Two meetings between Voronin and Smirnov have been organised under Moscow’s pressure last year. The first one was hosted by the Bender City Council, and the second meeting took place at the artistic centre for children and youths in Tiraspol. Reasons taken into account by the Transnistrian administration to choose the locations of the meetings are well-unknown, but it is certain that by making this choice it has tried to suggest a derisive attitude as well: “You do not recognise us and we do not care about your «recognition». Or to enter a building which has a poster with huge letters announcing the ordinary anniversary of the Transnistrian Constitution.” Indeed, such actions are typical to the Transnistrian side. Let’s remember when Petru Lucinschi, elected President of Moldova but not sworn in yet, was visited by Mr. I. Smirnov, who gave a gift to the second Moldovan president — the first issue of the “Atlas of the Moldovan Transnistrian Republic”. It was like for your country from our country. It was like “I am really glad that you did not like it, as I do not want you to visit me often.”
But one should be aware that the Moldovan side has always regarded Tiraspol as a small, careless and hostile city. Such a “mutual understanding” builds the framework of Chisinau-Tiraspol relations. Something like this: two is written and three is in mind. That’s why the results of long negotiations between the two parties are very predictable. One may put down many predictions. This is also the reason why it was necessary to invite mediators, who were allegedly persuading the sides to negotiate. But despite their assistance, it is unknown so far why the entire negotiation process has finally turned into an amalgam of ceaseless postponements, emergent measures and denial of relations. This process is so long that in allegoric terms “children have grown so much that one cannot recognise them.” The conflict broke out in the Soviet times. Everybody had its eyes about Moscow then. They had their eyes about Moscow in the 1990s. Chisinau tried to stop obeying to Moscow for a while. But things did not improve, so that there was no solution without Moscow. It is worth to note that all three presidents of Moldova were so predictable in relations with Moscow that one could call this a miracle. All three presidents of Moldova had plans about the West, but lacked a well-done programme and clear strategies on relations with the West. Even existing documents were implemented inappropriately (if they were implemented or everything was reduced to general reports). All three presidents of Moldova attended the Soviet school of life and party building; that’s why all of them were obeying to Moscow perhaps from inertia, especially in terms of settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Lots of plans have been worked out to settle the conflict! There were many situations such as “this time, it’s over, tomorrow (in a week, month, this autumn, by the end of the year) the country will be reintegrated.” But what happened in fact? Something happened every time. Something was wrong every time. A specific situation was always perpetuated in relations with Moscow that means “neither together, nor without you.”
But let’s come back to present times. The two heads promised at the last meeting in late 2008 that they will agree alone. But with Moscow’s consent, how else?! Perhaps the OSCE will be also invited; perhaps, the West will be called as well. And so we are witnesses of a comeback to the origins.
Each party hopes to cheat the other side by assuring alone the support of Moscow. Is it possible? Moscow is big. There are enough financial-political groups there which hold key levers of influence. When the access to the main scale is restricted, one opens the behind door to get inn. “Necessary characters” are found or, in modern terms, the lobbyists who motivate the wanted line if they are approached right. Nor Moscow itself made a clear decision on Transnistria yet. Certain official statements are released because they are indispensable. At the same time, there is a real political battle which Moscow is staging behind the curtain. In consequence, Transnistria is an earless suitcase for Moscow one more time: it is hard to carry it, but it is not easier to throw it.
As regards the new “2+1” format (Chisinau and Tiraspol + Moscow), I am sure that western mediators, observers who were suddenly removed will be happy to see a real reintegration opportunity emerging, but without their participation. Obviously, once Moscow is invited to assist the Transnistrian settlement process, the West will have an instinctive rejection.
The next meeting between Igor Nikolaievich and Vladimir Nikolaievich is set for March 2009. March will be a good time for such meetings, why not?! Moldova will hold elections which Transnistria will not attend, as a rule, and then what issues will Smirnov and Voronin discuss in March? The Transnistrian leader will not wish good luck to the Moldovan president at elections. This meeting, in the event it will take place and will not be postponed as usually for better times, will be marked by certain farewell feelings. Smirnov will “survive” to the second mandate of the third Moldovan president. As regards the results of the possible/scheduled meeting, there are no doubts. The key message of the meeting will be the following: “waiting for your elections to be over and then seeing developments.”
Finally, the itinerancy in the Transnistrian labyrinth brings us back to the same place — to Moscow, which is impatient to see the conflict settled, as official Moldovan media has reported for many years.
As well, let’s discuss the issue which all care about and lend an ear to. Moscow enjoys too much attention. Who is the petitioner within the Moldovan-Transnistrian dialogue? Is it Moscow? Such a scenario is not confirmed so far even by the loosest imagination. That’s why Moscow is displaying a kind of laziness and scepticism towards all petitioners from the south-west of the former Soviet Union, like it wants to say: You are so many! And all of you are trying to persuade that your version will be the best, comfortable and successful for Moscow. Attempts of the sides to splash each other in order to satisfy Moscow is a known and approved move as well. While calls like make business with us only are some common proposals.
All of them are standard formulas.
Is this our way?