Thursday, April 19, 2007

Moldova/Russia latest

Moldova and Russia

A thaw in the river

From The Economist print edition

A settlement in Transdniestria is bad news for Moldova—and the West

ITS consequences may be disastrous, but a deal on the worst territorial dispute in Europe's poorest country was still too tempting. Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, has been split ever since a brief civil war in 1992. Its industrialised part—a strip of land to the east of the Dniester river—maintains an unrecognised independence, propped up by Russia's cheap gas and its contingent of “peacekeepers”.

Transdniestria, as it is called, is a black hole. It makes weapons, ranging from cheap submachineguns to high-tech missile parts. The customers are unknown. It also has lucratively porous borders: one common scam is to smuggle American chicken-meat in and out of Ukraine's protected home market, at a profit of some €700 ($950) per tonne.

Previous attempts to broker a peace deal have got nowhere. Transdniestria's rulers have close ties with business-minded counterparts in Ukraine, Russia and even in Moldova proper. And Russia is unwilling to give up a sliver of its former empire. Last year it imposed a punishing embargo on Moldovan wine. But now Moldova is shifting its position. Last week President Vladimir Voronin set out a new approach that suits the Kremlin—but will dismay Moldova's friends in the West.

In a declaration to be signed jointly with the Transdniestrian leader, Igor Smirnov, Moldova will for the first time recognise Transdniestria's government and leadership as legitimate entities. Voters on both sides will elect a new Moldovan parliament. Transdniestria will keep its Supreme Soviet and have top deputy ministers in the national government. By 2009 Russia's troops will be replaced by unarmed international monitors.

American and European Union diplomats found out about all this only when Vladimir Socor, a Munich-based analyst, published a leaked version last week. Now officials in Washington, DC, and Brussels are urgently seeking clarification. They hope it is an idea, not a real plan, but they fear the worst. Even unencumbered by Transdniestria, Moldova's economy has been lacklustre. Of its 4.4m people, at least 400,000 have emigrated; the country survives on their remittances. A dose of Transdniestrian politics is likely only to strengthen all the darkest forces in Moldovan public life.

And what guarantee is there that the deal will stick? “Russia tends to take agreements as the basis not for implementation, but for further negotiation,” says one cross official. The Kremlin has twice ignored previous deadlines for withdrawing troops. Suppose that, in a year's time, it finds pressing reasons for staying on?

A third question concerns the Transdniestrian KGB. Closely linked to Moscow, it is run by Vladimir Antufeyev, who was involved in a failed Soviet crackdown in the Baltic states in 1990. Many think it is he, not Mr Smirnov, who runs the show. The Moldovan minister for Transdniestria, Vasile Sova, insists Mr Antufeyev and his pals must leave. Will they?

But the biggest puzzle is the timing. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, may have convinced Mr Voronin, a naïve ex-baker, that the moment was ripe for a deal. Russia may have wanted a quick fix to contrast with the wrangles at the United Nations over the future of Kosovo, Serbia's breakaway province. Yet if the Kremlin was in such a rush, why was it Moldova that had to make concessions?

Crony capitalism could be triumphing over other differences. A top Moldovan politician's scrap-metal business sells mainly to a steel mill in Transdniestria. The son of another has a chain of fast-food restaurants that operates in the separatists' capital, Tiraspol. In theory, cash from the West should counteract any pull from the east: foreign donors have pledged more than $1.2 billion to Moldova in the next three years. But much of this depends on reforms that the country's lethargic and corrupt administration is loth to embrace.

It will be hard for outsiders to block the deal; they may not even bother to try. If they did, they might be called wreckers, given that both sides want it. Yet Mr Voronin's plan means that Russia has, for once, trumped the West. Who might be next?


Anonymous said...

My Blog: The Macedonian Tendency

You may use as you see fit for free, also, see my posts

I Like Russia

Putin, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dear President Putin

I understand that soon you will be looking for a new job. I have one suggestion that I hope you will seriously consider, but first, before you leave office, consider the following actions as part of your legacy for the Russian people.

At the UN, veto independence for Kosovo. Stand firm, stand tall. Ask Solzhenitsyn to visit Kosovo Pole next week as a gesture of solidarity with the Serbs, and then Ohrid as a gesture of solidarity with the Macedonians. Consider recognizing the Turkish Cyprus as punishment for Greece's mistreatment of its ethnic Macedonian minority.

Nato is a stake aimed at the heart of Russia, put a stake in Nato's heart … it's a vampire. Like hockey, you only win by playing offense, not defense! Tell President Bush, his poodle Blair, and especially Senator McCain, that you will put a moratorium on further co-operation between Russia and the US/EU with regard to Iran, North Korea and further gas oil exports to the US and EU. Don't wait until next month, do it now, you won't get a better chance. The moratorium would be lifted when Nato is retired, as a cold war relic, and replaced by a reformed and revitalized OSCE where Russia can wield its deserved influence. The US can then withdraw its troops fro Europe and send them to Iraq! Have specific detailed plans for this reform and publicize it widely to the US/EU public. For example, all members of the OSCE would be considered associate members of the EU if they so wish. All peoples of the OSCE can work in the EU with an easily obtained work visa.

In the Russian parliament, form a special committee called the "Un-Russian Activities Committee" which would monitor the activities of foreign NGOs in Russia. Put them under oath and jail the perjurers! All committee members should be fluent in English and be evenly split between Russian patriots and those who are pro-American. When interviewing NGOs, question them in English. The purpose of this committee is to expose anti-Russian activities of the NGOs to their pro-American followers (useful idiots), to the Russian people and to the American people. Average Americans really do not want their country to destabilize Russia for the sole purpose of having hegemony over the world. A litmus test for these NGOs is to ask them about their activities regarding human rights for the Macedonians of Greece and Kurds of Turkey (both Nato members … hint … there are none).

Register these NGOs along with foreign newspaper owners under the " Agents of a Foreign Power Act. Have them print it prominently on their publications.

And finally, form an organization called the "Russian Council" using the "British Council " as a model. When you retire as president of Russia, be its first president. The Russian Council would promote Russian interests around the world. Start with the Orthodox Balkans and help them to resolve the schisms of their respective churches (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro). Try to heal the split between the Orthodox and Catholic Slavs. Promote more unity between all the Slavic languages.

Don't be like Gorbachev, playing with himself in retirement and selling his influence to the highest bidder . You still have the ability to do something good for Russia and all Slavic-speaking peoples. Do it now!

My Blog: The Macedonian Tendency

La Russophobe said...

I fail to see how it is possible for Russia to justify supporting pro-Russian separatist groups in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia while at the same time screaming to high heaven if anyone supports the Chechens. This mind-bogglingly hyporcrisy is exactly what we saw from the USSR, and it will take Russia down just as surely if the Russian people don't wake up from their hallucation.