Pridnestrovie in Context of Ukraine

March 29, 2014

Transdniestria flag

Prologue

Transnistrian claim for independence is being met with a certain degree of sympathy and understanding by some of the western experts. As an example, a Finnish political analyst and blogger Ari Rusila can be named; he usually presents the Transnistrian de facto statehood in quite a positive light, admitting, in particular, that “Transnistria called my attention first because of its quite ready statehood elements without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine”. He believes that Transnistria, if compared with Kosovo, has had in fact much more reasons to be recognised internationally.


The quote above is from a paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  prepared for the International conference “Frozen Conflicts” in Europe (1st September 2012, Bled, Slovenia) by Natalia Belitser and the sitation is based on my articles published in 2008.
Transdniestria
Pridnestrovie as next Crimea?


As the crisis in Ukraine continues to simmer, tensions in the country’s western neighbor Moldova are beginning to rise. Seeking to capitalize on President Putin’s eagerness to use the protection of Russian speaking populations in the region as a pretext to expand his territorial claims, members of two separate enclaves in Moldova are looking toward Moscow for protection.


Now after uprising and coup in Ukraine and annexing Crimea into Russia, tensions have grown to encompass Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, which like Ukraine has been making efforts to integrate further with the West. Moldova has signed the EU association and free trade agreements at the November 2013 Vilnius summit, during which former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rejected the deals. The Moldovan government has also supported the Western-backed uprising in Ukraine. Western experts worry that the next “Crimea” could be the breakaway region of Pridnestrovie. Many locals there don’t share that fear, and if the last referendum holds, a large majority would welcome a Russian annexation.


Pridnestrovie aka Transdniestria – also known as Transnistria aka  Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR/TMR) – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. The official language of Transdniestria is Russian, not Moldovan, while the vast Majority of schools teach the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Roman alphabet used in the rest of the country. Recently  Pridnestrovie adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region’s preference for joining Moscow’s customs union.

Most recently, Russian military exercises held March 25 in Moldova’s breakaway territory of Pridnestrovie have stoked these tensions. From its side the parliament (called Supreme Soviet) of Pridnestrovie has sent a proposal to the State Duma asking for in Russian legislation to join the breakaway Republic in Russia. The document originated in the DG as feedback on refering new draft law in Russia on the simplified order of joining the Russian federation new actors on the basis of a referendum, no international treaty, if in a foreign country has no effective legitimate authority “. (Source: Forum Pridnestrovie )


Now Moldova’s Pridnestrovie region is seeking to follow Crimea and join Russia and this is not causing concern only in Moldova but in neighbouring Romania, Ukraine as well in EU and Nato too.
Transdniestria – and Gagauzia – are joining to the same club with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as de facto states, namely political entities that have achieved enduring ‘internal sovereignty’ – but lack ‘external sovereignty’ in the international system. As Crimea is annexed to Russia and these other “states” can follow to join Russia or continue as de facto state, this development is creating a Northern Black Sea corridor, frontline or buffer zone.

North Black Sea buffer zone

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Good Moldavia-Pridnestrovie cooperation since 2009 and 2011 elections


New prospects for conflict settlement have appeared after parliamentary elections of 2009 in the Republic of Moldova. The new pro-Western team – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – that substituted the Communist Party ruling the country from 2001, proved much more pragmatic and willing to deal with its breakaway region than their predecessors pursuing rather an isolationist policy. In 2011 presidential elections President Igor Smirnov, who had been in power since Pridnestrovie declared independence in 1990, failed to be re-elected, and was replaced by opposition MP, younger leader of the ‘Revival’ movement and former speaker of the Supreme Council Yevgeny Shevchuk. These political changes engendered hopes for the settlement process to acquire a positive momentum.


The power changes in Pridnestrovie give positive boost to peace process: the official negotiation process re-started after six years interruption in November 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 2012 in Dublin, Ireland and on April 2012. Finally the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 2012 this Document was signed. It included such issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,etc. Also a new approach (joint initiative of Russia and Germany, Meseburg, 2010) by the EU and Russia to resolve the conflict was the setting up of a joint Political and Security Committee (EU-R-PSC) at minister level. Related to security issues it was stated that the EU and Russia will cooperate in particular towards a resolution of the Transdniestria conflict with a view to achieve tangible progress within the established 5 + 2 format (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova,Pridnestrovie , OSCE, EU, US). This cooperation could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage.


The main approach of the resumed negotiations and to the settlement process in general focuses on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). This means that political aspects of the settlement, for example a mutually accepted status of Pridnestrovie, are not yet touched. Instead status there has been attempts to make concrete steps of issues that both sides of the conflict are interested in. These kind of initiatives have already been following:

  • Engaging the sides into direct dialogue;
  • Establishing joint Working/Expert Groups on confidence building measures;
  • Conducting meetings at a higher level (for example, between Prime-minister of the RM Vlad Filat and leader of Pridnestrovie Yevgeny Shevchuk, also between the heads of foreign ministries Eugen Carpov and Nina Stanski);
  • Elaborating and implementing national and international social and economic development projects etc.

The direct dialogue at a higher level has been clear contrast to previous lack of any kind of dialogue lasting for years. There has been a dozen WGs e.g. on economy, agriculture and environment, transport, railways, civil status acts, social and humanitarian aid, health, education, combating organised crimes and emergencies, telecommunications, and customs, whereas the WG on demilitarisation and security is not yet operating.
Growing dispute between parties started by unilateral actions by both parties during Spring 2013. First Moldova established migration control of citizens in six checkpoints, second  Pridnestroviestarted to mark border in in the sc Security Zone or line of demarcation after the Transdniestrian war (1992).
More about negotiation history in my article Transnistrian number game and in conference paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  by Natalya Belitser )

Tools against Pridnestrovie by Chisinau and Kiev

Arsenal of tools, on that, with the support of Western “ideological-political sponsors” can count in Chisinau and the Kiev could be as following:

  • further tightening of border crossing for the residents of Pridnestrovieh, the introduction of a total ban on border crossings by social groups and citizens (It is noteworthy in this regard that, that the admission of foreign citizens on the territory of Moldova is liberalized; Ukrainian officials should examine stats for financial gains and losses of the Moldovan side of Ukrainian companies, eg, air carriers);
  • blocking of export-import operations of the Pridnestrovie side, transit of Pridnestrovie goods, that is well within the common “European” subjects as a way to European integration, with a demand for the full functioning of the Pridnestrovie Moldovan business rules;
  • ban on border crossings by vehicles with Pridnestrovie number;
  • refusal to issue permits for the Pridnestrovie passenger transport;
  • Moldovan law on the placement of the Ukrainian checkpoints with full access to all databases and law carry out administrative functions, etc..

Russia ready if needed

Nato warns that a pro-Russian enclave of Moldova could be Moscow’s next target after Crimea. Nato’s top military Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said on 23rd March 2014 that Russia has a large force on Ukraine’s eastern border and is worried it could pose a threat to Moldova’s separatist Pridnestrovie region.Russia launched a new military exercise, involving 8,500 artillery men, near Ukraine’s border 10 days ago. Breedlove said the Russian tactic should lead the 28-nation Western military alliance to rethink the positioning and readiness of its forces in eastern Europe so that they were ready to counter Moscow’s moves.(The Telegraph)


How the Russian forces would get there. Pridnestrovie is landlocked and to go there by land would require Russian troops to travel through much of western Ukraine. However, Russian forces based in the Eastern side of the Black Sea and Crimea could conceivably stage an airlift. Since it fought a brief separatist war to breakaway from Moldova in 1991, Pridnestrovie has been home to “peacekeeping” garrison of around 1,000 Russian troops. One option is also that Russia includes Odessa in a “security belt” that would presumably stretch from Crimea to Transdniestria.


The speaker of Pridnestrovie’s separatist parliament urged Russia middle of March 2014 to incorporate the region and the republic’s parliament, called the Supreme Soviet, sent an official request to Moscow asking if Transdniestria could be allowed to join the Russian Federation. The talks within the 5+2 format (Russia, Moldova, Pridnestrovie, Ukraine, the OSCE and observers from the EU and the US) are scheduled for 10-11 April 2014.


In Moldova the appetite for European integration among Moldova’s 3.5 million people had weakened even before the crisis in Ukraine and a parliamentary election later this year may bring a return of the pro-Russian Communist Party That was forced from power in 2009. Moldova falls under the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, which contains no explicit similar promise of membership like the countries of the Western Balkans .

Gagauzia had referendum too

Gagauzia Moldova map

Transnistria (orange) and Gagauzia (red) are pro-Russian regions in Moldova (photo courtesy of Stratfor)

Following a 1991 declaration of independence, Comrat (Gagauzia’s capital) agreed to remain a part of Moldova, after Chisinau agreed to grant the region the legal status of a “special autonomous zone“. Chisinau’s control was challenged in February 2014 when Gagauzia held a referendum to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. The referendum followed Chisinau’s decision to enter a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union in November 2013–the same agreement former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich snubbed when he opted for the customs union with Moscow. Gagauzia has a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. Many locals fear that Chisinau’s EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.


An overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum – with turnout more than 70 % – held in the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia have voted for integration with a Russia-led customs union: 98.4 percent of voters chose closer relations with the CIS Customs Union. In a separate question, 97.2 percent were against closer EU integration. In addition, 98.9 percent of voters supported Gagauzia’s right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own independence. Moldova’s government claims that referendum in Gagauzia is unconstitutional and had no legal legitimacy.


Although the security situation in Gagauzia remains calm, on 26 March, the executive committee in Comrat announced its decision to establish independent police stations in Comrat, as well as in its northern and southern cities of Briceni and Cahul. Moscow has demonstrated support for Gagauzia following the referendum. The regions governor, Mihail Formuzal visited Moscow in March 2014 and got impression that Russia was prepared to expand partnerships with Gagauzia and “provide the necessary support”. Despite an embargo against wine produced in Moldova, Russia began importing it from Gagauzia, likely as an attempt to encourage additional good will toward its benefactor.

Bottom line


It easy to say that incorporating Transdniestria – as well Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea – into Russia (and Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia) is against international law (whatever it is) or some international agreements. Although Russia moving into eastern Ukraine could be–as the West says–invasion-occupation-annexation. However in my opinion these actions are more legitimate or justified than U.S.expansionism, secret wars and interventions around the globe.


The other possible scenarios than annex into Russia for Pridnestrovie are e.g:

  •  Status quo maintained aka “frozen conflict” continues;
  • Re-integration of the Republic of Moldova with condition of establishing a confederation including Moldova, Transdniestria as Gaugazia entities, this could be pragmatic option for Ukraine too;
  • Transnistria gained its independence and state sovereignty recognized internationally
  • Joining Ukraine, which option after coup in Kiev seems most unlikely option to me.

In my opinion even without international recognizion Pridnestrovie meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood. As long as Pridnestrovie’s status is unresolved, it will be a serious political obstacle to Moldova’s joining the EU, which does not want another “divided state” like Cyprus on it hands.

Transdniestria and Moldavia map
My previous article about Pridnestrovie:

 

Note: An Italian version of this article published too

Il futuro della Transnistria nel contesto della crisi Ucraina

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Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

October 2, 2013

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (https://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )


Confrontation Between Transnistria and Moldova Deepening

June 28, 2013

Regional map MoldovaThe escalation of tensions between Moldova and the break-away Transnistria region is causing concern in the EU and neighbouring Romania. Growing dispute between parties started by unilateral actions by both parties during this Spring. First Moldova established migration control of citizens in six checkpoints, second Transnistria started to mark border in in the sc Security Zone or line of demarcation after the Transnistrian war (1992).

Transnistria – also known as Transdnistria aka Pridnestrovie aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. Moldova is one of the frontlines of “battlefield” of interest spheres between EU and Russia, between U.S. and Russia and between future energy political deals. It is also a test for international law, conflict management and territorial sovereignty.

From Moldovan point of view Transnistria’s actions would expand the separatist region to include eight Moldovan villages. There is heightened fears in region of a military confrontation with Moldova, but in my opinion this can be avoided.

Current confrontation

The present round of changes started already on March 2013 in particular, the Republic of Moldova unilaterally decided to establish migration control of citizens in the six checkpoints: Gyrbovets (Novye Aneny), Khadzhimus (Kaushany), Dubossary, Kriulyany, Rezina, Seneteuka (Floreshty) without proper coordination at the bilateral or multilateral international level and within the framework of the Joint Control Commission. (Source PMR FA) The decision imposes limitations on the citizens of Russia, living in Transnistria (about 150 thousand people) and forming one-fourth of Transnistria’s population. The Moldovan authorities said they did it in order to establish order on the future eastern border of the European Union, which Moldova plans to join.

Tensions increased during the night of April 26-27 in the Security Zone of the Republic of Moldova. The Security Zone was set up at the end of the Transnistrian war (March-July 1992). The Transnistrian authorities unilaterally installed two checkpoints between the village of Varniţa (a commune that remains controlled by the Moldovan government) and the city of Bender (controlled by the separatist authorities of Transnistria). This led to clashes between Moldovan civilians, who tried to remove the checkpoints, and the Transnistrian militia, who intervened to stop them. The conflict was brought to an end a few hours later, by the Unified Control Commission, a joint mechanism established to monitor, among other things, the Security Zone. Transnistria claimed that the new checkpoints were aimed at combatting smuggling. (Source: Globalvoice )

Moldovan army is prepared to defend itself if a violent conflict is to escalates. However, a scenario similar to the one in 1992 is unlikely, said Vitalie Marinuta, Moldovan Defense Minister. The Moldovan Defense Minister believes that the separatists do not have the guts to generate a violent conflict because they are currently not fully supported by Russia.“Transnistrian army’s potential cannot break out a new military conflict, especially to continue this action alone,” the Minister pointed out. “On the other hand, Russia does not have an interest at the moment to support such a conflict because loses at international level would be greater than any gains.”According to the Moldovan official, the mobilization of resources of Transnistria, as well as the support of this regime by the population of the region is not as strong as it was back in 1992. Moreover, Russia has weaker military assets which “are incapable to carry on a prospect military attack.”The Moldovan Government admits that after the adoption of the so-called law on state border of Transnistria, issued by Transnistrian’s president Shevchuk, Moldova is losing their struggle in the Eastern districts. From Moldova’s perspective, according to the bill, the separatist region will cover some towns and villages which are currently under the legitimate authorities of Moldova. ((Source: Moldova.org (USA based NGO))

Political turbulence on both sides

Moldova itself has been marked by political turbulence in recent years. In Chișinău, there is a big fight, for money and power.The constant power struggle left Moldova without a president for nearly two years, then without a prime minister, and then also without a speaker of the Parliament. Earlier this year there was the collapse of Moldova’s pro-European governing coalition.

In 2011 presidential elections President Igor Smirnov, who had been in power since Transnistria declared independence in 1990, was replaced by opposition MP and former speaker of the Supreme Council Yevgeny Shevchuk. Earlier President Shevchuk, made a startling proposal to move the region’s legislature, the Supreme Council, from Tiraspol to the territory’s second-largest city, Bender. The choice of Bender was clearly symbolic: the city is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the 1990s war that ended with Transnistria declaring independence from the Republic of Moldova. The proposed move would also take the significant step of carrying Transdniester’s political center of gravity across the Dniester River, which geographically separates the bulk of the breakaway region from Moldova proper. Bender is one of the few regions on the Dniester’s western bank that is under Transdniester’s de facto jurisdiction. Bender also lies within the security zone established after the war, a narrow strip that includes Transdniestrian and Moldovan exclave territories on both banks of the river. The terms of the 1992 cease-fire agreement prohibit either party from taking actions that would deliberately aggravate tensions between the two sides. In this light, the Bender proposal has been interpreted by some as the kind of land grab that has been seen in other territorial conflicts in the former Soviet Union and the post-war Balkans. Supreme Council lawmakers rejected the proposal on May 23, voting to pass a resolution stating that the Transdniestrian parliament should remain in the territory’s de facto capital, Tiraspol.

Graphics credit: RFE/RL

One should however emphasize that the power changes in Transnistria give positive boost to peace process: the official negotiation process re-started after six years interruption in November 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 2012 in Dublin, Ireland and on April 2012. Finally the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 2012 this Document was signed. It included such issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,etc. Now the progress seems to go backwards.

From war towards independence

Moldova was part of Romania before the Soviet Union annexed it in World War II. Before the First World War it was part of Tsarist Russia. A landlocked country lying between Romania and Ukraine, most people speak Romanian, although the country’s constitution calls the language Moldovan. Moldova became independent in 1991. Moldovans share a linguistic and historical heritage with Romania. Although widely seen as part of Moldova, historically, Transnistria and Moldova were always separate. Throughout 2500 years of history, the Dniester River forming the current border has been a traditional border between Slav lands (Scythia, 450 B.C.) to the East and Romanian lands (Dacia) to the West.

In 1992 Moldova and Transdnistria fought a brief, bitter war which the separatists won, with the assistance of a contingent of locally-based Russian troops left over from the Soviet Red Army. Cease fire left Russian troops in place as peacekeepers and Transdnistria has since then acted de facto as independent – although not recognized – state. Transnistria region broke away in Soviet times because it feared Moldova would unite with Romania. Most of Moldova was once part of its western neighbour.

Most of Moldova was once part of Romania and now there are growing social forces in Moldova seeking reunification with its western neighbour for nationalist reasons and as an easy path to EU membership. Already between 10% and 20% of Moldovans have Romanian, and by extension EU, passports. The fear of Romanian expansionism frightens Transnistria away from reconciliation, while the “Kosovo precedent” gives its arguments for independence more weight. In 2009 Romanian President Traian Basescu told the Romanian parliament that he would fast-track Moldovans for Romanian citizenship following riots in the Moldova (Source DW) . Fast-tracking citizenship to some 1m people next door in Moldova, in effect giving EU citizenship to a quarter of the population of Europe’s poorest state.

Transnistrian population – about 555,000 people (2009). 90% of the population of Transnistria are citizens of the unrecognized Transnistria. Transnistrians have double or triple citizenship, including:

a) Citizens of Moldova – around 300,000 people (including double citizens of Russia (around 170,000, or EU states (around 80%) Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic)

b) Citizens of Russia – around 150,000 people (including around 15,000 – double the citizens of Belarus, Israel, Turkey); without quantity of dual citizenship Russia and Moldova (around 20,000)

c) Citizens of Ukraine – around 100,000 people. There are around 20,000-30,000 people with dual citizenship (Moldova and Ukraine, or Russia and Ukraine), or triple citizenship (Moldova, Russia and Ukraine). They are considered in the quantity of citizens of Ukraine and finally

d) persons without citizenship – around 20,000-30,000 people.

In my opinion even without international recognizion Transnistria meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood.

Frozen talks

Ten years of negotiations are better than one day of war.” ( Sergey Gubarev, Russian diplomat on Transdnistrian Moldovan conflict )

Conflict was frozen nearly ten years, then started first serious try to find sustainable solution. Internationally most used format has been sc 5 +2 process (Moldova and Transdniester as sides in negotiations, with Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE acting as intermediaries and the EU and the US as observers). Also 2+1 format (Moldova and PMR as parties, Russia mediator) has been used. In February 2011 the so-called “5 + 2 Talks” were started again in Vienna. More about negotiation history in my article Transnistrian number game .

Related to current escalation of tensions Moldova’s Parliament on June 22nd 2013 has called on international partners (the U.S., the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation )negotiating a settlement with a breakaway republic to stop separatists from seizing territory in eastern Moldova to “resolve the situation in Trans-Dniester through political and peaceful means, respecting democratic…principles.” (Source: Montreal Gazette )

The European Union reacted to the so-called legal act on state border issued by the Transnistrian leadership. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton issued a statement on June 21 saying that she supports the statement made on June 17 by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara, calling on sides to abstain from unilateral actions which impede the negotiation process. “I urge the two sides of the Transnistrian conflict to work in a constructive spirit, within the framework of the ‘5+2’ negotiating process, towards a peaceful settlement,” Catherine Ashton said. “I reaffirm the EU’s commitment to supporting the settlement process, in the interest and for the benefit of the populations on the ground, through dialogue with all the parties concerned and through an extensive programme of confidence-building measures open to both sides.” The Romanian Foreign Minister, Titus Corlatean, appealed to the two sides to refrain from unilateral action. “I urge my colleagues in Chisinau (Moldova) to be politically intelligent people and not to get back to provocations,” Corlatean said. (Source e.g: Moldova.org )

When Ukraine took on the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year, it pledged to make progress on Moldova-Transnistria conflict. However during negotiations on May 2013 in Odessa the hopes of a breakthrough appeared increasingly distant. The so-called 5+2 group was barely able to agree on an agenda for the talks, let alone negotiate a any settlement to this 21-year-old frozen conflict.

Kozak plans as solution

Moldova and Transnistria have been close for solution by widely agreed sc “Kozak plan” which still is valid for further examination.

In the Spring 2003 Dimitry Kozakin – a special envoy of Russian President Putin – started to broke deal between local stakeholders and finaally proposed on the creation of an assymmetric federal Moldovan state, with Moldova holding a majority and Transnistria being a minority part of the federation. Known as “the Kozak plan”, it did not coincide with the Transnistrian position, which sought equal status between Transnistria and Moldova, but gave Transnistria veto powers over future constitutional changes; this encouraged Transnistria to sign it. However when the plan was ready and preliminary agreed to sign on November 2003 the Western powers put some pressure towards Moldova leading to President Voronin’s rejection to sign.

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 and later with Transdnistria’s leader Smirnov. 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 Transnistria with thread that also other autonomous territory of Moldova – namely Gagauz region – would follow the steps of Transdnistria; it is expected that the demands of transforming Gagauzia region from autonomy to republic will increase.

(Note: The Moldovan parliament granted autonomous status to the Turkic-language speaking Gagauz region in the southwest of the republic in late 1994. Earlier the proclamation of the Gagauz Union Republic took place on 19 August 1990 and Moldovan military forces entered to Gagauzia right after that. Now Gagauz has powers over its own political, economic and cultural affairs.)


There is an opinion, that the Transnistrian conflict will be resolved if Moldova joins the Eurasian Economic Union (EurAsES or EAEC)where Moldova now has an observer status: “The Transnistrian conflict is soluble. When we all come into the EurAsES, all questions will be resolved”. However this option seems to be unrealistic. A new approach (joint initiative of Russia and Germany, Meseburg, 2010) by the EU and Russia to resolve the conflict could be the setting up of a joint Political and Security Committee (EU-R-PSC) at minister level.. Transnistria thereby became a test case for future cooperation with Russia.


Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

May 1, 2010

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)


Moldova Elections – 2nd attempt

August 1, 2009

The 29 July early parliamentary elections in Moldova swept Europe’s last ruling Communist party from power by pro-EU opposition parties. With 98.3 percent of votes counted, the Communist Party won 48 seats in the 101-seat Moldovan parliament and the four opposition parties collected 53 seats. The former Soviet republic has been experiencing a political crisis since the April elections that turned into a week of violent demonstrations by young pro-opposition activists in the capital Chisinau, dubbed the “Twitter revolution” (More in my article “Twitter Revolution – Case Moldova” )

Wednesday’s election is a repeat of the vote on April, however forced not by the protests, but the Communists’ failure to muster the 61 votes needed to elect a president. The result then left the Communists one vote short and parliamentary deputies failed twice to elect a new head of state. After several months of deadlock, Moldova’s long-time Communist leader Vladimir Vorinin was forced to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections. After eight years as president, Voronin is now expected to leave power.

More about April elections can be found from my article “Election in Moldova – Nato perspective blocked”.

The campaign

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”)

Elections were contested by eight political parties whose lists of candidates were registered by the CEC in an inclusive process. Registration of two independent candidates was refused due to incomplete documentation. Two political parties, the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the European Action Movement (MAE), as well as one independent candidate, withdrew from the race. The campaign atmosphere remained strained mostly due to mutual accusations between the governing party and the opposition regarding the eruption of violence during the April demonstrations. At campaign events throughout the country, the PCRM showed a film “Attack on Moldova” portraying opposition parties, with some foreign involvement, as organizers of the 7 April events. Likewise, during their campaign events, the PLDM, AMN and PL used footage depicting the events as instigated by the PCRM. The only party that openly called for an end to these disputes was the PDM under its newly elected chairman who was a prominent PCRM figure and who had left the PCRM in June 2009. (Source – OSCE report mentioned earlier).

The results

According OSCE observation report this time parliamentary elections in Moldova overall were well administered, allowing for competition of political parties representing a plurality of views. Many of the OSCE and Council of Europe commitments were met.

The results are described in following table where I have added also the April 5th voting results for comparison:

Election

///

Party

Election June 29th 2009

Election April 5th 2009

Turnout 58,8 %

Turnout 54 %

%

Seats

%

Seats

Communist Party

45,07

48

49,48

60

Liberal Party

14,36

15

13,13

15

Liberal Democratic Party

16,40

17

13,43

15

Democratic Party

12,61

13

Our Moldova Alliance

7,37

8

9,77

11

Short characterization:

  • The Communist Party came to power in 2001; leader Vladimir Voronin will step down after serving two four-year terms as president.
  • Liberal Democratic Party is Pro-European, pro-NATO; considered a party of technocrats.
  • Liberal Party is Pro-European, pro-NATO; wants closer relationship with Romania.
  • The big winner Democratic Party supports Moldova’s eventual membership in the European Union — a long-term goal. Party now led by Marian Lupu, who quit senior position in Communist Party in June.
  • Our Moldova Alliance is Pro-European, pro-NATO and favors closer ties with Romania.

Outside reactions

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Thursday 30th that “opposition and democratic forces” had won the snap parliamentary elections in neighbouring Moldova. Elections in Moldova are followed closely in neighbouring Romania. Most of Moldova was part of Romania until its annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940. Moldova won independence in 1991. Relations between the neighbouring countries have deteriorated since Moldova’s outgoing Communist government blamed the riots on neighbouring EU member Romania, kicking out Romania’s ambassador. (Source BalkanInsight)

More about Romania/Moldova dispute’s background in my article “Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway” .

In the wake of the disputed April vote, President Voronin had accused Romania, an EU and NATO member, of engineering a coup d’etat. Turning toward Moscow, he won a $500 million loan pledge from Russia and a $1 billion pledge from China. That money may not materialize if the opposition forms a government, but at this time that kind of outcome is pure speculation.

Changes?

As follow-up at least the government and president of Moldova will change in near future. It seems probable that the new government was likely to adopt a pro-EU “tilt”, and enact important market reforms, but without alienating Russia.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vlad Filat, said the election was a victory for truth and that it would definitely seek to form a coalition with other opposition parties – the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party and Our Moldova Alliance. He told Reuters: “There will definitely be a coalition, a wide coalition in the interests of the people. We will find the necessary compromise and find agreement so that Moldova finally gets democratic rule.” (Sources The Guardian and BBC )

Analysts say there is also the possibility that the Democratic Party, which won 12.5% of the vote or 13 seats, might forge a governing coalition with the Communists that would have a combined total of 61 seats. However, the leader of the Democrats, Marian Lupu, a former parliamentary speaker who defected from the Communists, was dismissive of such a deal on Thursday morning. (Sources The Guardian and BBC )

The opposition parties do not have enough votes on their own to elect the president, and will be forced to horse-trade with the Communists. Moldova’s most likely new president is Marian Lupu – the former Communist party speaker now leader of the opposition Democratic party. Lupu is the most likely candidate to attract the support of some Communist deputies, analysts believe. Some analysts expect the Communist party to seek to remain in power through making a deal to split the opposition front in which Democratic Party leader, Marian Lupu, who left the Communists only last month, agrees to support his former party in return for the ouster of President Vladimir Voronin.(Sources The Guardian and BBC )

Russia keeps troops in Moldova’s separatist Transdniestria region and supplies over 90% of the nation’s energy. It has promised $500m in loans to help Moldova through the global economic crisis. China offered $1bn.


Bottom line

Moldova is one of the frontlines of “battlefield” of interest spheres between EU and Russia, between U.S. and Russia and between future energy political deals. It is also a test for international law, conflict management and territorial sovereignty.

The power swift from Communist Party to opposition will probably not be very significant as the opposition’s win was guaranteed by new Democratic Party leaded by Communist Party’s ex top official.

In terms of foreign policy will continue the tightrope walking between the EU and Russia. There maybe will be more cooperation with the EU avoiding however same time conflict with Russia. Relations with Romania will be normalized and Transdnistria will continue its life as de facto independent state.


Iran – Twitter – Revolution

June 22, 2009

People are on the streets in Tehran, the death toll is rising, and rumors are spreading that not only students but also some figures inside Establishment would begin to openly challenge Ali Khamenei’s legitimacy as supreme leader. Some reports claim that Hashemi Rafsanjani – head of the Assembly of Experts, a body that has the constitutional authority to anoint and remove the supreme leader – is trying to assemble a coalition of grand ayatollahs in Qom against Khamenei. It is unprecedented that Ayatollah Montazeri, who was Ayatollah Khomeini’s former heir apparent, a genuine grand ayatollah, has openly challenged both this election and Khamenei’s reign.

Social networks and their citizen-journalists are active while mainstream media can’t cover the real-time events some have already labeled demonstrations as newest Twitter revolution so is there maybe coming a new green revolution or is the picture biased and overemphasized by those who are using these modern networks as mean of modern warfare.

It is unprecedented that Ayatollah Montazeri–who was Ayatollah Khomeini’s former heir apparent, a genuine grand ayatollah, not someone who had mid-ranking credentials and was made an ayatollah overnight like Khamenei–has openly challenged both this election and Khamenei’s reign.


The Results

Results gave 63% of the vote to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and 34% to Mir Hossein Mousavi, the strongest opposition candidate, with tiny votes going to the two other contenders. The Mousavi camp say the true result — allegedly leaked by the interior ministry — had its candidate winning more than 60% of the vote. The quarrel is therefore not over a handful of stuffed ballot boxes or a few contentious provinces, but over more than ten million votes.


Since the controversial and hasty crowning of Ahmadinejad only hours after the polls closed, the numbers have been subjected to intense statistical scrutiny by experts around the world, but so far no “smoking gun” has been found hidden in the numbers, and the debate is as fierce as ever.

Ahmadinejad’s claims have some base in a phone poll carried out across all 30 provinces three weeks before the vote that gave Ahmadinejad a 2-1 lead. Also his official share of the vote on Friday was almost identical to the second round result in 2005.

(More this e.g. in Mail&Guardian online

Twitter

Events after Iran’s elections are (again) got early label of Twitter revolution. The social networking site, which allows users to post messages, or “tweets”, of up to 140 characters, has shown itself perfectly suited to a fast-moving situation where there is a thirst for snatches of information in real time.

The new trend of present decade seems to be ‘Internet revolution’. Filipinos, famously, overthrew their government way back in 2001 with the help of text messaging. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 was the moment when blogging arrived in the news and earlier this year, Moldovans used Twitter to help organize anti-government protests and now Iran is on the same way. More in my article “Twitter revolution- Case Moldova

While connected people are empowered ones and the real work of Twitter is not only gather people fast on the streets but again it to empowers citizen-journalists at a time when mainstream media reporters can’t get to the scene. Phone footage and grainy pictures were copied onto blogs and news sites, while mainstream broadcasters, their correspondents constrained, relied on user-generated footage in an attempt to circumvent the censored state broadcasts.

Twitter is also misused and or it can show a overemphasized picture of situation, it can also be used for disinformation.  Some rumours on Twitter were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate – Mr Moussavi – was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid just after elections (not so).

However, Iran experts and social networking activists say that while Iranian election protesters have certainly used social media tools, no particular technology has been instrumental to organizers’ ability to get people on the street. Indeed, most of the organizing has occurred through far more mundane means: SMS text messages and word of mouth. Before after election riots it was estimated that there were only some 8,600 Twitter users in Iran.  To confuse counteractions the amount today is naturally higher as many supporters abroad have registered themselves as located in Iran.

Twitterers have circulated reports at breakneck speed of the violence being used against protesters in the streets of Iran to millions worldwide, complete with video and photo evidence of government forces firing indiscriminately into crowds, beating people with batons and raiding student dormitories. The Iranian regime’s efforts to block Internet access – and especially the streaming of photos and videos of the violence surrounding the protests – by decreasing the bandwidth, effectively slowing down online access to a frustrating level, tech-savvy Iranians have repeatedly found ways to bypass official restrictions using proxy sites that reroute Iran-based messages to post on Twitter.

Revolution?

So is there revolution going on in Iran?  I doubt – not yet anyway. With Twitter there is a risk that it amplifies one side while forgetting that Mr. Ahmadinejad has real support – surely majority in rural areas.  It may not be that over 60 % like showed in elections but probably as much at least than his main opponent.

However something historic is afoot today in Iran. Here I refer Karim Sadjadpour, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who in Council on Foreign Relations interview June 18th 2009 made following analysis:

The scale of the protests is unprecedented. The depth of people’s sense of injustice and rage is palpable. People are continuing to bravely take to the streets, risking their lives, despite the fact that they’ve been told the Basij [Iranian paramilitary force] and Revolutionary Guards have been authorized to use force. This has not dissuaded them. The fissures we’re seeing amongst revolutionary elites are also unprecedented. It’s very difficult to see how the status quo ante could prevail no matter what happens.

Ahmadinejad won the recent elections thanks to the support of the rural population and the army, but the street protests are an indication that due to profound societal trends the era of the clerical rule in Iran is nearing the end. Currently the regime is able to cope with the tide of street protests which in any case are not going to last long, but the next elections will bring a revolution. The share of the young people in Iran’s population is among the world’s highest and most of the voters in the country are young. Currently an anti-clerical drive is gaining momentum in Iran. As in most countries, the tendency is most widespread among the younger people and intellectuals. It is the essence of the conflict now brewing in Iran that the Islamic clericalism has no adequate response to the challenges of modernity. The clerical regime is failing to lay out a vision of a new Iranian national identity for the country’s population.

People are not calling for a wholesale revolution as they were in 1979. I’m not hearing the word enqelab, i.e. revolution, mentioned by the protestors. There exists a political maturity now that didn’t exist then. People don’t have the same naïve, utopian dreams that they had in 1979. They want a system that is representative of the people. Many people believe that the Islamic Republic does have important institutions, such as the institution of the presidency and parliament. But what they want to see is the unelected institutions, which currently have the majority of the constitutional authority, to be either removed or their authority seriously limited.

My view

There is some similarities between cases earlier in Moldova (see e.g. my article “No coup d’etat but big drama anyway” and now in Iran:

  • Demonstrations after elections when opposition looks results as more or less fabricated
  • Use of Twitter to mobilize fast crowds on the streets
  • Use of Twitter as alternative source to mainstream (inside country and abroad) media to give real or other side of picture about situation on the ground
  • Demonstrations implemented mainly by young urban citizens while rural majority quietly is bystander or supporting government
  • Some conspiracy theories about foreign involvement occur (in Moldova government accused Romania, in Iran Israel)

Coming months will show if the outcome in Iran will follow that in Moldova where new elections are waited to come soon, not directly because of demonstrations but due the conflicting views inside establishment. What is clear is that in Iran courageous, inspiring young people are putting their bodies in front of bullets and tear gas so the real pressure is boiling on the ground.

Like expected the response of Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei’s first response was  very firm. That’s his modus operandi as a despot: Never compromise in the face of pressure, it only projects weakness and invites more pressure. The real question in Iran – as well in Moldova and Georgia – will be how the present regime will copy the unrest in near future.  Violence and oppressive measures are short term actions; the sustainable solution would be to moderate policy by taking citizens’ concerns seriously.  If the pressure on the ground will not be channeled through existing regime it is only question of time when boiling will change the regime more or less violent way.

For online follow-up via twitter I would recommend link “Iran Unrest – twazzup twitter



Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway

April 19, 2009

Twitter revolution did not change government in Moldova but created big drama instead including a couple of conspiracy theories and “fast-track” mini enlargement of EU with one million new EU citizens Moldova possibly losing a quarter its citizens. So a relatively small improvised demonstration can lead its (mis)use for possible purposeful utilization of multidimensional aims of different players.

In my post “Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova I described a bit implementation and motivations about events occurred after 5th April elections in Moldova. Conclusions about elections itself are in my post Election in Moldova – Nato Perspective blocked”.

Some random pickings from Moldovan twitters about situation are describing situation afterward:

…about 200 people was arrested and nobody know where they are now…communist president had a meeting will all school and university deans, and told them that they’ll be fired if police catch one of their students at protest….also they close borders with Romania, and don’t let international journalists to enter in country. 3 journalists was denied entry in airport…2 Moldavian journalists disappeared after they filmed undercover police beating students…while in Chisinau people was protesting and fighting, national tv had on a documentary film…

 

On the other hand demonstration has been characterized also as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Conspiracy 1

The first conspiracy theory came public April 14th by Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review. According its sources flags of Romania and EU over Moldova’s presidential office building were run up by employees of Moldavan secret services. The Flags of Romania and the European Union which have been run up on April 7, over the building of the Moldova’s presidential office during the protest actions against falsifications of parliamentary elections, were raised up at presence of a policeman, a source in the Information and Security Service (SIS) of Moldova told news agency Regnum April 14th. According to the source, the flag of Romania overt the building was raised by an employee of the SIS. (Source AXIS)


Conspiracy 2

Few days later April 16th Moldavian President Vladimir Voronin expressed totally opposite conspiracy theory claiming that nine Serb nationals took part in organising the coup d’état in Chisinau, adding that the Moldavian secret service has information that the unrests were headed by former ‘resistance’ fighters. President Voronin said he had a photograph of a Serbian citizen who he claims is working for the Americans. – We have it all on tape and we can identify all the animals who were attacking the police – Voronin said.

Speaking in an interview for the Spanish daily El Pais, Voronin said nine Serbian citizens and several Romanian agents have been registered in Chisinau.

Danko Cosic from Serbia, the director of a non-governmental organisation “Prokoncept”, who was an observer in Moldavia during the elections, said that the country does not even have nine Serbs in it. – They showed the photograph Voronin speaks of. I am on that photo. They took the photo in front of the presidency building. I took no part in any violence. For sure, whoever is taking part in violence is not holding his hands in his pockets – Cosic concluded. He also said that the story of President Voronin is very illogical. – Nine Serbs could not organise a riot. There was me and another young man there – Cosic said. (Source AXIS)

Hasty consequences

There are growing social forces in Moldova seeking reunification with Romania for nationalist reasons and as an easy path to EU membership. Already between 10% and 20% of Moldovans have Romanian, and by extension EU, passports. The fear of Romanian expansionism frightens Transnistria away from reconciliation, while the “Kosovo precedent” gives its arguments for independence more weight.

Romanian President Traian Basescu told the Romanian parliament that he would fast-track Moldovans for Romanian citizenship following riots in the Moldova (Source DW)  . Fast-tracking citizenship to some 1m people next door in Moldova, in effect giving EU citizenship to a quarter of the population of Europe’s poorest state.

EU institutions are appalled (Source euobserver) at Romania’s proposal to give citizenship. The website quoted an unnamed EU official as describing the plans as “frightening.”

To make issue more complicate one should also note that at same time Russia is trying to draw Transdniestr into its orbit by giving out passports to (Moldovan) citizens living in this breakaway republic.



My perspective

From my perspective few points I would like to highlight, such as

  • If it is true that Moldovan government had purposeful utilization of demonstration I would claim this to be a double stupidity: First to implement this kind of action when you actually have almost landslide win in the election and second to be caught in the act of fabrication. The April 5 parliamentary election may have been flawed, but not to the degree the opposition claims.

  • Was “Twitter revolution” an attempt of another so-called “colored revolution,” or simply an expression of rage by young people who demand to live better lives? There are certainly specific individuals in Moldova who are interested see unification with Romania as the easiest way into the European Union. Looting of government buildings seems more hooliganism than a plan to take control of the country or to bring about “regime change by force.

  • One question is if using social networks with modern technology very democratic way in politics? This tactic suits mainly in urban areas by people – mostly younger generation – who are familiar with modern communication means and have infrastructure supporting them.

  • Many in breakaway Transdniester are watching the recent events in Moldova with satisfaction, in that the unrest and violence only serve as a further reason why they should not agree, in the wake of Kosovo’s independence, to once again become a part of Moldova.

  • For over a decade, Transdnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia had strong cases for independence, even stronger than Kosovo’s (My comparison Kosovo-Transdnstria in article “Transdnistria Follow-up. Today they have de facto independence, even if it is not recognized. And if now some Moldovans or wannabe Romanians are demanding border changes – after Kosovo – how can they be denied this?

  • The whole mess now in Moldova makes EU’s position challenging;  what is its position about this kind of mini-enlargement, how implement new European Partnership (EaP) program on the ground, how deal with secessionist Transdnistria, Gagauz and maybe more regions, what kind of cross-border activities to support?

And the next color will be …?

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