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“3D” strategy — from “extremism” to consensus?

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Oazu Nantoi / October 31, 2004
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Immediately after the armed conflict in the Eastern regions of the Republic of Moldova (Transdniester) in the summer of 1992, the interest of Moldovan society to that issue was fading. Politicians of every ideological stripe that succeeded each other in power have unofficial set a taboo on Transdnistrian conflict. It didn’t come to the mind of Moldovan governors to question the format of the peacekeeping troops in the security zone, as it was outlined on July 21, 1992 in the “Agreement on Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Transdniester Region of the Republic of Moldova”, document that in fact legalized paramilitary structures of the so-called Moldovan Dniestrian Republic (MDR). As for the Russian troops and munitions illegally located on the soil of the Republic of Moldova, there were of more concern to Americans than domestic patriots.

While governors and opposition were jostling for influence, the generous gesture made by Chisinau on February 7, 1996 when it handed over to Tiraspol customs seals of the Republic of Moldova, was left unnoticed. Back then Igor Smirnov decided it was the right time to appoint his son as the Chair of the State Customs Committee. Even the Memorandum of May 8, 1997 being truly unconstitutional was left unnoticed by the Moldovan society as it was struggling with dire social-economic straits. Indeed, politicians and public officials in Chisinau who realized that in political meddling with Tiraspol they might earn a fortune, fully exploited this apathy in society.

Thus Moldovan society was split into two parallel worlds. One — society indifferent to the conflict. The other — the underworld merged with the political elite in Chisinau, Kiev and Moscow that fully benefited of the “frozen” conflict. Sporadic attempts by journalists, publicists to draw the attention of the public to the things happening failed, but those who dared to speak up were immediately labelled as “extremists” .

In the spring of 2000 Institute for Public Policies embarked on studying regional conflicts and Transdniestrian conflict in particular. Step by step a number of studies were produced, all of them pointing to the effect that both the “unique” formula of the peacekeeping forces and “five-sided” negotiated format were imposed so as to allow Russian Federation to keep the situation under its control and prevent the resolution of the conflict.

Things started to change immediately after parliamentary elections of February 2001. Reintegration of the country has taken centre stage. In many of his declaration and actions President Voronin draw public’s attention to the Transdnistrian issue, teetering from huge concessions to Tiraspol to dubbing Igor Smirnov “bandit and mafia”, move followed by the introduction of new customs seals.

The idea to settle Transdnistrian conflict by turning Republic of Moldova into a federative state was yet another challenge for the Moldovan society. For the first time, West formed a joint front with OSCE and Russia and endorsed the initiative. For the first time the pages of governmental media were open to opposition forces to have their say on the federalisation. Debates that followed highlighted the weaknesses of the federalization idea — holding a referendum and questionable viability of the federative state established by mechanically assembling Transdnistrian regime, dubbed as criminal by Moldovan authorities, and what currently is the Republic of Moldova. None of the proponents of federalization was able to tell what would happen to the Republic of Moldova in case the referendum on federalization was to fail, or how viable the “reunited” state would be if the repressive structures of the Tiraspol regime were not eliminated first.

3D strategy was launched in the summer of 2003 after it became clear that ideas formulated in IPP’s studies needed a “packaging” able to compete with the “federalisation” formula. The end-goal was very clear while developing the 3D strategy. The reintegrated state was to become viable, democratic, prosperous, European-oriented and “immune” to any recurrence of secessionism. This is feasible as citizens on both sides of Dniester do not view each other as enemies. This last thing, has led us to the conclusion that Igor Smirnov’s clan should not be allowed to the negotiation table, as it represents foreign geopolitical and economic-criminal interests and seeks to hinder conflict resolution.

Respectively, 3D strategy provides for eliminating all the obstacles for the reintegration of the Republic of Moldova, establishing efficient mechanisms and mobilizing resources necessary. At the same time, the strategy also envisages blocking any possibility for Tiraspol regime to pursue the aforesaid interests (geopolitical and international organized crime network) that kept them alive. The gist of the strategy resumes to three major goals — Demilitarization of the Moldovan Dniestrian Republic (withdrawing Russian Federation troops and dismantling its MDR’s potential) Decriminalization of the entire region by halting smuggling and Democratization of the Republic of Moldova as a whole.

3D strategy includes a psychological element as well — for 15 years MDR’s public opinion is manipulated; it was raised in the fear for the enemy from the right bank of Dniester. It would take time to demolish those stereotypes, time in which some positive expectations should be brought to the people of Transdnistria as regards perspective of country reintegration, democratization of entire society, and European future of the Republic of Moldova.

In the summer of 2004 a group of independent experts from Moldova and abroad decided to draft and present to the public 3D strategy and a Road Map that would clearly outline to be undertaken actions and responsibilities of the actors involved in the process of reintegrating Moldova. This initiative of the civil society has a twofold goal. On the one hand, to provide a document to the political elite and society at large that would pave the way to a national consensus on settling Transdnistrian conflict. Similarly, 3D and Road Map are to show the West that at last Republic of Moldova has realized what it wants as regards Transdnistrian conflict, that it knows how to reintegrate the country and is ready to assume its share of responsibility. So far twenty six NGOs endorsed the document that was presented to the major political parties of Moldova. Latest declarations made by President Voronin as regards Transdnistrian conflict are to a large extend in line with the main principles of 3D strategy. Apparently, all the premises for achieving a national consensus on Moldova reintegration seem to be there, however the time will show to what extent Moldovan society and its so-called political elite are ready to this breakthrough. There is only one alternative to reintegrating the country and a very tough one — continuous degradation of the idea of Republic of Moldova statehood.

To friends — everything, to enemies — the law Stability and Security Pact for the Republic of Moldova