Sunday, March 9, 2014

Transnistria - precursor to the events in Crimea ? An overview of the breakaway located within Moldova - which borders Ukraine !

Russian Deputy Premier promises to guarantee rights of Russians from Transnistria

Russian President’s envoy for Transnistria Dmitry Rogozin said that his country is committed to protect its citizens residing in Moldova’s separatist region.

In a posting on Twitter, Mr. Rogozin wrote that the limitation of communication in Transnistria will be regarded as a “direct threat to security” of the Russian citizens residing there.

“In conditions of a large-scale political and economic crisis in Ukraine any actions meant to hinder communications of Transnistria with the rest of the world will be a direct threat to security and to constitutional freedom of 200,000 citizens of Russia permanently living in Transnistria,” Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter, quoted by Interfax.

He added: “Russia will never forget that it is the guarantor of constitutional laws of its citizens.”

The official also pointed out that Russia will keep its troops on the territory of Moldova.

The statements emerge amid the political crisis in Ukraine, where Russia has deployed thousands of troops without consent of government in Kiev.

European leaders fear a domino effect in Eastern Europe, following the situation in Ukraine.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said in Brussels on Thursday that Moldova might be the next country to be directly affected by Russia’s maneuvers.

“Europe must, first of all, realize that what Russia is doing now is an attempt to redraw the post-war [...] map and borders,” Ms. Grybauskaitė said. “So, first, it’s Ukraine, Moldova will be next and, finally, it can reach the Baltic States and Poland.”

Is Transnistria the ghost of 

Crimea's future?

TIRASPOL, Moldova  — As Russian troops occupy Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, residents of neighboring Moldova can look on knowingly.
Two decades after a similar influx of Russian troops, Moldova remains in a frozen conflict with a Moscow-backed puppet state within its borders.
Here in Tiraspol, a marble Vladimir Lenin towers over the national parliament building, while hammer and sickle flags hang from blocky buildings. Welcome to the capital of Transnistria, an unrecognized country of 500,000 wedged between Ukraine and its namesake, the Dniester river.
Transnistria is one of four Russian-supported breakaway states in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Local media fear Crimea could become the fifth.
“Moldova is not able to control a portion of its territory due to the presence of Russian troops and the separatist regime,” says Vlad Spânu, a former diplomat who heads the Washington-based Moldova Foundation, which advocates a peaceful solution to the Transnistrian dispute.

'Like living in the Soviet Union'

Moldova was a region of Romania until the Soviet Union took over in 1940. As communism collapsed, Moldova gained its first taste of independence. Pro-Romanian nationalists gained political prominence, including a few radical politicians who wanted the country’s ethnic Russian and Turkic minority expelled.
And similar to modern-day Crimea, Moldova’s Russian-speaking territory feared that a new, Western-leaning government would crush its identity. Two thirds of those living east of the Dniester river claimed roots in the former Russian and Ukrainian Soviet republics.
Some feared unification with Romania, leaving Russian speakers even more of a minority. The area also saw massive industrialization under the Soviet Union, which politicians claimed would not be sustained if Moldova cut ties with Moscow.
In August 1989 Moldova declared Romanian its official language with use of the Latin alphabet instead of the Soviet-enforced Cyrillic. Russian was given secondary status. After five months of protests and strikes, the area of Transnistria elected a nationalist government, and declared secession in September 1990.
After a bloody four-month war, a 1992 ceasefire left Transnistria, officially named the "Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic," as a self-declared state. The territory spans 1,000 square miles – 12 percent of Moldova’s landmass. But the breakaway region’s flag, anthem, passports, currency, and postal system are still not recognized outside its borders.
“It’s not like in other situations where you have an ethnic group,” Mr. Spânu claims, echoing the Moldovan government’s stance. “This is about ideology.”
Scores of minibuses make the daily 45-mile journey from Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, to a cold war-style border crossing. Armed guards check cars, inspect passports, and occasionally demand bribes.
Western countries advise against traveling to the area, where most can’t provide consular assistance. Human rights groups say the weak border facilitates human trafficking and illicit arms trade. It’s also become a sticking point for the EU, with whom Moldova signed an association agreement in November.
Just outside the demilitarized border zone, tanks stand ready to fend off a Moldovan invasion. Shanty houses and steel mills are nestled between numerous armed checkpoints.
A fourth of Transnistria’s population lives in its capital, Tiraspol, making it Moldova’s second most populous city. Drab apartment blocks line the city’s wide, empty boulevards, while video billboards and decommissioned tanks celebrate the country’s independence.
“It’s like living in the Soviet Union – as I did – but with access to information on the Internet,” says Spânu. “It’s living in an authoritarian regime. You don’t have freedom of expression and the media is all propaganda.”

Russia’s persistent influence

In a 2006 referendum, 97 percent of Transnistrian voters said they were in favor of joining the Russian Federation. In late December, the country’s Supreme Soviet passed a constitutional amendment to prioritize Russian law, effectively outsourcing its national legislation.
Russia subsidizes Transnistrians’ pensions, fast-tracks them for Russian passports, and has 1,200 peacekeeping troops in the territory, despite NATO objections and an agreement Russia signed with Moldova to withdraw all troops by 1997.
Transnistria isn’t recognized by any UN member states, including Russia. But it’s part of an alliance with three other post-Soviet territories with heavy Russian influence: Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
An intergovernmental group met last Friday as part of an effort launched in 2011 to negotiate a peaceful solution to the situation in Moldova. The so-called 5+2 talks — including Transnistria, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, plus the US and the EU as observers — use a structure similar to North Korea’s six-party peace talks.
But a peaceful settlement remains out of reach. The latest squabbles involve Transnistrian officials placing their Romanian-speaking minority in crowded, under-funded schools. The government still promotes the Soviet Union’s Cyrillic form of Romanian as it aims to stamp out any influence from Chisinau.
On a Monday visit with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leancă said the conflict in Crimea could lead to a breakaway state similar to Transnistria.
“We need to do much more in order to address this issue, because if it’s not addressed in time, then it becomes very contagious,” he said. “What happens today in Crimea, in some eastern parts of Ukraine, is just a brutal reminder.”

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- Moldovan Prime MinisterIurie Leanca said Russia’s incursion into Crimea, an autonomous province of Ukraine, could be replicated in other countries in the region.
“It is just a very dangerous development,” Leanca said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York today. “It’s indeed very contagious.”
Moldova, the smallest economy in central and eastern Europe after Kosovo, shares a border with Ukraine and depends on Russia for its natural gas needs. Leanca, who has been Moldova’s prime minister since April 2013, said he is “very anxious” about the developments in Crimea and called on President Barack Obama during a meeting this week to provide “strong U.S. leadership” together with the European Union.
A lack of progress in integrating Ukraine and Moldova into the EU have made the countries more vulnerable to Russian interference, said Leanca, 50. Russian PresidentVladimir Putin sent thousands of troops to Crimea over the past week. Moldova faces its own challenges in secessionist Transnistria, an industrial region adjoining Ukraine that has Russian military presence.

‘Difficult Situation’

“We are in a very difficult situation because we fight for certain values and for certain objectives when there’s no response,” Leanca said. “We need a common vision that should be shared by Washington, Paris, Berlin and some other European states. Otherwise is very difficult to keep this objective alive.”
Leanca said his country needs the U.S. and EU to show “a strong involvement in this Transnistria conflict, for instance, because we can’t address it on our own.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said this week that the U.S. would provide an additional $2.8 million in aid to develop economic competitiveness in Moldova, which has a population of 3.6 million. Leanca said the response he received from both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “was positive.”

U.S. Solidarity

An administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said Obama is sensitive to concerns from Moldova and former Soviet republics that have large Russian populations or worry about territorial integrity. Meetings with such leaders in recent days are meant to show U.S. solidarity, the official said today.
Moldova’s $7.25 billion economy grew 8 percent in the first nine months of 2013, according to the statistics office. The production of fruit, wine and tobacco account for about half of Moldova’s exports and almost a third of employment, according to a report by Steven Woehrel of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in Washington.
Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov met in Paris today as Americans weigh whether to attach sanctions to penalize Russia and restore stability in Ukraine. The two didn’t reach any agreement at the meeting.
The EU today promised 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in emergency aid to help the Ukrainian government avert a default. U.S. officials have said they are preparing $1 billion in loan guarantees.
“Ninety-nine percent would depend on how Western countries reacts to this,” Leanca said. “So far they are encouraging.”

In response to the Russian Duma authorization for use of force on Ukrainian soil by Pres. Vladimir Putin, the interim government in Kiev on Mar 2 issuedmobilization orders for all Ukrainian reservists to report for duty.
Ukraine’s acting president; Oleksandr Turchynov also put active duty Ukrainian forces on a warfooting which sets into motion military defense plans of airports, nuclear power plants and national infrastructure such as highways, bridges, dams and sea ports.
As these events unfolded diplomatic efforts to tamp down the mushrooming crisis continued with aninety minute phone conversation between Pres. Barack Obama and Pres. Putin, which ended fruitlessly. British Foreign Minister William Hague also summoned the Russian Ambassador in London for a rare Saturday meeting in which the latter merely reiterated the same points Pres. Putin made to Pres. Obama.
The most revealing point made is the Russian government insistence that Russia has the right to protect ethnic Russian lives and national interests in ‘eastern Ukraine’. This is revealing in that it is not inclusive of or specific to Crimea, which the Russians are obviously treating as a separate matter.
In acknowledging Russian troops were in Crimea, the Russian government has been citing security agreements with Ukraine as justification, though the envelope of those agreements has been pushed to the limit and beyond already.
Pres. Putin’s actions are now shifting from political/diplomatic maneuvering to military strategy. As the buildup of Russian combat troops in Crimea continues, running in tandem are very public clashes in eastern Ukraine between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians.
Donetsk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk have all seen these clashes play out; no doubt the result of a little ‘community organizing’ in the shadows as domestic Russian media echoes more and more jingoism and continues to paint Ukrainians as fascists and Nazis while reminding Russians of Ukrainian collaboration with invading German forces in 1941; history that does have basis in truth.
One city where ethnic clashes have taken place is the city of Odessa in the south of Ukraine which lies between Crimea and Transnistria, a breakaway republic founded after the Soviet collapse which is effectively a Russian enclave similar to South Ossetia and Abkhazia which were carved out of Georgian territory.
Ukrainian forces which are more heavily concentrated in western Ukraine rather than the east could occupy Transnistria in response to a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. It’s likely they would be successful since Russian forces advancing from the east, would have to cross eastern Ukraine and fjord the Dnieper River before then advancing to rescue the approximately 1,500 Russian troops in Transnistria.
And added prize for Ukraine would be the enormous ammunition depots still present from Soviet days; provided the Russian troops guarding them are defeated before they can blow up the depots.
A secondary Russian force striking north out of Crimea into Ukraine and pivoting west could reach Odessa, then Transnistria far more quickly than Russian troops currently mobilized on the eastern border of Ukraine. Additionally, an attack out of Crimea could also employ flanking Russian amphibious assaults behind Ukrainian lines along the Black Sea coast to force retreats and speed up the Russian advance.
A Russian advance south out of Belarus could also be employed. However, it would be moving through majority ethnic Ukrainian territory where the bulk of Ukraine’s land forces are positioned. The advance would be much slower and likely be harried by both Ukrainian combat formations and partisan militias.
When Russia attacked the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008, the authorization of force was executed with lightning speed after passage in the Duma. There is a delay this time with Ukraine and a buildup of a strike force in Crimea is the most logical explanation, since the longer Putin waits the more time Ukraine has to prepare defenses in the east and assemble reserves into combat units.

Putin's Playbook: The Strategy Behind Russia's Takeover of Crimea

Is the Crimean crisis just the latest example of Moscow's support for secessionist movements?
A soldier looks out from a Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, on March 1. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
It seemed like a classic example of euphemistic bureaucrat-speak when, on Friday, U.S. officials referred to the deployment of Russian troops in Crimea as an "uncontested arrival" rather than an invasion.
But terminology matters here. Take the word "uncontested": The southern peninsula of Crimea, which the Soviet Union transferred to Ukraine in 1954 and which now hosts the Russian military's Black Sea Fleet, is the only region in the country where ethnic Russians are a majority (60 percent of a population of 2 million). And a good number of them favor closer relations with, if not outright annexation by, Moscow; according to one recent poll, 42 percent of Crimean residents want Ukraine to unite with Russia. That doesn't mean there are no Ukrainian nationalists or Kremlin opponents in Crimea—there certainly are—but it does mean many people in the autonomous republic, spooked by theouster last week of Ukraine's pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, welcome Russian military intervention.
Or take the word "arrival": If this is an invasion, it's a disorienting and not yet fully formed one. There were the shadowy, Russian-speaking gunmen who fanned out across Crimea on Friday, seizing government buildings and airports. And then there was the series of seemingly orchestrated events on Saturday: Crimea's freshly minted prime minister pleading for Russian help; Russia's lower house of parliament urging Vladimir Putin to "stabilize" Crimea, the Russian president obliging; the upper house swiftly granting him the authority to use force in Ukraine. Putin is pledging to make his next move soon, as his military masses and the White House fumes. All told, we're now witnessing what Reuters is calling the "biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War."
So what should we call the worrying developments in Ukraine? And what is Putin thinking? Back in 2008, Thomas de Waal, an expert on the South Caucasus, argued that Putin's greatest legacy is something de Waal called "soft annexation," which, at the time, was underway in Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The idea, expressed in various forms over the years, is that Russia is pulling political, economic, and military levers—all of which fall short of traditional invasion—to exploit ethnic conflicts in countries that used to be in its orbit. And the goal is to leverage these tensions, which are often relics of the Soviet Union's messy consolidation and collapse, to gain influence in former Soviet states, while preventing these countries from moving closer to the West.
When, for instance, Ukraine was considering a treaty with the European Union earlier this year, Fiona Hill and Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution penned a prescient memo warning of ways Russia could retaliate politically and economically against Kiev:
Putin perceives the European Union as a genuine strategic threat. The threat comes from the EU’s potential to reform associated countries in ways that pull them away from Russia. The EU’s Association Agreements and DCFTAs are incompatible with Putin’s plan to expand Russia’s Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan and create a “Eurasian Union.” Putin’s goal is to secure markets for Russian products and guarantee Russian jobs. He also sees the Eurasian Union as a buffer against alien “civilizational” ideas and values from Europe and the West....
Moscow could take actions that weaken the coherence of the Ukrainian state, e.g., by appealing to ethnic Russians in Crimea, or even by provoking a violent clash in Sevastopol, leading to the deployment of Russian naval infantry troops from the Black Sea Fleet to “protect” ethnic Russians.
One of the most consequential questions now is whether Putin's gambit in Ukraine will follow the model of Russia's previous support for secessionist movements in former Soviet states (and particularly in the Black Sea region), or whether it represents a break with that approach.
The Moldovan prime minister, for his part, sees in Ukraine's crisis echoes of Moscow's backing of the breakaway province of Transnistria, another pro-Kremlin territory with a large ethnic Russian population. In the early 1990s, Transnistria declared independence from Moldova, sparking a brief war between a complex constellation of regional forces that included a Russian military unit known as the 14th Army. Russia now stations troops on the wisp of land along the Ukrainian border, and provides Transnistria with financial assistance. Negotiations to resolve its status are frozen.
Wikimedia Commons
Many others are comparing the current situation to Russia's intervention in Georgia in 2008 over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which also have small ethnic Russian populations. Russia sent peacekeepers to the territories, and dispatched its military to ostensibly protect those troops when Georgia tried to reclaim South Ossetia by force in the summer. That war lasted five days and left Russia in control of the provinces, both of which are now home to Russian military bases.
There are several similarities between these cases and that of Crimea: the separatist rumblings in ex-Soviet states turning away from Russia, the appeals of ethnic Russians in the territories for the Kremlin's help, the forward deployment of Russian troops. In the lead-up to the latest standoff, for instance, the Russian consulate in the Crimean capital of Simferopol had stoked controversy by issuing Russian passports to ethnic Russian Crimeans—a practice Moscow also employed in South Ossetia ahead of the conflict there.
"The Russians raised the stakes and baited [former Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili .... by effecting a 'soft annexation' of South Ossetia," de Waal wrote as war between Georgia and Russia broke out in 2008. "Moscow handed out Russian passports to the South Ossetians and installed its officials in government posts there. Russian soldiers, although notionally peacekeepers, have acted as an informal occupying army."
Putin himself, however, has dismissed these comparisons. When asked by a reporter in December whether Russia would deploy troops to Crimea in a Georgia-like scenario, he dismissed the analogy as "invalid":
[I]n order to stop the bloodshed, as you know, there were peacekeeping forces in [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] that had international status, consisting mainly of Russian troops, although there were also Georgian troops and representatives from these then-unrecognised republics. In part, our reaction was not about defending Russian citizens, although this was also important, but followed the attack on our peacekeeping forces and the killing of our troops. That was the essence of these events.
Thankfully, nothing similar is happening in Crimea, and I hope never will. We have an agreement on the presence of Russia’s fleet there. As you know, it has been extended–I think, in the interest of both states, both nations. And the presence of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, in Crimea, is in my view a serious stabilising factor in both international and regional policy—international in a broad sense, in the Black Sea region, and in regional policy.
Fast-forward two months, though, and the situation has changed dramatically. Putin's ally in Kiev has been removed from power. A new, pro-Europe Ukrainian government has taken shape. The future of the Crimean base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is crumbling but still important for Russia's naval power in the Black Sea and Mediterranean, is in jeopardy. And, just like Russia did in Georgia, Putin is now justifying the use of force in Ukraine as a means of protecting "the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory," including Russian troops.
Still, Russia's recent moves don't necessarily mean that it will go as far as a Georgia-style "soft annexation." De Waal himself pointed out on Friday that Crimea (population: 2 million) is far bigger than Abkhazia (population: 240,000), South Ossetia (population: 70,000), and Transnistria (530,000), and that secessionist sentiment is less widespread in Crimea than in these other provinces. In threatening force in Ukraine, he wrote, Russia may primarily be trying to secure its naval base and destabilize the Ukrainian government, not set the stage for annexation or invasion:
Any Russian escalation deserves a strong response from the West. But if you read what Putin is actually saying he is being more equivocal. He is ruthless, but he is not Sauron in Lord of the Rings. He almost certainly wants the government in Kiev to fail, but he is also hosting the G8 summit in Sochi in June....
Russia has one overwhelming strategic asset in Crimea: the Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol. My guess is that Putin’s main goal in Crimea is to maintain that base at all costs.
If the Crimean crisis is fundamentally a show of strength by Putin to preserve his naval base in Crimea, and remind Ukraine's government that Moscow can still knock it off balance, what explains Putin's willingness to make such a bold move in the first place—one that could still potentially mushroom into a larger conflict?
In 2006, Nicu Popescu, an expert on EU-Russian relations, offered one of the best analyses I've seen of Russia's new assertiveness in world affairs under Putin. Moscow's support for secessionist movements in Georgia and Moldova, he said, was part of Russia's larger decision over the past decade to make expanding its influence in Eurasia, not creating favorable conditions for domestic economic growth, the top priority of its foreign policy. There are four reasons for this shift, Popescu argued:
  1. The growth of Russia's economy due to oil and gas exports, which helps bankroll a more aggressive foreign policy
  2. The Kremlin's centralization of power, which neutralizes the challenges posed by political opponents at home
  3. The retreat of the West from the world stage after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which creates an opening for Russia
  4. The success Russia has had in suppressing its own secessionist movement in Chechnya, which makes it easier for the Kremlin to support secessionist groups abroad
"These have all led to a feeling in Moscow that Russia has the resources and the proper international conditions to reassert its dominance in the former Soviet Union," Popescu wrote. "Stepping up support for the secessionist entities is seen as a way to achieve that."
And if Russian leaders believe they can do so, in Crimea and elsewhere, without provoking a major response from the West, they seem willing to assume the risk that comes with it.

European Parliament passed a resolution on the situation in Transnistria

According to a press release, the European Parliament passed Thursday a resolutions demanding full respect for the right to education and an end to all forms of pressure against Romanian teaching institutions in the Transnistrian region:
Parliament condemns "the increased administrative pressure being exercised by the self-proclaimed authorities in Transnistria" towards Romanian teaching institutions, and calls for "greater involvement of the EU in solving this conflict in its immediate neighbourhood". It wants "a speedy procedure" for visa liberalisation with Moldova and the "speeding up the technical procedures leading to the signing and provisional application of the Association Agreement". MEPs call also on the OSCE "to continue its monitoring and negotiation facilitation activities and to defend the right to education of the students of the Romanian-language schools in Transnistria".


  1. Good morning, running late because of failure to change the clock on the coffee pot.

    Yes Interesting and crazy times, I wonder if I heard that SA Royal rumor from Alex Jones or somewhere else, it's been a long time.

    I must admit to having never heard of Transnistria, is it near Transylvania? Seriously though does look like the Russians would like to pick that up and all of the Ukraine in between, seems like the people in those places would favor it too.

    You guys have a great day, I hope you adjust to DST better than I will. At least it will be warm.

  2. Transnistria has been a frozen conflict for about twenty years ( I never heard about this state before this weekend either. ) While located within the territory of Moldova , it is firmly within the influence and control of russia - similar to the other four states referenced in the articles ! You learn something new every day , right ?

    If the SA Royal rumor source was Alex Jones , then I really have my doubts. Alex's site is good with certain types of stories , but Alex can go over the cuckoo's nest at times !

    DST so far has been a snap... Have a great day everyone !