On March 2, 1992, Russia waged war against Moldova. The same year, on July 21, Mircea Snegur, then President of Moldova and Boris Yeltsin, then President of Russia, signed in Moscow the Ceasefire Agreement and Peaceful Regulation of the Conflict in the Transnistria Region of Moldova. The agreement came after 141 days of the war. During this war, Russia engaged the paramilitary formations from the Transnistrian region, the mercenary Cossacks, the ultranationalist guards from western Ukraine, and the active military personnel of the 14th Army in the war against Moldova.
The Agreement, signed between the parties, stipulated the immediate ceasefire in the breakaway Transnistrian region, creating a common security area, which is known as the Nistru River Valley Security Zone. The agreement also led to the establishment of the Joint Control Commission, a trilateral peacekeeping force, and military command structure.
The Commission is made up of three parties: Moldova, Russia, and the breakaway Transnistria region. The Commission is responsible for ensuring the ceasefire and security arrangements in the Nistru River Valley Security Zone. The Commission is also tasked with identifying a political solution to the Transnistria War and restore peace in the region.
It has been 28 years since the Peace Agreement was signed. Negotiation formats have changed. Governments, presidents, and parliaments in Moscow and in Chișinău have changed. The problem of the breakaway Transnistrian region has been on the agenda of several international institutions. Nevertheless, Russia has not left the breakaway Transnistrian region. The war and the threats have continued. The Russian army is still on the Nistru River. The military ammunition is still in Cobasna, the north of Moldova.
The breakaway Transnistrian region (12 percent of the territory of Moldova) is still under Russian occupation. The self-proclaimed regime in the region is the same – unconstitutional. The Joint Control Commission serves the interests of the self-proclaimed authorities in Tiraspol. The right and the left bank of the Nistru River are still divided by borders. The Romanian schools in the breakaway Transnistria region are still threatened, and there is no freedom in the region.
Over the years, the conflict evolved from a military to a political conflict. However, this didn’t stop the war and it is unlikely to stop unless several conditions are respected. First, Russia has to respect the condition of military neutrality vis-à-vis Moldova and withdraw the troops in the breakaway Transnistria region, as it has pledged internationally.
Second, Russia has to remove Moldova from its political and geopolitical agenda.
Third, Moldova needs a ruling political elite able to discuss with Moscow the Transnistrian problem, defending Moldova’s sovereignty, instead of following Russia’s geopolitical and geostrategic interests.
We have to change the course of the negotiations, to make a change in the region. Moldova will continue to be Russia’s geopolitical hostage with a frozen conflict on its territory that can be used against Moldova any time to block the country’s aspirations and interests, which are inconvenient to Moscow.
Last week, Oleg Vasnetsov, the Russian Ambassador to Moldova, declared in an interview for TASS that “Russia does not dictate to Moldova’s leadership the external vector. However, it does not mean that Russia does not have its own interests. It has interests, like every other country. And we will always defend them.”
Twenty-eight years after signing the Peace Agreement, the breakaway Transnistrian region remains Moscow’s revenge for the then government in Chișinău refusal to accept the draft of the new Soviet Union, which Mihail Gorbachev, the great reformer, had begun restructuring in the late ’80s.
During the 1990s, signing a new union treaty was a key political issue largely discussed. Moscow could not reconcile with the thought that the Soviet Union could collapse, so it searched for solutions. On December 27, 1990, the Fourth Congress of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union decided to organize a union referendum on maintaining the Soviet Union on March 17, 1991. The authorities in Chișinău, along with the Baltic countries, Georgia and Armenia, boycotted the referendum.
From here on, Moldova has a troublesome relation with Moscow. After Moldova refused to support Russia’s ambitions, the Moldova – Russia bilateral relations became strained. Back then Moldova risked being divided into three republics if it did not reconsider its decision. In the autumn of 1991, Russia tried to take control of the south of Moldova – Comrat city. Russia announced the creation of the Gagauz Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union.
However, the project failed, Russia did not have military bases in the area to support the rebellion, and the Soviet separatist agencies in the region had no popular support.
In 1992, Russia accomplished what it failed to do in 1991 in the south of Moldova. Russia occupied the breakaway Transnistrian region, using the 14th Army. They shot at people, at houses, at anything and whoever they didn’t like: killings, red terror, ethnic cleansing, rape, robbery, political banditry… All this was done by Russia, which claimed a secular friendship binding us to it. They acted in the breakaway Transnistria region in the same way they did after June 28, 1940, in Basarabia.
Over the years, Russia has not changed. The country still has imperial interests.
For years, the Russian military troops have been the main problem in resolving the Transnistrian conflict. The government in Chișinău and the international community have repeatedly demanded Russia to withdraw its army from the territory of Moldova. Last time, Vasnetsov ruled out “magical’ withdrawal of the 14th Army from Moldova. Therefore, it may take another 28 years.
Maybe we can ask the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to redeploy a similar military division over the Prut River, or, maybe we should raise the issue of liquidating the consequences of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.