bank, until 1998, there were placed two motorized divisions of tanks and an airborne division, served by two military airfields for helicopters and fighter jets MIG-29. On the territory of the MSSR was still placed subunits of missiles, missile bases with a medium range of action (surface-to-air and air-to-land missile) and in Balti and Ungheni area there were placed military units of heavy artillery, sapper units and pioneers. In all big cities (Chisinau, Balti, Tiraspol, Bender, Ribnitsa, Dubasari, Cahul, Floresti etc.) and in smaller towns, along with the rivers Prut and Dniester, there were located units and military subunits of motorized infantry equipped with the most modern fighting machines, type BTR and BMP-80. These land forces were supported by units from the 5th Army of Soviet Aviation, directly subordinated by Odessa Military District, as well as the units with infrastructure nature of the Black Sea Fleet which were deployed on the territory of the MSSR. Soviet military forces were backed by “ALFA”, “Dolphin” and “Dniester” detachments of KGB and GRU .
Americans and Europeans expressed which was generated not by the conflict itself, but the stocks of arms and paths that the respectively ammunition surprisingly reached through the most unwanted areas of the globe. Analysing the Moldovan-Russian relations through the correlation between European Union – the Russian Federation and the US – the Russian Federation, we can say that the concluded complexity of interactions are due to the impact of each of these actors and their interests in the region. As a result of the US-Russian competition in various regions of the world, Moscow has welcomed the launch of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), seeing in it a new mean of diminishing the influence of the US and NATO in Europe.
However, due to Euro-Atlantic disparities regarding the security policy of the North-Atlantic Alliance, as a result of the US influence in various regional conflicts, the EU has been tainted to intensify cooperation with Russia by 2014, particularly within neighbourhood policy. The events in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine brought a new turn in strategic EU-Russia relations.
The lack of a firm position and clearly defined interests within the EU from the Republic of Moldova could place the Russian Federation on a managerial position at the border, Transnistria becoming in that case a strategic area between the US, EU and Russia, although once with acceptance of the US and the EU in the mechanism of negotiations on Transnistrian conflict, the role of these two actors in the region increases. However, given the difficulties of cooperation between these actors, both within the consultation mechanism provided by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) and the new format of negotiations „5 + 2”, the effectiveness of international mission of stabilization in Transnistria is doubtful. Due to the imperfect mechanism of over-representation, implied the „5 + 2”, it is expected that Russia will use all the benefits of its military, economic and political region to undermine the negotiation process.
In terms of such political locations of the US and EU interests in the Transnistrian region, it becomes obvious the role Russia will have. While the primary interest of the US is to withdraw the military arsenal of the 14th Army and to strengthen security in the region, the European Union
is interested in determining the separatist leaders to accept democratic norms and international law, in a process of stabilization, democratization, counter illicit transit of goods, trafficking in persons, arms and drugs. Since these objectives are reached, it is possible that the US and EU role in the Transnistrian region is diminished, which fully suits the interests of Russia and the leaders from Tiraspol .
If we make an abstraction of NATO and the EU’s advance to east, it is natural to ask whether there are other reasons that could explain the assiduous efforts of the Russian Federation to keep Moldova within sphere of influence. During the USSR, MSSR had a military-strategic importance. Representing the southwest border of the USSR, within the Odessa military district, MSSR has been attributed the main bastion role in case of aggression from the southwest. In addition, Moldova also served as a bridgehead for future offensive operations towards the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, the Suez Canal and the North African coast as secondary strategic . The USSR disintegration and Ukrainian independence have diminished the strategic importance of the new Moldovan state. Moldova has ceased to be a „bridge to the Balkans”. This became clear especially after the establishment of a democratic regime in Serbia, the last supposed ally of Russia in the region and the Serbia’s EU orientation. The small territory of Moldova does not allow it to declare itself as „an intersection of trade routes between East and West”. Moldova does not have natural resources of a strategic nature. The food products which Moldova exports to Russia are not of major importance for the Russian food market. However, some companies of processing wine and tobacco are of a particular economic interest. We can also assume that the existence of Transnistrian “black hole” and corrupt civil servants could be the interest of Russian capital, which for several times has a dubious origin, Moldova performing many of the features of an “off-shore” area .
An important aspect of the interest shown by the Russian Federation refers to the activity of some enterprises in the eastern part of the country. The most famous enterprises are: „Pribor”, ,,Metalorucav”, „Kirov Elec trical Appliances”, the industrial complex „Electromas” located in Tiraspol and the metallurgical and hydraulic industrial complex in Ribnitsa, where under the official cover of electrical appliances production and household appliances, have produced illegal of weapons (till the establishment of the European Union Mission for Border Assistance to Moldova and Ukraine – EUBAM). The range of illegal weapons produced in these industrial complexes is varied. Thus, among the weapon models produced illegally in the Transnistrian region can be mentioned: multi launchers – 20 tube, placed on vehicles „Zil 131” and ,,Ural 365”’ (were exported in conflict areas, such as Abkhazia).
Also there are produced other models of weapon: launchers of antitank grenade (model „Spig-7” and „Spig-9”, mines – 82 and 120 mm, launchers of portable mines – 50 mm, model Katran. Also, there are manufactured illegal revolvers (model Pm – 9 mm, Tt – 7.62 mm, Psm – 5.45 mm, assault weapons – AK-47, Kalashnikov – 7,62 and 5.45 mm, compact machine guns – 9 mm, grenade launchers Pcela and Gnome, launchers of mines (model Vasiliok, some of these were sold to Chechen rebels), launchers of mobile guns (model Duga), launchers of grenades (model Npgm-40) for the machine guns (model Ask74), launchers of mines (model 82 mm), anti-personnel mines Pnd in the coating of wood, launchers of grenade – 40 mm (model Gp-15) [19, p. 75].
In this context, a great interest refers to the military deposit in Colbasna, which is located near the town Ribnitsa, in northern Transnistria. Set on an area of about 132 ha, at the military deposit in Colbasna there were stored about 42 thousand tons of conventional arms, munitions and war material in the former Soviet period. Currently, Moscow maintains in the Transnistrian region about 20 thousand tons of ammunition. These munitions and military troops had to be withdrawn unconditionally and completely in Moldova until 2002, in accordance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CAFE) and the OSCE Declaration at Istanbul Summit in 1999. In 2007, the Russian Federation suspended its participation in the CAFE Treaty, and now conditions the complete withdrawal of its troops and ammunition from Moldova, delaying the settlement of Transnistrian conflict, which does not coincide with the position of Chisinau, focused on complete and unconditional withdrawal of ammunition and troops. A part of conventional weapons has been withdrawn by Russia or has been trafficked and sold illegally in various parts of the world. Under the component of the military and paramilitary forces in Transnistria there are 16 thousand effectives, subdivided into 4 motorized infantry brigades who are stationed in Tiraspol, Ribnitsa and Dubasari, equipped with advanced equipment and technology. The complex has 18 tanks, 107 armored vehicles, 73 guns, 46 anti-aircraft installations and 173 antitank units. The air fleet consists of 9 helicopters Mi-8T, 6 helicopters Mi-24, helicopters Mi-2 and planes An-2, An-26 and Yak-18 [19, p. 78]. Officially, in the area there would be about 1,200 Russian troops. In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, the press in Kiev wrote that in Transnistria there would be present at least 5000 soldiers .
Once with the establishment of EUBAM Mission on December 1st, 2005, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Moldova, the European Commission and the Government of Ukraine, on the border between Moldova and Transnistria, as well as the border between Ukraine and Transnistria there were not detected violation of border crossing and in particular illegal trade of weapons from Transnistria origin. However, at the moment there are still potential and danger for restarting the production and sale of illegal weapons. Thus, the main objective of EUBAM Mission is to develop capacity in border control field and to strengthen security in the region. Since December 2005, 120 experts in customs and border police from 22 EU Member States have been assisting the Moldovan and Ukrainian colleagues to manage the border . Cooperation with EUBAM is a priority for Moldova’s border authority, the activities being carried out under the provisions of EUBAM Action Plan for 2013 (Phase Action Plan) in the following relevant areas: developing legal framework for border management; strengthening institutional capacities of the Border Police, by organizing trainings and exchange of experience; granting expertise and profile consultancy in the reform process of the institution; developing joint patrolling and joint control at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border; combating cross-border crime . The initiative to establish this mission was launched at Brussels by the Presidents of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, which have asked the EU for assistance in such a sensitive issue – to control the so-called green border sector, uncontrolled by Chisinau, because this, on the one hand, is administered by Ukraine, and on the other hand – by the Transnistrian authorities .
Another important step to secure the Moldovan-Ukrainian border was the adoption by the Ukrainian Parliament the document on enhancing the security border with the Republic of Moldova, in particular with Moldova’s separatist region . To this end, the Kiev authorities have started digging the trench with a width of 3.5 meters and a depth of 2-3 meters, at a distance of 450 km in length. The border between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova has a total length of 1018 km, of which 450 km of area is controlled by the separatist regime in Tiraspol . In this context, Ukraine will close the border crossing points on the Transnistrian segment, which is uncontrolled by the authorities in Chisinau and the Russian forces are located. Supreme Rada in Kiev recommends the Moldovan government to increase the security of the border zone with the separatist region . As the latest events show, Ukraine, which is the second neighbour immediately to the east of Moldova, is considered one of the state -guarantor in the Transnistrian problem settlement. Until 1996, Kiev was involved in a passive manner in settling the Transnistrian conflict, although in 1992 it was part alongside with Russia, Romania and Moldova in the „Four Commission for settling the Transnistrian conflict”. In turn, neither Chisinau during these years showed significant efforts towards strengthening and consolidating bilateral relations, with the exception of border demarcation issues and those of the Transnistrian problem [4, pp. 28-29].
Also the negative attitude to Moldova does not have a well-founded support. Moldova’s reduced strategic value is evidenced by the lack of military infrastructure that could be used in a possible conflict between Russia and NATO. In addition, the access of Russia to Transnistria is blocked by Ukraine, which has lately adopted a different policy from that of Russia regarding Moldova. Neither the presence of Russian troops on Moldovan territory seems to be a pretty convincing argument to explain the Russian interest on Moldova. In this case, Moldova could be used by Russia to control Romania and Ukraine. But Romania’s policy in the last decade does not leave different speculations regarding the modification of the foreign policy vector, if we refer to the accession to Euro-Atlantic security and economic structures .
One reason that makes the Russian Federation shows an interest towards Moldova refers to expanding NATO eastward, who arrived in Constanta, 200 km from Moldova’s borders . NATO’s expansion in the post-Cold War period led to the change of European security architecture, involving Moldova in a new security system . The enlargement waves in 1999 and 2004 placed the Republic of Moldova in the immediate vicinity of the Euro-Atlantic organization, which could not pass without effect for the complex of national security. Transnistrian region plays a crucial role in the confrontation between Russia and NATO on the Southeast European dimension. Controlling this region, the Russian Federation manipulates the Moldovan leadership, and this is a way to influence Ukraine, which in turn opens up the possibility of Eastern Europe domination by Russia. According to the statements of President V. Putin, Washington creates threats to Russia by placing some elements of the US global system of missile defence in Poland and Romania . In this context, Russia has no problem with installations from Deveselu, which poses no threat to it. For Moscow it presents danger the final stages of the project, ie the third phase – placing a radar in the Czech Republic and some interceptors in Poland and the fourth phase – deploying interceptors that can destroy not only the missiles with medium range, as the Iranian Shahab-3, but also the intercontinental missiles and possibly it could launch the deployment of elements of the shield to orbit.
According to Kremlin these systems would threaten the global strategic balance and therefore the Russian Federation challenges the entire program, including the phases one and two. Although it has been assured that it is not directed against it, Russia continues to support that the shield will affect the nuclear deterrence capability and has repeatedly promised “a riposte” .
The antimissile system at Deveselu is a concern for Moscow as it is a guarantee that Romania will not return under another Russian sphere of influence . Initially, under the administration of George W. Bush, the antimissile shield had to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Romania with other countries have manifested dissatisfaction that this architecture does not protect all NATO members.
Only the north-western part of Romania had been protected by a missile attack and NATO member states such as Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey would have remained uncovered. This formula had the diplomatic disadvantage that irritated Russia. Under the administration of Barack Obama, the equation has suddenly changed. Poland and the Czech Republic came out of the scheme, although there were already signed strategic cooperation treaties with the US. The architecture shield was changed, being rethought as a system that includes naval and land elements (AEGIS system on cruisers in the Mediterranean Sea and interceptors and radars in Romania, Turkey and possibly in Bulgaria and Greece, according to Wikileaks telegram in Bucharest .
President V. Putin perceives missile defence shield elements in Romania and Poland as threats to state security. US antimissile shield is one of the topics criticized by the Russian Federation, once with project initiation. At the military base at Deveselu there will be placed missiles of 3-SM type that can intercept ballistic missiles with a medium-range (including Iranian intercontinental missiles Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 with a ray of 2800 km and 4300 km. In phases 3 and 4 of the project, the shield elements will be substituted with a rocket with a larger capacity. The defence system was designed against possible attacks with missiles of high capacity from Iran or other areas in the Middle East. Also in the military base at Deveselu there will operate radar Aegis SPY-1 and 24 interceptors SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) of IB Blok type.
The Aegis system installed on military ships or offshore is designed to intercept short-range missiles and medium-range missiles. Currently, there are at least 24 Aegis systems installed on US Navy ships, patrolling the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. NATO missile defense system in Europe is intended to counter threats posed by countries like Iran. Another component of the antiballistic system is the mobile land system of high-altitude THAAD, installed on military trucks . In this context, Russia’s interests consisted in keeping Moldova in its sphere of influence, not only Transnistria. Russia needs a higher plateau for geopolitical presence in this region of Europe, because it wants to stop NATO near its borders and to prevent the formation of a chain of enemy states from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In turn, NATO by placing anti-missile shield in Romania and establishing special relations with Moldova and Ukraine becomes able to control the eastern border of Russia and transforms it from a Eurasian power into Asian one .
Also, the Republic of Moldova is important for Russia for its geographical location. „Moldova is a country where Western powers meet and Moscow, most likely, will remain paralyzed politically in the short or even medium term”, says the US Stratfor agency. The geographical location of Moldova is valuable for Russia, being a traditional route of invasion from the south-west and the Balkan states. It is located near the strategic port of Odessa and Crimea, where Russia until 2014, has stationed fleet in the Black Sea and is part of the network of energy transit linking Russia to Europe and Turkey .
Another pretext of the Russian Federation interests, according to the Military Doctrine 30th 2014, refers to the defending and protecting Russian citizens outside the territory of sovereignty of Russia . Thus, in Moldova 6% of the population is ethnically Russian, and in Transnistria the percentage is 30% (another 30% are Ukrainians).
Returning to the analysis of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation in 2001, in accordance with art.16, the parties guarantee the citizens of the other state the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by its citizens, according to the national law of the parties and bilateral treaties between them. The parties also protects the rights of their citizens residing in the territory of the other state, in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law and the commitments contained in the documents of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Dual citizenship matters shall be governed by a separate agreement between states. In accordance with principles of international law and taking into account their national interests, countries will coordinate their policy on migration, including measures to prevent illegal migration from third countries, and for these purposes, they will sign a separate agreement (art.17). An important aspect stipulated in art. 18 of the Treaty, is that the signed parties ensure and protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities to freedom of speech, maintain and develop their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious groups and creates necessary conditions to preserve this identity.
Parties shall undertake appropriate measures to prevent and stop any action that is discrimination or violence against individuals or particular groups of people based on national, racial, ethnic or religious intolerance. In this context, the provisions stipulated in art.19 of the Treaty complements the Moldovan-Russian relations. Thus, the signatory parties will strengthen relations in various fields of culture, will contribute by all means to develop cooperation in the humanitarian field. The parties also encourages the extension of exchanges and interaction between teams of creation, organizations and associations of literary, art people, filmmakers, workers of editorial and artistic field, organizing days of national cultures, festivals and art exhibitions, tournaments of teams of creation and soloists, exchanges of delegations for intellectuals and specialists at state, regional and local level. In the interest of extending mutual knowledge about peoples of both countries, the signatory parties will contribute to the creation of cultural centres and collaboration in mass media field.
A milestone stipulated in art.20, is that the parties reaffirm the citizens’ right to use their mother language, to freedom of language choice of communication, education, training and creation, in accordance with European and international standards. Considering the role and importance of Russian language, Moldovan side will ensure, in accordance with national law the appropriate conditions for meeting training needs in the education system of Moldova in Russian language. The Russian side will create appropriate conditions for meeting training needs in the Moldovan language in Russian Federation .
Defending citizens living outside the borders is one of the pretexts often used by the great powers when trying to expand its influence over other countries. Whenever the relationship with Russia is getting worse, in Russian media there arises discussions about the situation of Russian community in Moldova, which it presents as a rather precarious. However, the situation of the Russian minorities in Moldova is special in comparison with Baltic states, which is often compared with Moldova in this respect. In the opinion of many experts who deal with the issue of national minorities, the Moldovan legislation is one of the best that exists in this region. When adopting the „Law on National Minorities”, it was praised even by Valery Klimenko, the leader of the Congress of Russian Communities of Moldova, who said that „finally the leadership became interested in the situation of minorities”. Even in the first article of this law it is stated that “persons belonging to national minorities are those residing in Moldova, are its citizens, have ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious particularities and differ from the majority population – Moldovans – and consider themselves of other ethnic origin. Russian minority is the most active national minority in Moldova. First, due to the status of „ethnic movement” and the influence the Russian language has. Both at official and unofficial level, Russian language is used at the same level as the state language, and in some sectors it is even dominant. According to Moldovan law, all official documents are issued in both languages and civil servants are obliged to know and respond to citizens’ demands in the language where the application was requested.
There are officials, even ministers and deputies who speak only Russian in the Government and the Parliament. Therefore, at many of the high-level meetings, such as meetings of the Government or the Presidency, the discussions are held in Russian and at the Parliament’s plenary sessions it is translated simultaneously for members who do not speak the state language. Currently, according to the last census in 2004, there are 201.212 of Russian inhabitants in Moldova, which represents approximately 5.9% of the entire population of the country .
If we analyse the situation in the country, according to the 2004 census, the Slavs form the majority – Russians – 30.4%, Ukrainians – 28.8%, Bulgarians – 2%, Polish – 2%, forming a total of 63.2% inhabitants. So, Moldovans represent 31.8% and Gagauz – 2%, forming the majority in three districts: Kamenka – 63%, Dubasari – 89% and Grigoriopol – 76%. Moreover, it is interesting that, for some of other nationalities, the Russian language is considered to be a native one, which makes de facto Russian-speaking population be somewhat higher. The majority of Russian-speaking population lives in cities, of which almost half of the total are concentrated in Chisinau. Also, a large number of people resides in the second biggest city, Balti and in particular in the northern districts of the country. In Moldova there are a large number of ethnic Russians organizations that are funded by central or local authorities in Russia. Thus, we can mention the Russian community in Moldova and the Congress of Russian Communities. Even now, Russians ethnic organizations are not as active as other organizations in Ukraine or the Baltics, however they remain some pressure groups that are used by Moscow when it needs to publicize certain events . Unlike Moldova, which complies with the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the Russian Federation, which although has assumed certain obligations towards Moldovan citizens on Russian territory, does not undertake any mutual actions.
In the context of the Moldovan-Russian relations, it is necessary to make reference to Moldova-EU relations. Moldova receives strong support from the European Union, becoming the largest recipient of EU financial support per capita. If we examine what would be the EU’s geopolitical interests in Moldova, then there are not convincing the allegations that the EU in Moldova is guided by geopolitical reasons. Obviously, in Eastern Europe there aroused a competition between European integration and Euro-Asian vector. Conflicts such as those in Ukraine or Moldova, affect the European security, and instability in Eastern Europe may generate other threats to EU countries, such as organized crime, drug trafficking. In this sense, for the European Union European integration is a mean to overcome the chronic instability in Eastern Europe. In the case of Moldova, the European integration is not only a way to ensure the country’s stability by belonging to a greater union.
Rather, here the European integration is an external provider for reforms and internal conditions that Moldova needs to improve its development. For half a century, the European Union has been acquiring experience in implementing the EU’s fundamental values – human rights, rule of law, good governance, democracy and market economy with equal opportunities – it is the best guarantee to ensure prosperity and stability .
Russian goals are to improve its position in Moldova by strengthening the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (CPRM) and developing an independent relationship with leaders and members of the AEI (Alliance for European Integration). If Russia cannot help the Communists to regain strength, it can at least ensure that Moldova remains divided and unable to choose a course of pro-Western foreign policy. Along with the small size and its strategic position this is a main factor of weakness of the state and its ability to balance between external powers. The Republic of Moldova is divided both territorially and politically. Moldovan government has no territorial sovereignty over the transnistrean area and, politically, the country is divided between two main groups, namely the Communist Party which is oriented to Russia and AEI that supports ties with Romania and NATO .
After the parliamentary elections on November 30th 2014, three parties claimed to be pro-European and have obtained a minimum majority in the Parliament of Chisinau. But the Liberal Party left the coalition after there were rejected requirements to reform the judicial system and to combat corruption. Meanwhile, the three parties support the idea that an independent general attorney should make order into mafia and financial also supported by the EU. „However, already then, I had a feeling that Moldovan oligarchs do not want this”. Russia controls and finances some of the political parties in Chisinau. The Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova (SPRM) is currently the most famous party, an offshoot of communists that became the strongest parliamentary party at elections organized last autumn. This party has stated its preference to Moldova’s accession to Euro-Asian Customs Union. Currently, CPRM and SPRM advocates for creation of a common economic and customs space with Russia, Moldova’s accession to Customs Union where Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan are members and the Eurasian Union proposed by President V.Putin, which is contradictory with the strategic goal of European integration. Through pro-Moscow speeches and the hidden relations with Moscow, the members of these parties are not interested in the European integration process. Although the government Gaburici advocated for pro-European vector, actually, tends to coordinate all actions with Russia . The Russian Federation also wants to maintain its military presence and political influence in Transnistria, creating a new inclusion of Moldova in the Eurasian Union. Like Ukraine, Moldova is weak and divided, but unlike it, it has no traditional or ethnic links with Russia, but rather with Romania, relationships that are privileged, special, arising out of community of nation, culture, language and national history.
Thus, analysing the geopolitical and geostrategic interests of Russia in Transnistria, we find that these are determined by the following Russian needs : 1) preservation of Russia’s strategic positions in Eastern Europe; 2) protection in Moldova of Russian population interests and representatives of other nationalities who consider Russia as their historic homeland; 3) preservation of liaison with the Transnistrian military-industrial complex, some businesses of this complex being unique in the former Soviet military-industrial complex; 4) conflict settlement in the interest of its own internal stability and strengthening Russia’s relations with neighbouring countries where Russian minority exists; 5) establishment of predictable and stable relations with Romania and, prevention of increasing nationalist influence of Romania on Moldova.
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