Transdnistrian number game

The future status of Transdnistria – or Pridnestrovie – is again, inspired maybe the events in Georgia on August 2008, coming to negotiation tables. With local stakeholders there is some readiness to discuss further to solve this frozen conflict, however the outsiders are twisting arms about formalities. What is the content of number games 5, 5+2, 3+2, 2+1 is also designing the outcome – e.g. alternative solutions – of negotiations.

In 1992, the Moldovan government engaged in a short war with authorities in Transdnistria. Hostlities ended after a Russian military intervention by the then Russian 14th army stationered in Transdnistria. Since then Transdnistria has de facto been on its own like independent state.

The original 5

The format created after war was 5, which always consisted of the five “full” participants:

  • Moldova and Transdniestria as the parties to the conflict;
  • Ukraine and Russia as mediators and also guarantor states, guaranteeing to both parties to the conflict the fulfilment and respect of (and enforcement of) whatever negotiated outcome the talks could bring;
  • OSCE as joint mediator, alongside fellow mediators Russia and Ukraine.

2+1 = Kozak plan

In the spring of 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin had named Dmitri Kozak — at that time the deputy head of his presidential administration — as his special envoy to Moldova. His task was clear – to find a solution to the frozen conflict that had emerged in 1992. Thanks to compromises brokered by him, Moldova and Transdniestria found common ground for agreement know as “Kozak plan” or Kozak memorandum.

The Basic Principles laid out in this document was about the unitary, democratic, demilitarized and neutral character of the state. The federal state had to have 2 sub-entities, PMR and the Gagauz autonomy, with their own recognized local government structures, anthems and flags.

Kozak plan was initialed page by page by both Moldova’s President Vladimir Voronin and Transdniestria’s President Igor Smirnov. The idea was that on 25 November 2003, the thenRussian President Vladimir Putin scheduled a surprising visit to Moldova to witness the signing of a federalization document as the solution to the conflict.

The visit was canceled by President Voronin’s last minute rejection. Moldova nixed the “Kozak plan” within hours of its planned signing as the result of pressure by hardliners in the West: The Moldovan President was informed by the then OSCE Dutch chairman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges and the EU Council Secretary General Javier Solana about opposition that Washington and Bruxelles had concerning the mutually agreed-upon settlement plan between the two sides.

5+2 is not 7

The two sides were then at starting point without any settlement. Transdniestria continued to act like a sovereign independent state under the name of PMR (Pridnestrovskaaia Moldavskaia Respublica). Moldova had rejected the only viable plan that both sides could conceivably agree on.

With this background the “5″-format became “5+2″ in 2005, when the European Union and the USA joined the table. They joined as mere observers, a role which they still have today. They are the “2″ add-on’s and the reason why the 5 didn’t become the 7 when they were added: Because they are not full fledged participants but are merely there to watch and, at most, give suggestions and constructive advice if asked. Some times there is also 3+2 format meetings including representatives of the mediators – the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE – as well as the European Union and the United States as observers.

1+2 = Kozak plan II

August 2008 was the turning point in negotiation process. Conflict in Georgia was in background when Russian President Medvedev first held talks with Moldova’s President Voronin in Sotchi on August 25th and later with Transdnistria’s leader Smirnov on September 3rd. 5+2 format was replaced with 1+2 format including Moscow as mediator, Chisinau and Tiraspol as the parties of conflict.

The basic elements of new deal are probably similar like in Kozak plan I. The price of reunion will be high to Moldova because probably federation form with strong minority or veto rules would neutralize Moldova’s foreign policy related integration towards EU and Nato.

Higher price for Moldova could be even stronger sovereignty of Transdnistria with thread that also other autonomous territory of Moldova – namely Gagauz region – would follow the steps of Transdnistria.

Negotiations are now ongoing and the aim is signing the conflict-settlement documents in a Medvedev-Voronin-Smirnov meeting soon. One part of time frame is the fact that reunifying Transdnistria with Moldova could bring the win to Moldova’s current leadership in general elections in the Spring 2009.

Progress in sight 2008

Year 2008 has showed gradual progress to solve Transdnistria/Moldova conflict. However there is still the number game on table. From my point of view I always prefer bottom to top approach over opposite process. So if 1+2 format can bring a solution mutually acceptable to “conflicting parties” – i.e Moldova and Transdnistria – it should be legitimate.

EU and US are of course not pleased about today’s development and e.g. Kalman Mizsei – EU representative/Moldova – said that the approved international format of 5+2 should be followed, adding that the EU won’t accept any solution brokered outside this format. This can be seen a bitter statement of bystander but if outsiders can not facilitate constructively so let parties find solutions on their own.

The best outcome could be if a political settlement made directly in the 1+2 format by conflicting parties and Russia’s mediation would afterward be referred in 5+2 format for Western blessings so everybody could be officially happy.


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6 Responses to Transdnistrian number game

  1. Carl says:

    Ari, thanks for the run-down and for clarifying to everyone that the U.S. and the European Union representatives are just observers in the process. Sadly, they themselves often make public statements where it is clear that they forget why they were invited in the first place, and clearly appear oblivious to what their limited roles imply.

    I have one minor issue where I disagree with your analysis.

    You wrote that: “reunifying Transdnistria with Moldova could bring the win to Moldova’s current leadership in general elections in the Spring 2009.”

    I don’t see (re)unification happening, but in the hypothetical situation of an eventual joint state then this would NOT help Moldova’s current Voronin-led government. They have done absolutely nothing good for Transdniestria in the past 8 years, and no one in Transdniestria has anything to be thankful for. They will therefore not be rewarded at the polls by any of the voters from the left bank which would represent nearly 20% of total voters in such a Moldova.

    It is more likely that these voters will vote for new parties which are regionally based, in other words Tiraspol-headquartered parties. And if such parties are made illegal then the voters will boost the currently smallish groups in Moldova which favor closer ties to Russia. For instance the politician V. Klimenko from Kishinev. None of Moldova’s mainstream parties will get any help from Transdniestria, and that especially includes the Voronin ruling party.

  2. Julien says:

    When discussions about the refreshed Kosak plan were starting (this was in March), I have heard from a contact who lives in Moldova and who is active in one of the opposition parties that they were afraid that ruling Communists would use a special status of Transnistria within the political system of Moldova for their own advantage, i.e. first to secure a certain number of seats in parliament for Transnistria and then to organise a behind-the-scenes deal between the majority party of the left bank and the Moldovan Communists to secure a joint majority against the opposition parties (especially taking into account that the popular support for the CP is vanishing).

    In general, when you talk to people from Moldova and/or Transnistria – I had the occasion several times – the human relations between both parts of the country seem to be much less problematic than the politcal discussions imply.

    However, it is unrealistic to ignore that the issue of Transnistria will always involve more than 2+1 actors, because since the beginning of the conflict many more actors have been involved, and any solution has also effects on the wider region, including Ukraine, the European Union, and any other country with strategic interests…

  3. adaniel says:

    I think it is not a proper analysis that Transdnistria acts ‘as an independent state’. It is more a poor, lawless part of the world, which is not a subject of international law (not even Russia has recognized its existence). This is an autocratic region which de facto belongs to Russia and de jure to Moldova.

    Although the current power situation in the ground may hint that the 2+1 may be pragmatic, it is also very hypocritical approach, as Russia is not a mediator but a party involved which technically stations occupying forces in a sovereign state.

    I think it would be a very wrong signal if the rest of the international community would just dully accept whatever Russia dictates in this situation, especially after the Georgian war, because it would highly increase the possibility that Russia will attack further countries in its neighborhood.

  4. […] 2004-2008 “outsiders” like U.S., EU, OSCE as well Ukraine and Russia made some attempts to launch new negotiation process but without success. (More in my article “…numbergame …”. […]

  5. […] Moldova has been in political paralysis since April 5 parliamentary elections sparked violent protests, with the opposition claiming the ballot was faked. According OSCE’s preliminary observation report the Political parties frequently used these events in their campaigns to blame each other for the eruption of violence. The campaign atmosphere was highly polarized, and there was severe antagonism between the opposition and the ruling party. As in previous elections, voting did not take place on the territory that since 1992 is under the de facto control of the Transdniestrian authorities. In Corjova, a disputed commune on the eastern bank, voting was prevented by seemingly organized groups. The place is also president Voronin’s native village. (More about Transdnistria/Moldova dispute’s background may be found from my article “Transdnistrian number game”) […]

  6. VilaGora says:

    I agree with that.

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