Moldova’s Transnistria: The Next Crimea?

March 24, 2014

Alexander Boehm

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Much of the world has been paying close attention to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and dedicating a considerable amount of time dissecting the geopolitical implications the crisis has with respect to Russian-Ukrainian relations and Russian-Western relations. But what implications does the crisis have for Ukraine’s neighbors, particularly those in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)? The Ukrainian crisis and the challenges faced by its fledgling government have begun to make other CIS member states worried. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Moldova.

Russia’s push for a referendum and subsequent desire to annex the Crimean region of Ukraine could have reverberations across the CIS. While Russia’s intervention has occurred under the auspices of protecting ethnic Russians who comprise a majority of the Crimea’s population, it is important to note that Russia’s incursion into sovereign territory, in what the Kremlin refers to as its “near abroad,” is not unprecedented in the post-Soviet era. Russia legitimized its invasion of Georgia in 2008 under the pretense of protecting ethnic Russians in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. If Russia manages to yet again wrestle territory from a former Soviet satellite, it may embolden Putin to try his luck elsewhere in the region. Should Putin want to issue a real statement to the likes of the EU, he may turn to Moldova, particularly the region of Transnistria, as a means of escalating an already dangerous situation. Transnistria, which straddles Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, is among one of the few post-Soviet “frozen conflict” zones. Approximately 30 percent of Transnistria considers itself ethnic Russian and following a brief war between Moldova and Transnistrian separatists in 1992, the Russian military has maintained a sizable contingent in the territory despite opposition from the international community.

Much like Ukraine, Moldova finds itself in a precarious situation, torn between pursuing closer ties with the EU and maintaining its traditional economic relationship with Russia. Both Moldova and Ukraine were scheduled to initiate an association agreement with the EU but unlike Ukraine, Moldova did not succumb to pressure from Moscow and began the process of officially signing the agreement in November of last year. Moldova’s decision, however, did not stop Russia’s deputy prime minister from visiting Moldova and threatening economic sanctions. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying: “Energy is important, the cold season is near, winter on its way.  We hope that you will not freeze this winter.” Rogozin went on to say that measures taken to “hinder the communications of Transnistria with the rest of the world will be a direct threat to the security and constitutional freedom of 200,000 citizens of Russia permanently living in Transnistria.” Rogozin later remarked that Russia views itself as “the guarantor of constitutional rights of its citizens.”

Moldova’s governing pro-European coalition intends to officially sign the association agreement with the EU by August of this year. Fears of Russian reprisals, however, through both economic and political coercion are real. The Kremlin employed similar tactics with Ukraine and Armenia, resulting in both abandoning the agreement. As Europe’s poorest state, relying heavily on agriculture and remittances from abroad, Moldova is especially susceptible to Russian coercion. A recently introduced Russian ban on Moldovan wine, in particular, is having a significant effect on Moldova’s economy. Should Russia wish to make life more difficult for Moldova, it will likely target Moldovan migrant workers in Russia and introduce repressive measures that will make remittances more difficult.

For its part, the European Commission has expressed its hope that Moldova will be free to decide its own future without any interference from Moscow. At a mid-February meeting between EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Romanian President Traian Basescu, Barroso said the EU intends to work closely with Romania to create more electricity, rail and road connections between Moldova and the rest of the EU. According to Barroso, funds have been already been allocated for this specific purpose.

Given the resurgence of Cold War era hostility between Russia and the West, one would expect the EU to do more to win over Moldova and expedite its goal of EU integration. If the Kremlin is intent on redrawing the postwar map of Eastern Europe, than the EU must do all it can to ensure that it is not caught flat footed. In the event that Russia uses economic coercion to strangle Moldova’s fragile economy, the EU should ready an aid or rescue package similar to the one the United States Congress is expected to approve for Ukraine. The EU has, thus far, been an economic and trading power, shying away from geopolitics and collective action on key strategic issues. In the wake of Ukraine, this may be destined to change. The EU has an enormous opportunity to shake its mantle of being a union largely concerned with economic self-interest and assume a new identity as a union willing to stand up to strategic threats in its own backyard.

 Alexander Boehm is a contributor to

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  • Mississauga Dad

    Many commenters are saying it’s none of our business to get involved, that Ukraine is not our concern. So let me ask then, when is it our concern?
    1. When Russia invades all of Ukraine?
    2. When Putin decides to ‘protect’ Russians in Moldova – there are 1000 Russian troops in Moldova already.
    3. When Putin decides he wants to take back Belarus – looks very probable before summer.
    4. When Russia invades Armenia?
    5. When Russia invades Azerbaijan?
    6. Georgia? Woops. Sorry. Already done that.
    7. When Russia invades Kazakhstan? (Russian space centre there – Putin decides it will be the RUSSIAN Space Centre again. ALL American astronauts rely on it).
    8. Turkmenistan? Uzbekistan? Tajikistan? Kyrgyzstan?
    9. Lithuania? Estonia? Latvia? Lithuania already has a large troublemaking Russian population.
    10. Bulgaria?
    11. Romania?
    12. Hungary – got practice on that one already.
    13. Slovakia and Czech Republic – lots of experience there too.
    14. Poland? Don’t I recall an invasion of Poland (albeit by someone else originally) causing major issues a few years back – I think it was called WWII.
    15. Finland? It has been so terrified of the Russian bear over the years that it would be easy pickings.
    16. How about if Putin decided he wanted East Germany back?
    17. How about the disputed Kuril Islands?
    18. What if Putin decides to put nuclear missiles in Cuba again?
    19. How about if he decides to ‘protect’ the Socialist Republic of Venezuela and its oil resources from outside threat by providing Venezuela with a massive buildup of Russian military materiel?
    20. What if Putin decides that much of the Arctic that Canada has claimed for decades is REALLY on Russian land? Do we just say “Yeah, no problem. Take it. It’s yours”. You can be 100% sure that Putin IS GOING TO challenge many of Canada’s Arctic territorial claims. He has already planted a Russian flag at the North Pole under the ice on the sea bottom.
    21. How about if Putin decides that Russian didn’t get enough in the Alaska purchase deal and he wants it back?
    At what point is it OUR business?

  • Russia,Russia …!!
    For hundreds,hundreds of years rusians had distroied the neighbours population and then ocupied their teritory.
    Crimea has been originaly populated by tatars who have been masacrated and populated by russians.Now the russians aare a majority .All the countries in the world shoul rise the voice against criminal Russia.

  • I have been reading a few articles from this blog and I am getting to conclude it is another mouth-piece for the George Soros outfit.

    The narrative that Alexander Bohem and this blog is the same being barked to the four winds by the U and the Wall Street crowd.
    The assumptions are wrong all around and the spin is ludicrous. This article is but more of the same crap pushing for re-igniting a cold war that never ended completely.
    Russia today is NOT the Soviet Union, and its capitalist system is perhaps more so than any place in the EU and the US, with a flat tax of only 12% it is very attractive to any one who wants to invest and produce. Here in the US the tax anyone in Middle class pays is at least 30% while the richest pay only about 10%.

    The times since the WWII have changed drastically and Russia doesn’t need to have such a large "buffer zone" to protect itself from hundreds of years of invasions. Russia didn’t have transcontinental missiles before Hitler attacked, neither atomic bombs, which makes a huge difference.

    However they are very concerned with the missiles stationed in Poland and the radar system in Zcheck republic because that can jeopardize Russia’s deterrent. The laughable excuse the EU and the US is giving regarding Iran’s NON-EXISTENT rockets and atomic bombs is pathetic.

    The cabal that controls the world using Fractional Reserve Banking through the central banks they control (most except Syria, Iran and Russia. The other Libya was taken over by NATO) use the creation of currency as the conduit to extract the wealth of countries.

    The current global debt crisis is FAKE, it’s artificial, only the result of this debt-based money system. The BRICS countries are aware of this and are working to create a parallel monetary system, and this Ukraine crisis perhaps will accelerate the process.

    The US dollar is being set up to crash big by the very forces that create it. The FED is the orchestra director for all the central banks and the plan is to inflate as they have been doing for the last 6 years until the bubble pops producing a much worse crash than 2008. It is then that they will come with their "solution" which is another debt-based currency but this time imposed on many other countries. The Euro now I realize was merely a trial run, and it has been successful in achieving the cabal’s objectives as we can see Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal caught in their worst nightmare and the Euro is at the center of it, it is the VENOM killing these countries.

    Russia is much better off because they have no debts and a large international reserve, while all of Europe is in debt. The US is the only one that can print their dollar that every other one uses to buy oil. If China and Russia dump all their dollars at once, then you’ll see who is gonna sink like a stone once all countries try to divest from their useless dollars, the inflation in the us then will skyrocket.

    YOU GOT IT BACKWARDS. Once this shit storm takes place China and Russia, and perhaps Brazil will be standing tall watching the mess around them.

    It is NATO that has been misbehaving since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is NATO that promised NOT to swallow up the countries that belonged to the Soviet Warsaw Pact and they reneged in their promise, In fact there is not reason for NATO to exist at all since there is no more a threat from the group of countries that was formed to confront against.
    Before Europe was afraid Russia would invade them and turn them into a communist nightmare, but today neither China or Russia are communist and have no desire to impose anything on them while sharing the same socio-economic system.

    It is Russia that has the largest territory full of natural resources, and it is the NATO countries who are the AGGRESSORS who want it for themselves by following their bosses orders at the Cabal of Zionists who have been relishing the full control of the planet for the last 300 years. The New World Order they have been talking so much about and YOU are merely becoming part of the ECHO CAMBER repeating the same lies and deceit, whether you know it or not.

    If you are not getting paid to propagate this garbage, you are losing some bucks.

  • Andres

    Mississauga Dad:

    So far, Russia took control of Crimea only, a region populated by a Russian majority and in which Russia had clear interests for its own security concerns.

    You go too far inferring that Russia will invade the 20 or so countries that you mention in your list. Even in the case of Georgia, Russian territory claims were limited to Abkhasia and Ossetia, where there’s a Russian majority. Putin had the might to have smashed Saakashvili armies and Tblisi at a whole in a few days, and he didn’t go that far.

    Putin seems very cautious in the way he wants to assert Russian influence. I think that he won’t commit the same errors that the Soviet did and that American-NATO copied (overextending their military involvement thus overstretching their resources). In fact, I think that he prefers to keep the Russian influence without any formal annexation. After all, a truly successful Eurasian economic zone cannot be sustained by military

    As a Canadian, you should be much more worried of how the Canadian elites will come with a sound "New Deal" for the ailing manufacturing and commercial sectors. Our infrastructure is collapsing (bridges and routes in Quebec) while the few really profitable economic sectors are mostly relied to non-renewable natural resources (mining, tar sands, etc.). However, instead of attacking this worrisome reality, people prefer to point to a flag at the bottom of the ocean. Go figure…



  • Andres

    As of the main article, the author fails to inform that Transdnistria already hold an independence referendum in 1992, which was won by a landslide but didn’t get international recognition (not even from Russia). This is important to understand that many Moldovans don’t want to sever ties with Russia, and disarms the argument that "Moldova wants to be free and prosperous but ugly Russians don’t let it happen".

    The author also fails when recommending that "the EU should ready an aid or rescue package". That’s only a patch, not a serious, permanent solution. Those aid packages will serve to pay due debt and to partially compensate for increased gas prices for a while. A year from now, Moldovans, Ukranians and the such will beg for additional money and will have to implement deeper cuts if they pretend that the IMF open its purse.

    If aid packages didn’t save Spain or Greece from the deep recession they are plunged into, why would it do so for less organized countries? If migrant Romanians and Polish were chased out of UK, France and Italy, why would it be different to Moldovans eager to migrate to Western Europe?

    What Mr Boehm and other pro-West seem to ignore (voluntarily or not) is that the real problem behind all this Crimean conflict is rooted in the inability of the European Union to convince East European countries to join the union under the stipulated terms (ECB and IMF terms). The EU has less and less to offer to new members (stagnant growth, difficulties to protect local jobs from German competition, dismantling of social services, high youth unemployment, xenophobia, etc.) and the "threat" comes from Russia and China luring countries into a more convenient trade and investment zone.

    The World is changing to a multipolar format, and the US and EU cannot accept this fact. That explains the need to aggressively push the EU and NATO membership eastwards at any cost, even if it means conspiring against democratic (albeit corrupt) governments sitting instead neonazis in office.



  • SAS

    It strikes me in all this fuss on the Russian frontier that we need to step back a bit and ask a few questions about what led up to this.

    First, why after the Warsaw Pact was voluntarily dissolved and the former members had left the Soviet orbit did NATO not freeze its membership as a reciprocal gesture of good will? Why did it continue to recruit new members even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself?
    Its purpose had disappeared. Yet it continued to expand and advance. This was happening when the Russian Federation under the Boris Yeltsin regime was nearly a basket case and was almost coming apart at the seems.

    Why was there no Martial Plan for eastern Europe including Russia that could provided prosperity and long term stability for most of those people?

    Why did Washington and some of its sock puppets (Germany & the UK) in NATO continue to treat Russia as an enemy?

    None of this makes sense unless we go back to former US president Eisenhower’s last warning about the "military industrial complex". There seems to be a powerful element in Washington that always wants war. That thrives on war. What purpose do 12 90,000 ton nuclear powered aircraft carriers serve in this day and age?

    The only rational answer seems to be that this military machine must find an excuse to exist and its suppliers (some of the most powerful corporations in the world) need it too.

    The big question is, does anybody else need this nonsense?

  • John

    I’ve unsubscribed. Who’s paying you for this blatant propaganda?

  • Raul

    This article is pure CIA propaganda! I thought Geopoliticalmonitor was more serious!


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