The Traps of the Transnistrian Settlement: how do we avoid them?
17 April 2018, 14:41
author: Leonid Litra

Since the beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine, over one hundred military applications have been held in Transnistria. The novelty of the military applications after aggression in Ukraine is that Russian occupation troops in Transnistria (known as GOTR) were also involved in exercises along with Transnistrian armed forces and Russian peacekeeping contingent — intimidating Moldova by imitating crossing the Dniester through assembling military bridges across the river.

In this context, the evident question is how Russian peacekeepers, who should deter any military activity in the Security Zone, could oppose Russian occupation forces if they are conducting joint military applications? The situation is not only absurd, but also dangerous. However, at the same time, Russia is consolidating its role as a par ty in the conflict, from which it tried to distance during the last 20 years, positioning the conflict as an issue between Moldova and Transnistrian region.

However, from the legal point, including through decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, Russia is responsible for everything that happens in Transnistria. In this respect, the example of Moldova could be used by Ukraine for defending its positions and maybe bring Russia to justice for the crimes in ORDLO.

Even more disappointing aspect of the military exercises is that the OSCE did not demonstrate any reaction that would condemn the escalation in the region. Moreover, the OSCE does not have access to Transnistria and is not able to monitor the violations that occur there. However, the OSCE mission in Moldova was quite vocal in informal meetings, advising who should be dismissed from the Government of Moldova and why Ukraine and Moldova are wrong.

Unlike the OSCE mission in Moldova, which wants to deliver results at any cost, the Moldovan Government is willing to progress on the settlement without violating the Constitution of Moldova and creating a precedent that would have a negative impact on other conflicts in the region, including the one in Ukraine.

The poorly solved conflict has a high probability to reignite and lead to instability or impair the very functioning of the state of Moldova. Diplomats do their job and leave, while people have to live with their results. Moreover, for comparison, one diplomat confessed that if the OSCE mission in Ukraine would behave in the same way it does in Moldova, it would be shut down “tomorrow morning”.

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The paper was written within the Think Tank Development Initiative for Ukraine (TTDI), carried out by the International Renaissance Foundation in partnership with the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE) with financial support of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine, the International Renaissance Foundation, and the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).

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