Books on Moldova
Update No: 322 - (25/10/07)
An anomaly still at large
Moldova is basically two nations, not one. The leader of the Transdniestr
Republic, Igor Smirnov, is a gangster type, who presides over the greatest
smuggling state in Europe. He and his regime have been sustained by Russia.
But he won a victory on a ticket for independence in December in a referendum
held within Transdniestr (without benefit of OECD or other impartial
supervision). It is de facto, if not de jure, independent now. Anyone who has
watched a national day parade can see why: 60% of the population are fiercely
proud of being Slavs, whilst 40% are Romanians.
The country was a misbegotten forced marriage in the first place, blessed by
Hitler and Stalin in their infamous pact in 1939. Hardly the best godparents.
Voronin advocates full demilisarization of Moldova
Interviewed in the inaugural issue of Izvestiya's local supplement, Izvestiya v
Moldove, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin proposes full demilitarization of
Moldova on both banks of the Dniestr River. He envisions the
"liquidation" of all tanks and armoured vehicles, multiple rocket
launchers, and artillery of any type, both by the lawful Moldovan and the
unlawful Transdniestrian forces, within six months. The easiest method would be
handing over that elderly equipment as scrap metal to the Ribnita steel plant,
Under Voronin's proposal, the manpower of forces on both banks would undergo
deep cuts, whereupon the remaining units would become parts of a single army.
The units would be recruited on a territorial basis during an unspecified
initial period, meaning that units based in Transdnistria would retain a local
profile during the transitional stage toward a single force.
That unified force would clearly not possess the attributes of an army. Its sole
mission would consist of participating in peacekeeping operations mandated by
international organizations. All units on both banks of the Nistru River would
be transformed into training centers for peacekeeping troops, with
officers-trainers employed on contract. Trainees would serve for six months,
with an option to choose an officer-trainer's career. Confident that Russia, the
United States, and NATO would welcome Moldova's demilitarization, Voronin also
expressed hope that international assistance would be forthcoming to finance a
social protection program for officers released from service and to set up the
peacekeeping training centers.
The stated rationale behind Voronin's proposal is fourfold:
1) the armies of Moldova and Transdnistria are "absolutely useless" to
2) the Moldovan army is merely symbolic, "like a coat-of-arms, rather than
a fighting force" (an implicit admission of its inferiority, compared to
the Russian supplied Transnistria-flagged forces );
3) as proof of peaceful intentions: "Evidently Moldova is not going to wage
a war against anyone; and we don't see any state in this part of Europe posing a
military threat"; and
4) in order to redirect military expenditures, however meagre, toward civilian
Voronin links demilitarization with Moldova's status of permanent neutrality,
enshrined since 1993 in the country's constitution. By the same token, the
constitution bans the stationing of foreign troops on Moldova's territory.
Voronin regards these constitutional provisions as a key legal argument in
calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops, including Russian
"peacekeepers" from Transdnistria. The argument is also a political
one, to defuse the Kremlin-contrived suspicions that Moldova intends to host
"NATO" troops, if and when the Russian troops withdraw.
In this and other recent statements, Voronin insists that Moldova's neutral
status is final and irrevocable and that no political force could muster the
necessary 50%-plus-one vote to amend the relevant constitutional provisions. He
vows that he and his Communist Party would always offer insurmountable
resistance to such amendments, whether as a governing force or in opposition.
"Neutrality is the cornerstone of our approach to national security."
It is clearly not a reliable cornerstone, however. Moldova's neutrality and the
accompanying ban on foreign forces was declared unilaterally are not recognized
internationally, and never prevented Russia from keeping its troops in Moldova.
The neutrality argument -- just like the argument citing Russia's 1999 Istanbul
Commitments -- is useful but insufficient to the goal of ridding Moldova of
Russian troops and providing for its security.
Aware of this gap, Voronin and his key adviser, Mark Tkachuk, are seeking
international endorsement in some form or another of Moldova's permanent
neutrality. That search has been on, intermittently, since 2004 and seems to be
on again now.
Given Moldova's location between Romania and Ukraine, the chances of aggression
are nil and the option of armed neutrality irrelevant. In view of the country's
dire economic situation, demilitarized neutrality would seem to make sense.
The idea of dissolving the army (in parallel with disbandment of Transnistria-flagged
forces) was casually and inconsequentially discussed in Moldova during the
1990s. Former president (1997-2001) Petru Lucinschi favored that idea, but
stopped short of implementing it for fear of losing the votes of the military
and their families. Voronin floated that idea early during his presidency,
proposing stage-by-stage cuts in armaments and manpower, to be implemented by
Chisinau and Tiraspol in parallel. Tiraspol demurred, but Chisinau proceeded to
cutting its forces unilaterally. The Moldovan army currently numbers some 6,500
and is ready for further cuts. Transnistria-flagged forces number some 10,000
and are superior to Moldovan forces in armaments and training.
The present array of forces
The Moldovan army currently numbers some 6,500 and is ready for further cuts.
Transnistria-flagged forces number some 10,000 and are superior to Moldovan
forces in armaments and training.
Tiraspol has some 15 to 18 tanks (Moldova has none) as well as armored vehicles,
artillery systems, and combat helicopters, all handed over to it by Russian
forces, in breach of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. That arsenal
forms the "unaccounted-for treaty-limited equipment" in CFE treaty and
OSCE parlance. The OSCE (custodian of that treaty) and Western chancelleries are
aware of the problem but seem to close their eyes to it -- as they do in
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh.
Voronin's demilitarization proposal follows in the wake of his six-point package
of economic and social projects, advanced publicly on October 4 for Tiraspol's
consideration. The demilitarization proposal is to be seen in conjunction with
Western efforts to induce Russia to fulfill, even if incompletely, the 1999
Istanbul Commitments and achieve quick ratification of the adapted CFE treaty.
While some would tolerate a residual Russian military presence in Moldova, the
Moldovans insist on complete Russian withdrawal, an international civilian
observer mission, and demilitarization of the entire territory to remove any
excuse for military "peacekeeping" in Moldova.