Saturday, February 19, 2011

Where the Dog Drowned, Part 1

The situation in Moldova is another example of how the Cold War is being reanimated, brought back from what should have been a permanent grave in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Or, perhaps not?

Even with the demise of the former Soviet Union, Russia itself is a great power. In an honest world where honest leaders sought what was best for their people, the United States and Russia are natural allies and should be close friends.

Of course, such a world does not exist, and perhaps power politics would have inevitably rekindled some kind of east-west tensions.

But what else could be the key element in a possibly potent brew?

First, some background.

Moldova became independent as the Soviet Union broke up, but even as the Soviet break-up was beginning, the part of Moldova across the Dniester River from Moldova - called "Transnistria" in English, on the same side of the river as the Ukraine and, ultimately, as Russia - was breaking away from Moldova.

Moldovans have much in common with Romanians, but when the Soviet Union took Moldova from Romania, Moscow went to great lengths to cultivate and promote a Moldovan culture separate from that in Romania. In a kind of affirmative-action, Moscow also promoted Moldovan education and the appointment of Moldovans into leadership positions, at the expense of ethnic Slavs, who were increasingly settling into Moldova.

The Soviet Union's borders were designed to prevent the break-up of the Union itself. Republic borders crossed through ethnic regions. As long as the republics were constituents of the Soviet Union, people would be able to visit their relatives, and, in the event of regional disputes, minorities had recourse in Moscow. But, should the Soviet Union dissolve - as it did two decades ago - these would now be international boundaries, and the minorities within the newly-independent republics would be in danger of oppression, making any dissolution of the Soviet Union a tinderbox for ethnic violence.

In the wake of independence, Moldova was an especially poor region of the former Soviet Union, and poverty invites a broad range of abuses and can be exploited to cause instability. So, the stage was certainly set for all manner of political and ethnic disputes.

For further background, and a look at how the region fits in to the renewed Cold War that many in Washington (and perhaps many in Moscow, as well) seem to be promoting, Moldova: A Neo-Cold-War Battlefield by Eugene Girin, from February 9, 2011, gives some valuable insights.

But looking into this a little more, I found an article entitled The Eastern Challenge: Is Transnistria the Key to the Caucasus?, dated January 24, 2007, with this introduction:

If the secessionist republic – which is in the hands of the Russian mafia – obtains independence, it could build on the past similar aspirations of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. However, in Tiraspol, the competition for power burns hot. Under the attentive eye of Moscow.

I am not surprised that a Romanian website suspects Moscow as what I might describe as a puppet master for regional issues. Most of the peoples and countries in the region see the hand of the Kremlin in everything that occurs there. And, Russian organized crime is a global problem, not merely a regional one, so again, no surprise that the Russian mob would be involved in activities in an area so potentially vulnerable, and with so many lucrative criminal enterprises to be involved in (human trafficking, forced prostitution, narcotics from Afghanistan, arms).

But, other connections are interesting, too.

...Beyond that, there appears to be a meaningful search underway to find consensus and to form alliances by those régimes that – because of their shared nature as "not being recognized as a state entity," examples being Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

4. It is this last aspect that arouses worry in several countries like Moldova and Georgia, who are very interested in the development of these events. There is also fear in Azerbaijan that the Nagorno-Karabakh can also lean in that direction. Already, during the conflict in Abkhazia from 1992 to 1993, the régime in Tiraspol has sent – to support of the secessionists – the assault groups Tdes and Delfin, which are both a part of the Dniester battalion of the Ministry of the Interior. In 1994, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh have been associated in a finalized agreement to coordinate their own political initiatives, with provisions of mutual assistance in several sectors, in particularly with military assistance during situations of armed conflict. In 2000, there was a conference between the "Ministers of Foreign Relations" of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh to give more vigour to the agreements of 1994, which had remained substantially lacking in application. Afterwards, Nagorno-Karabakh was protected silently, since there was more and more pressing influence from Russia on the politics of the separatist Caucasus enclaves, which were not in tune with the position of Armenia, who was the supporter of the local, autonomously proclaimed régime.

In June 2005, about two thousand "volunteers" came from Transnistria and Abkhazia through the Russian territory of South Ossetia, in order to give assistance to the separatist régime that was conflicting with Georgia. From then, there were various agreements of cooperation at the bilateral or the trilateral level between these autonomously proclaimed republics. The last agreement was signed at the end of July by the Minister of the Economy of Transnistria, Yelena Chernenko, and by the Vice Prime Minister of Abkhazia, Aleksandr Stranichkin. The agreement previews initiatives of cooperation of a social-economic nature, involving mainly industries, tourism, pharmaceuticals and not excluding the education and commerce sectors, which established one especially privileged bilateral régime.

Going further, it [the agreement] started an exchange of information regarding projects that were implemented jointly with the Russian Federation. Yet the most meaningful part of the agreement from a political perspective is – without a doubt – the creation of the "Parliamentary Assembly of the Non-Recognized States." The agreement was signed September 29th in Sukhumi, which is the capital of Abkhazia, by three speakers of the assemblies from Transnistria (Evgheny Shevchuk), Abkhazia (Nugzar Ashuba) and South Ossetia (Tarzan Koikota). The agreement established that the seat of the new organism would be situated in Moscow. The Assembly will be presided, which will rotate each year, by the presidents of the assemblies of the three separatist republics, which will be reviewed at least twice a year in Moscow. The first, recently, adopted concrete measure was to create a communal peacekeeping force.

So, in republics that are distancing themselves from Moscow after decades (and perhaps centuries) of Russian domination, there are, in turn, regions that are distancing themselves from those new republics; the representatives of these breakaway regions meet in Moscow and coordinate their activities.


It seems that there are always "ethnic" problems, breakaway republics, fighting... and that this is on the periphery of the lines of communication leading from Caspian Basin oil and from Afghan heroin, and leading to markets in the West. (True, much of the heroin is destined for Russia, not the West.)

I'm starting to think the communist plan to draw republic boundaries through ethnic areas to prevent a break-up of the Soviet Union was not as brilliantly effective as it seems.

And, I'm starting to think the efforts of Neocons and their Russian counterparts to revive east-west tensions are more of a smoke screen.

True, flow of Caspian Basin oil is a national security matter, but it is one that could easily be addressed without all the problems we seem to be seeing.

Legend has it that Moldova was named for a favorite hunting dog of Prince Dragos, called Molda. Molda, exhausted after a chase, drowned in a local river.

And, I'm figuring that if I start digging - really digging, the way I do - I will indeed find that there is a dog buried here.

No comments:

Post a Comment