The group of 30 OSCE ambassadors who have recently paid a working visit to Moldova has concluded that the OSCE cannot persuade the conflicting sides, Chisinau and Tiraspol, to resume the five-plus-two negotiations. Thus, it seems that the Belgian OSCE Chairmanship faces serious difficulties in achieving its goals. It pledged when it took over the mandate last January to implement the “3R” strategy on reformation of the organisation: Reform; Rebalancing (political, military, economic and humanitarian dimensions); Revitalisation of the OSCE, declaring the settlement of frozen conflicts among priorities. The achievement of the last goal seems to be a real failure. More, the head of the Belgian Permanent Mission to the OSCE, Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugge says that his country did not prepare a new project on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, though the newspaper Flux has published details from the so-called Belgian project which had been vehement criticised. All these facts strengthen our conviction that the OSCE ministerial summit this year will fail again to adopt a final statement through a consensus. The fact that OSCE officials acknowledge the impossibility of persuading the conflicting sides to resume the negotiations must not surprise. It is known for a long time that the Russian Federation must be persuaded to restart the negotiations, not Transnistria as a conflicting side, since the Tiraspol regime entirely depends on benevolence of the first. Russia is a very important feature within the OSCE and it has recently worked out its own strategy on frozen conflicts, but the OSCE does not have and cannot have it. This explains the above mentioned situation.
It is not difficult at all to understand the strategy of the Russian Federation. It is enough to recall the statement by President Vladimir Putin that “the collapse of the USSR was a big geopolitical catastrophe.” By saying this, he has refrained himself from telling that former Soviet republics will feel again soon the effects of the Russian Federation’s efforts to remedy the consequences of this catastrophe. Truly, the echo precedes the event in politics. Thus, what President Putin has refrained himself to tell was said long ago very clearly by the incumbent deputy chairmen of the State Duma, Sergey Baburin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and a leader of the ruling party Yedinnaya Rossia, Konstantin Zatulin, and Vladimir Putin has recently awarded high state medals to them for this fact, appreciating their special merits.
It is clear from what was said above that Baburin, Zhirinovsky and Zatulin (BZhZ), some of them being ideologists and animators of the famous “Russian march”, are a kind of collective BZhZ-skin of President Vladimir Putin. After prices of hydrocarbons have reached astronomic levels and the “energy weapon” has become effective, “judoka Putin” has also sat down at “The Great Chessboard” described by known Zbignev Bzhezinsky. Exactly as in the mentioned book the fate wanted Ukraine to be a big stake at this “chessboard” while the irony of destiny wanted that the collective BZhZskin be declared in corpore persona non grata in this country this year. It is true that if Premier Yanukovich manages to get rid of the foreign and defence ministers from quota of President Yushchenko, Tarasyuk and Gritsenko, there will be no room for irony any longer.
However, we must note that despite origin and essence of the new strategy of Russia, the implementation of this document by President Putin is intelligent and mocking, including toward the West. Even more, Russia is imprudent to claim moral superiority. The only but minor problem for President Putin is that strategist Zhirinovsky is permanently and publicly claiming his copyright for all ideas laid at basis of strategic initiatives of the Russian administration.
We are interested in strategic behaviour of the Russian Federation at the extent it affects the interests of CIS members that face frozen conflicts, especially of the Republic of Moldova. It is based on three known things that we should reiterate:
It is a fact that Russia can afford all these things, hinting that it imitates only the West’s conduct as a measure of response, in order to protect own interests, being sure that it does not risk anything.
We have ascertained that the maintenance of “equality of the sides” involved in frozen conflicts is a basic element of efforts aimed to remedy consequences “of the biggest geopolitical catastrophe.” It is interesting how Russia ensures this “equality of sides” in the virtue of its power. In this respect, Russia holds some arguments that it may use how it wants:
Altogether these factors create a visible arsenal of tools of application and justification of “adequate and asymmetrical” answers toward actions taken by Moldovan authorities to settle the Transnistrian conflict. How this is done? The new regional political conjuncture formed after the presidential elections in Ukraine has produced a new approach of measures of settling the Transnistrian conflict. All actions of Moldovan authorities in this regard have been coordinated with the United States, the European Union and Ukraine at a bigger or smaller extent. They are: the Yushchenko plan on conflict resolution through democratisation of the Transnistrian region; introduction of the new customs system in the Transnistrian section of the Moldova-Ukraine border and setup of the European Union’s Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM); adoption by Moldovan Parliament of the law on basic principles of Transnistria’s status aimed to award more autonomy, etc.
Russia has negatively reacted to all these actions and initiatives and it argued that any initiative uncoordinated with Transnistrian authorities will fail and will be combated “adequately and asymmetrically.” It is true that:
The thawing and settlement of the Transnistrian conflict is postponed for an indefinite term. Russia’s strategy cannot be left aside in settlement of this conflict.
Russia’s policy on frozen conflicts is resumed to ensure de facto the “equality of the sides” participating in so-called frozen conflicts. It is not prepared to incorporate the separatist enclaves in itself, as these actions are capable to create big external problems. Also, the recognition of independence of Transnistria and other separatist regimes in spite of results of so-called referendums and recognition of their legitimacy by State Duma is not very probable. If so, it would mean that the entire space of remedying consequences of the “geopolitical catastrophe” is reduced to these separatist regions only. It is too little for the new Russian elite, which has stirred up the nationalist spirit and revengeful expectations in Russia for the entire post-Soviet area. The risk is that the “Russian march” inspired by present elite could turn against itself, if the inspired expectations are impossible.
Russia will probably act on long term to destabilise the socio-economic condition and, as a result, the political situation through its economic-financial and commercial policies. The most devoted partner of the Russian Federation, Belarus, is also tested its awareness over gravity of the “geopolitical catastrophe” that took place 15 years ago. There will be tries to change political elites in CIS. Organisations such as “Patria-Moldova” based in Moscow will be involved to speak on behalf of CIS nations and nationals from all meridians. Eventual changes of ruling elites should ensure the achievement of older claims for settlement of frozen conflicts on basis of principles “equality of sides”; it means through creation of contractual federations with equal subjects or confederations anchored by Russia through present separatist regimes.
Eventual yielding by Moldovan authorities must be regarded in the light of the Russian strategy described above. Nobody should nourish illusions that accepting ceding in certain fields could restore the status quo antes. For example, if Moldova cedes in the “transit protocol” problem, which Russia is negotiating to ensure the economic and commercial freedom of Transnistria, this will be the consent to be an “equal side” with Transnistria in Russia’s strategic calculations. What would Transnistria have to negotiate later with Moldova but a confederation with a certain orientation of foreign policy? We could admit such a version, if Russia has a behaviour and image similar to the one of the European Union. But so nobody should be surprised that “Russian marches” will take place in all Moldova for implementation of such a scenario.
One more argument has appeared for the ruling party of Moldova besides the one that there is more socialism in Moldova than in CIS to promote a firm pro-European policy. It will be really hard to find arguments in favour of a relation of partnership and perspectives of cooperation after the Russian Communist Party decided at the October plenary session to give up the principle of internationalism and to choose instead the “Russian issue”.
In spite of changes in Ukrainian policy, the hope to settle the Transnistrian conflict may be linked further to this country. It was observed that Ukrainian oligarchs are very interested in an eventual free exchange agreement with the E.U. They are ready to give up other agreements such as synchronisation of Ukraine’s access to the World Trade Organisation together with Russia but to obtain a free trade agreement with the E.U. after the joining to the WTO. Like formerly, the Republic of Moldova should persuade the E.U. that the attitude toward the Transnistrian conflict remains the good faith test of Ukraine. Indeed, this fact was recently confirmed by Javier Solana, high representative for foreign policy and common security. Moldova’s request should be found in documents signed by E.U. with Ukraine, of course in the right place. The impact would be significant through fact that such an introduced practice would undermine the hopes of citizens from Transnistria that a new independence referendum or joining to Russia is possible. Citizens would finally realise that they are in a trap and they are used to satisfy self-pride of some revengeful elites.
The Republic of Moldova must make place of manoeuvre to advance to the European direction only, so that not to become the “pawn of sacrifice” from “big backgammon” of big players. An authentic democratisation is the only way to do this.