By Paul Goble
Moscow has largely forgotten about Transdniestria recently, a Russian analyst says, a reflection of Russia’s problems elsewhere. But the geopolitical role of that breakaway republic and its significance for Russian civilization are so large that continuing neglect could have “catastrophic” consequences for Russia as a whole “already next year.”
In emotional language, Aleksandr Sergey of the Caucasus Geopolitical Club, a group which appears to have close ties to the Kremlin, argues that Moscow must act and act quickly in order to prevent a collapse in the breakaway Moldovan republic, an indication some in Moscow are in fact focusing on Transdniestria (.kavkazgeoclub.ru/content/rossiya-spasi-pridnestrove).
Because that could have enormous security implications not only for Moldova but also Ukraine, Sergeyev’s argument about the nature of problems there, the ways they could affect Russia are especially noteworthy, and what steps Moscow should take are particularly noteworthy.
The economic situation in Transdniestria, Sergeyev says, is “balanced over a deep abyss.” As of the start of 2016, the breakaway republic will lose the chance to export to EU countries; and given that nearly “100 percent blockade” on the Ukrainian border, that will lead to “an economic catastrophe with all ensuing social consequences.”
Transdniestria’s military-political situation, between two hostile states, is “not better,” he continues. As a result, the population of the breakaway republic is “ever more strongly subjected to fear which is gradually being transformed into widespread social frustration.” That too has political consequences.
In addition, the Ukrainian Maidan and the economic crisis in Russia have led to a sharp decline in the standard of living of people in Transdniestria. Wages and pensions have been but by 30 percent, and many people are angry. Indeed, he continues, such “unpopular measures” have lowered the status of the government.
Next year, there are elections for both the parliament and the president, and those could become the occasions for destabilization in Transdniestria., especially if there are new threats from Moldova or Ukraine. A combination of these could become “explosive” and create a situation that could easily “get out of control.”
Sergeyev says that the current government in Transdniestria has made a number of serious mistakes. Its propaganda work has been especially weak. As a result, it often loses at home to propaganda efforts from abroad and even against those at home who might otherwise be inclined to work with it.
To cope with this situation, the Russian analyst says that Moscow elites and civil society leaders need to pursue the following goals:
- First, they must pursue “the gradual legal recognition of the Transdniestria Moldovan republic and the creation of the necessary conditions for this,” including the establishment of an air corridor with the Eurasian Union.
- Second, they must allow Transdniestria businesses to work in the Russian economic space on an equal basis with Russian ones.
- Third, Moscow must communicate to Russian elites that Transdniestria is “vitally important” for them and that they cannot afford to lose it.
- Fourth, Moscow must give Russian passports to “100 percent” of Trandniestria residents.
- Fifth, Moscow must ensure that Transdniestria has “genuine military security” by “significantly increasing” the size of the Russian troop presence.
- Sixth, Russia must supply sufficient funds to cover Transdniestria’s state budget deficit.
- Seventh, Moscow must give Transdniestria residents access to Russian scientific, cultural and educational institutions on an equal basis with Russians.
- Eighth, Moscow must prepare the necessary legal arguments for Transdniestria’s acquisition of international legal status by arguing for the continuing legitimacy of the Molotov-Ribbentrop secret protocols, thus undermining Moldova’s claims and by raising issues of the “acts of genocide” against the Transdniestria population in 1992 in international forums.
Even if all these things are done, Sergeyev says, there will still be problems, but they will be sufficient to ward of the catastrophe that appears likely to emerge early next year.