Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

Sankt-Petersburg CIS Summit

|print version||
Igor Botan / June 15, 2008
ADEPT logo

Significance of the Sankt-Petersburg Summit

The informal CIS Summit held in Sankt-Petersburg on June 6–7, 2008 had a distinct significance. All CIS leaders have shown interest to attend the summit and this is a rarity. Grave problems between a number of CIS states and Russia could not halt the participation in the first collective meeting with the newly-elected Russian president, Dmitri Medvedyev. There were reasons before and after the summit to speculate that CIS leaders have made the first “bowing” to the new president of a rising and increasingly powerful Russia.

Two events have especially fuelled such speculations. First, the summit took place in Sankt-Petersburg, the native city of the newly-elected Russian president and his predecessor, as well as the city where King Peter the Great was declared Imperator of Russia by the Senate in 1721. The second event was a gesture by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who has almost managed to turn his “bowing” into a sensational action when he made public the disinterested intention to give back to Russia two paintings stolen from the “Hermitage” Museum in Sankt-Petersburg and found on the eve by Moldovan police in Moldova. Although President Voronin’s announcement produced confusion, Russian authorities and specialists in the field of arts claim that Russia has definitively restored its status of superpower since it is voluntarily recovered losses which it did not have any idea about.

Republic of Moldova meets Russia’s wishes

The Sankt-Petersburg summit like precedent informal summits aimed to discuss key issues between CIS leaders, though truly important problems shall be resolved within bilateral relations. Russia’s major interest in CIS is to confirm its status of “centre of differentiated integration” into the post-Soviet area. These claims have been raised in the past years, in particular, by former president Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who insist that the modernisation of CIS is a priority on Russia’s foreign policy agenda.

It is worth to note that the almost secret 2007 Dushanbe CIS Summit has proclaimed the reformation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. However, the CIS maintained the priorities established in 2005, in particular regarding migration policy; transportation; education; humanitarian matters especially related to ensuring the status of Russian language in CIS, etc., that means other issues than those indicated by Russia. At the November 2006 Minsk summit, which should start modernising the CIS, former president Vladimir Putin has recommended his counterparts to promote a coordinated foreign policy and a stronger military integration within CIS.

Putin’s wishes have been tactically turned down then, particularly by Kazakhstan and Ukraine and the modernisation of CIS was postponed for 2007. There are grounds to believe that Moldovan authorities have been receptive to Moscow’s messages since Russia embargoed the Moldovan agro-food production in 2006 and the Moldovan wines in 2006. In 2006, Moscow supported a referendum on independence and joining of Transnistria to Russia. Given those circumstances, President Voronin has delivered the famous note explaining the six basic principles to settle the Transnistrian conflict to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Voronin at the August 2006 informal CIS summit. That is why informal CIS summits are needed for! Otherwise, it would be hard to imagine how former president Putin would have got the note by his Moldovan counterpart. That’s true, as Mr. Putin has promised three months later at the Minsk summit to lift the commercial embargo on Moldova and showed interest for initiatives written on the note by President Voronin regarding recognition of Russia’s estates in Transnistria, strengthening of the economic presence on the right side of the Dniester, etc.

Moldova has taken its first test for adjusting its foreign policy to Russia’s wishes in 2007, when it ostentatiously demonstrated its detachment from GUAM, a regional organisation led by Ukraine. Russia’s very negative attitude towards GUAM provides occasions and opportunities to demonstrate loyalty over Russia, a step made by President Voronin by not attending two GUAM summits. In this context, Moldovan authorities revised this year the draft National Security Concept and removed all references to issues capable to irritate Russia, including GUAM. Instead, the ostentatious insistence on setting Moldova’s neutrality in a document that is less important that the Constitution, which stipulates express the neutrality of Moldova, has served as an additional proof that security policies are adjusted to Russia’s wishes. Altogether, these acts fit initiatives released by Vladimir Putin at the 2006 Minsk CIS Summit to promote a coordinated foreign and security policy. For these reasons, President Voronin was justified to expect Russia’s support in settling the Transnistrian conflict.

Russia “freezes” Moldova’s expectations

In Sankt-Petersburg, after President Voronin has shown his “disinterested benevolence” to give back to Russia what the latter did not know that it had lost, the Moldovan chief of state and President Medvedyev had a private meeting on bilateral problems, particularly on the Transnistrian issue. The Tiraspol media could not abstain from sarcasm, stressing that President Voronin has failed “a gentle bowing”. The stake that new Russian President Dmitrii Medvedyev could be softened up to give green light to the Transnistrian settlement plan was not materialised. Given the fact that the parliamentary election campaign will officially begin in Moldova within half a year, the Sankt-Petersburg summit has actually provided the last opportunity to make President Medvedyev impel the Transnistrian settlement, so that to have a decisive impact before the end of President Voronin’s mandate. In consequence, the governance-affiliated Moldovan media had to be optimistic that experts will hold consultations after the Voronin-Medvedyev to approach the Transnistrian settlement.

It seems that Russia is not ready yet to quickly resolve a series of problems from convenient positions for it. Now it may fuel expectations which could be postponed until an opportune moment for Russia appears. As regards the Transnistrian conflict, key clauses of President Voronin’s plan are generally known. According to President Voronin, Chisinau has worked out a package of documents which are being studied by mediators and observers. The initiatives concern the status of Transnistria and necessary guarantees; provides a wide autonomy to Transnistria accordingly to the July 22, 2005 law on basic principles of Transnistria’s status, but includes elements of the “Kozak Memorandum”; withdrawal of weapons from the region and Russian military presence; introduction of a civil peacekeeping mission, etc.

In this context, expectations shared by President Voronin in March were linked to the possibility to convoke a non-stop session with Russia’s support in order to identify problems of principle to back the “package” proposals and to be discussed at “5+2” negotiations. Of course, Russia should also persuade the Transnistrian side to restart negotiations. President Voronin was probably expecting his Russian counterpart at the Sankt-Petersburg summit to let him know if Russia is ready to support the package of proposals by Chisinau.

Recent visits by Russian high-ranking dignitaries to Chisinau that anticipated somehow the talks at the Sankt-Petersburg CIS summit aimed to send a message which was pretty clear since March — Russia will not recognise Transnistria’s independence for the time being, so that not to undermine the CIS, but it will not exercise special pressures on Tiraspol, letting the latter find an acceptable solution with Chisinau. Indeed, this is already a rule since the “Primakov Memorandum” was signed in May 1997. Under such circumstances, the conflict will unlikely “thaw” before the spring 2009 parliamentary elections. Another purpose of visits by Russian dignitaries to Chisinau was to test how far President Voronin can yield under the shortage of time. Statements by the chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Relations, Alexei Ostrovsky, who said that Mr. Voronin would accept to negotiate a resolution which would allow Transnistria to veto the foreign and security policy of Moldova, provisions that would maintain the essential element of the “Kozak Memorandum”, cannot be neglected or exaggerated. Such a resolution would mean to keep Transnistria under Russia’s control and Chisinau under Tiraspol’s control, dispensing Chisinau of the necessity to promote a foreign and security policy coordinated with Russia.

Anyway, given the acute desire of Moldovan authorities to make progress in the Transnistrian settlement process, one may expect spectacular and especially propagandistic surprises before the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Elections in Gagauzia as prelude of parliamentary elections Republic of Moldova shall join EU one day, somehow…