Russia poured cold water Tuesday over Transnistria’s invitation to Moscow to deploy missiles close to its border with Romania in response to Bucharest’s readiness to host a US anti-missile shield. Russia’s move appears to represent a message to small countries to “step aside” until the issue has been discussed with Washington.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s representative to NATO, said that the invitation by Igor Smirnov, leader of the internationally unrecognised Transnistria, that Moscow should deploy missiles there could trigger a serious regional conflict, the Russian press reported.
In the past few days, Transnistria has reportedly asked Moscow to set up a missile defence system on its territory to counter US plans to deploy a missile shield in Romania.
“We confirm […] that we could deploy what Russia needs,” Igor Smirnov was quoted as saying.
Transnistria, a Moldovan region east of the Dniester River, has been considered a ‘frozen conflict’ area since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has a predominantly ethnic Russian and Ukrainian population and its leaders are seen as Moscow’s emissaries. Although internationally Transnistria is part of Moldova, de facto its authorities do not exercise any power there.
Rogozin complained that Russia would be unable to “reset” its relations with Washington if it continues to learn about US plans to deploy the anti-missile shield in its neighbourhood from newspapers.
“How can we talk of a true partnership with Washington if we read unpleasant news in the newspapers,” Rogozin said.
Bulgarian president to consult Barroso
During the past week, it has also become clear that Washington intends to install parts of its controversial missile shield in Bulgaria too. US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick said at a public event in Sofia on 12 February that his country was planning to discuss the issue with the Bulgarian authorities.
Asked to comment, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the same day that Bulgaria’s decision to host part of the US missile shield lies in the hands of Bulgarian parliament, as well as with the European Commission.
“When you are a NATO member, you have to work for collective security,” Borissov is quoted as saying by Dnevnik, EurActiv’s partner publication in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria’s President Georgi Parvanov, who according to the constitution is the country’s supreme commander, is due to visit Brussels next week and will hold talks with Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday, sources told EurActiv.
Russia apparently understood that Bulgaria had already agreed to host the US missile shield.
“We have already asked our American partners how we should understand this and why a Bulgarian surprise followed the Romanian surprise,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday (14 February).
Bulgarian diplomats told EurActiv that to their knowledge no decision to host the missile shield has yet been taken.
“The Americans have the habit of discussing issues first with the Bulgarian military, who usually agree on every suggestion. Then the US diplomats press the Bulgarian government authorities, saying: Your military commanders told us it is feasible,” said one diplomat, who asked not to be named.
“And then we have very little room for manoeuvre,” he complained.