Transnistria Won’t Become Second Front in Russia-West Standoff

29 may 2014

Sergey Mikheev

Resume: Director of the Center for Current Politics and Valdai Club expert Sergei Mikheyev is convinced there will be no retaliation to recent statements made by Dmitry Rogozin and leaders of Transnistria, and that the breakaway region won’t be joining Russia.

Director of the Center for Current Politics and Valdai Club expert Sergei Mikheyev is convinced there will be no retaliation to recent statements made by Dmitry Rogozin and leaders of Transnistria, and that the breakaway region won’t be joining Russia. Mikheyev was speaking in response to leader of the Moldovan Social Democratic Party Viktor Shelin, who said the other day that “the lists of Transnistrian residents requesting recognition of the region, which were handed over to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, are part of a plan to integrate Transnistria into Novorossiya, which is being established in southeastern Ukraine.”

“In theory, if Novorossiya were to become a reality, Transnistria could join. But this is only theoretical because the prospects of creating a Novorossiya that could also incorporate the Odessa region look dim for the time being,” the expert said. “But there is another side of the issue apart from the will of the Transnistrian people – is it even part of Russia’s plans?”

Mikheyev believes that Russia has no plans to incorporate Transnistria, though it clearly has strategic interests there – otherwise Russia wouldn’t have supported this region for so many years. Russia understands that if the blockade of the region continues, its economy may collapse. So the priority is to develop trade in Transnistria and establish transportation links with other countries. It would be easier to resolve this issue if Transnistria were to join Novorossiya.

“Now Transnistria can lead an independent existence and doesn’t have to become part of another state,” Mikheyev says. “It has been convincingly demonstrating this since 1992. In some respects, life in Tiraspol was even better than in Chisinau. The main point is to prevent the blockade by the authorities in Moldova and Kiev from getting worse.”

Mikheyev believes that neighboring Moldova and Romania are unlikely to take any action in response to Rogozin’s statement in a recent interview that “we’ll just go and do it – recognize Transnistria’s independence.”  First, he argues, they couldn’t even if they wanted to; and second, Rogozin was expressing a personal view, which anybody could hold, rather than announcing official government policy.

The most Chisinau and Bucharest could do, according to Mikheyev, is unleash another fit of hysterics, declare again the need for urgent “Romanization” of the region, and accuse Russia of hostility and attempting to violate the territorial integrity of a sovereign state. They will call for fast-track NATO membership for Moldova, portraying it as a rescue operation. Luckily, none of these statements could have any effect on Transnistria.

Mikheyev emphasized that Transnistria will not become a “second front” in the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. The attitude of the international community toward Transnistria took shape in the 1990s, and the positions of NATO and Russia are well known and unlikely to change.

However, if Moldova signs the association agreement with the EU on June 27, this will harm Moscow-Chisinau relations. It will create problems for the Russian economy and benefits for EU economies. Mikheyev suspects that this may be part of a larger plan to draw Moldova first into the EU and then NATO.

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