Why Transnistria is playing an important role in a conflict that is much broader than what it seems.
The following post is my first blog post and I am really excited, but also interested in receiving some Feedbacks back about it, whether they were positive or negative!
So do not hesitate to write a comment for any question or observation. I found challenging writing about International Relations and publish something for my first time, and I know there are a lot of things to discuss about.
I hope you will enjoy reading about Transnistria, Russia, Moldova and NATO!
RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY
Firstly, when it is time to talk about an eventual Western influence in Russia, it has to be said that Russian Foreign Policy is a mixture of policies, attitudes and way of thinking in response to the Western imperialism.
Anytime we think about West and East, we compare maybe the size of these two parts of the world. We see that Russia is largely bigger and we might think: well, how strong and independent is this country!
We do not know that we partly mistake our judgement, or better said:
- It is true, because Russia is the major exporter of Gas in Europe. The Occidental World depends on Russia for what is concerning electricity, heat, gasoline, and all the activities that imply using petrol. We can say that we depend on Russia for living!
- It is wrong, because Russian Foreign Policy has always been represented an answer to policies or threats coming from the West. Whether Western influence is positive (e.g. technology) or negative (military threat), it is something that cannot be ignored by Moscow.
So, if we take in consideration the second statement, NATO is representing for Russia an element to be worried of.
In this following blog post, I will try to give an insight about the little – but powerful – region of Transnistria, and all the reasons why it is an important case in the International Relations.
A WIDE CONFLICT
Transnistria represents a struggle typical of any small country all over the world, that fought (or still fight) for independency and auto determination.
In this complicate clash, other countries are involved, at two different level:
- Local level: Moldova’s government refuses Transnistria’s independence, besides the latter has its own Parliament, Constitution, and national flag. The two countries were united in one in the Soviet period, even though earlier they constituted two different separate countries. Now Transnistria is considered Moldovan’s administration and it does not have any recognition of sovereignty.
- International level: Russia wants Transnistria back, claiming its secular cultural and historical influence on this region; on the other hand, Moldova is trying to end up the conflict with the annexation of Transnistria, and then join the European Union.
To summarize, we have on one hand Russia and on the other hand European Union, or better said, NATO, who are claiming for the same soil because of different reasons: Russia wants NATO to stay away from its borders and NATO would take benefit to be present in the East, because of secular military contrast with Russia.
A Frozen Conflict is a situation between two countries, in which there is no armed conflict anymore, but no peaceful settlement was concluded.
Taking in count all the characteristic of this clash, we can say that Russia is maintaining the situation in Transnistria frozen: Moldova in trying to join the European Union, but this fact would not happen with the presence of an ongoing conflict; plus, in Moldova there is a powerful nationalist part of the population, which is claiming for the possession of Transnistria. Indeed, about the 32% of Moldovan are living in Transnistria.
On the other hand, another 32% of Russian is living there.
It is also a fact, that Russia has always had a lot of military troops in the soil of Transnistria, because of a peace-keeping force after the Moldovan-Transnistrian War took place in 1992.
Russia has a good reason for fighting to keep the control on Transnistria: it would be vulnerable if NATO military bases would come so close, after both Moldova and Transnistria joined European Union.
In this kind of complicated and delicate situation, the best that Russia could do (and wish for itself) is just keep the conflict frozen and do not get it worse with another war.
As we have already analyzed, NATO is a potential threat of Russia if it would come closer to it.
So, let’s see what are the elements that are helping Russia to keep Transnistria on its side.
It is not easy to define an historical background of Transnistria. In order to explain it, we should refer to the history of Moldova, because they are always being treated by Russia as if they were one united country.
After the Soviet Empire collapsed in 1991, Russia faced a difficult period in which any country that was under its control did not have their own national identity, so also the borders could have been changed by Western imperialistic actions.
So, after the Soviet Empire, any country was facing for the first time the possibility to become independent with its own Constitution and a new national identity.
Talking about Moldova, it was instituted from the Soviet Emperor in 1940 as “Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic” and it was composed by Moldovans, Ukrainians and Russians. In this way, if the population is divided in different ethnicities, it is difficult to declare a unified national identity.
Transnistria share the same internal ethnical difference (the population is Moldovan, Russians and Ukrainians). Moreover, the pressure of Moldova, claiming that, according with their historical backgrounds, Transnistria has always been part of Moldovan soil, was not making the situation easier for Transnistria. The tension between the two countries grew up and they resulted in an open conflict in 1992, which did not change anything for the little Transnistria: no international recognition from the International Community, from Moldova and with the presence of Russian troops still in its soil for a peace-keeping force.
Nowadays, the situation is still unresolved with a lack of a peaceful settlement: does Moldova really has the right to reclaim the annexation of Transnistria as if it was always being a part of it?
Or, is Russia more rightful to claim the control?
Are Transnistrians feeling more Russians or more Moldovans?
To answer the last question, we should maybe take a further step in analyzing the status quo of Transnistria:
-the population is still attached to the symbols inherited from the Soviet period; for instance, some statues of Lenin or Stalin are still imposing their majesty in squares;
-the economy is essentially based on steelworks, which are also inherited from the Soviet period, so it is difficult for people changing the economy leaving its industries to be controlled by multinationals of the West.
According with the author Edward Walker in his post blog “Transnistria, a bridge too far from the Kremlin”, mostly people are pro Russia and firmly against the Moldovan regime, who wants to enter in the European Union.
At this point, the further question is: Maybe should be better if the West took the control of this soil, meaning that it would become part of the European Union and started having benefits from the trade and the occidental democratization?
I know it might be seemed like there are too many questions points in this post blog and not as much answers. Well, I think this is exactly the point of a conflict, that is trying not to judge any part of it as if it is playing correctly or incorrectly, as if it had more right to fight the war because it deserves to win the clash and take advantages from it.
If I had the possibility to raise my hand and tell Russia and NATO, which are sitting at the same table, “Ehi guys, you are doing it without any kind of regards of Transnistria’s population”.
And if I had to express my position, I would say Russia, for plenty reasons. The most important one, is that there is nothing that the West could do to make economy or internal policy of Transnistria better. It is just something too much different from capitalism.
Analyzing the situation from the perspective of the national identity, we might think that an eventual bigger influence of Russia would be better, because most of the population still feel attached to Russian culture and tradition. But joining the Economic Eurasian Union would put Transnistria in a dangerous position: it is surrounded by Ukraine (extremely anti-Russia) and Moldova, which is on its way to be “Occidentalized”.
Transnistria, in this sense, is playing an important role as a country in the middle of an “identity storm”, meaning that any country of the ex-Soviet Empire is struggling with its own identity-building process, for any different reason.
It is not easy to define what is better or not for the population of a country, when this country was never been fully independent.
Another topic comes if we take in consideration the economic pressure of East and West. Or better said, if we take in consideration the interests of multinationals, of lobbies, of group of interests in general.
That is why it is so difficult to answer to any question I placed before. Transnistria is representing all the country in the world that are struggling for their own auto determination, their own self-established-government, their own laws. Transnistria could be a peaceful and democratic country if it would be free from the military control of Russia, from the claim of Moldova, from the pressure of the West.
This is the story of any ex-colony country, which is never being left deciding alone for its own wealth, because it is not powerful enough to impose its willingness against some bigger countries’ interests.
Nowadays Transnistria’s conflict is something left behind; the situation is a kind of status quo.
Some shakes took place with Moldova joining EU and the begin of Ukrainian conflict. These two actions brought some counter measures from Russia’s government, such as economic embargo over important food products on Transnistria.
In 2006, a referendum took place in Transnistria, with which the population decided the come back to Russia.
Furthermore, It must be said, that an eventual shake of the conflict in the direction of an open war between Moscow and NATO is unlikely, because:
- European Union bases its fundamental rights and values on democracy and peace. A war between NATO-Russia would be a huge loss of lives and damage of too many countries.
- Even if in the last years some European countries elected right-wings nationalist politicians, the phenomenon is limited to the internal policy; the ones that claim for a new imperialistic expansion the population does not really follow them.
- Nowadays, there are new forms of war which differ from the open conflict: hybrid war; drone war; informatic war; which stand under the wider term of Cold War.
- Ukraine’s war is keeping the attention of the International Community for itself. This war is implying the military troops of East and West, with different aims, but both fully interested in changing something by controlling Ukraine. This war, indeed, will define whether Kremlin or NATO will face a major influence on East.
In conclusion, Moscow is certainly keeping its troops in Transnistria on purpose to protect its borders from an advance of NATO, but it is also true that if it would be not possible to reach a peaceful settlement for Transnistria’s independence, Moscow would be the only country to which Transnistria could belong to.