Monday, September 19, 2005


Finally, here is the previous week's column from European Voice

Birthday parties have an added frisson when they celebrate a highly
controversial birth. There was quite a bash the other day in the
streets of Tiraspol—a city that few Europeans would find on the map,
although well known to arms-dealers, drug-smugglers, spies and
suchlike. For Tiraspol is the soi-disant capital of the soi-disant
state of Transdniestr.
Depending on your political standpoint, Transdniestr is a valiant
bastion of Russian language and culture, battling against fascists
wanting a Greater Romania, and against American global hegemony. Or it
is a corrupt tinpot dictatorship in a breakaway province that survives
thanks only to being useful to some very nasty strands of Russian (and
to some extent Ukrainian) political and economic life.
But like it or not, Transdniestr was 15 years old this month. It
celebrated in style with a huge fun-fair, bombastic speeches—and most
importantly "official" delegations from the other three unrecognised
statelets of the post-Soviet landscape: Nagorno-Karabakh, South
Ossetia, and Abkhazia.
There is an intriguing air of unreality about the idea of
non-countries conducting pretend diplomacy with each other. During the
Cold War, the Polish government-in-exile in London used to have
meetings with the surviving Baltic diplomats, stranded there in dusty
embassies while their countries were de facto part of the Soviet
Union. Their status was a bit different though: the Balts still had
diplomatic status (because Britain didn't recognise the Soviet
annexation) whereas the Poles were private citizens—at least until
President Lech Walesa invited them to Warsaw in 1990, and, gloriously,
retrospectively recognised their legitimacy.
For less noble reasons, Transdniestrians also hang on, hoping that
stubbornness will eventually bear fruit. But they don't exactly exude
confidence. The official news agency, Olvia-press, recently published
a fascinating commentary "exposing" the various western plots aimed at
destabilising Transdniestr by means of a "coloured revolution". The
first stage was the "transformation of society within Moldova" by
"discrediting Soviet values, forming a pro-Western mentality and, most
importantly, creating…total dependence on American bosses". The first
two of these sound highly desirable. And the third has not happened:
American investors, sadly, are conspicuous by their absence; the US
embassy seems rather underpowered, and the best-known American there ,
the OSCE Ambassador William Hill, is something of a hate-figure for
Moldovan nationalists.
But never mind. Olvia-press goes on to outline the other scandalous
tactics of the Anglo-American hegemons, particularly a highly sinister
programme called "Community Connections" which sponsors "leaders of
public organisations, the intelligentsia, journalists and
representatives of small and medium business" to go on short trips to
America. There, it claims, they are "brainwashed".
That paranoid, exaggerated tone highlights the Tiraspol
propagandists' problem. If their system is so wonderful, then why are
people so eager to go to horrid America? And why is it so easy for
Western propaganda to persuade Transdniestrian youngsters that EU and
Nato membership via a united Moldova will make them freer and richer
than living in a rogue statelet propped up by Russia? Grudgingly,
Olvia-press blames a "certain complacency" among the Transdniestrian
authorities in dealing with the local youth. But it ends up insisting,
with beautiful contradictoriness, that a) the American puppets are
useless; b) they steal their backers' money (that implies that the
brainwashing wasn't that effective); c) Transdniestrians love their
government so much that no revolution is possible; and d) that the
American behaviour is highly provocative and should stop at once.
I decode that to mean that America's democracy-promoters are
beginning to have quite an effect, and the regime is getting worried.
Which is good news.

Edward Lucas is central and eastern Europe correspondent for The

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