Archive for April 17th, 2014

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And what of the Transnistrian threat?

April 17, 2014

There is much said in the international media about the quasi-autonomous region of Transnistria that sits within Moldova.  Parallels of a Crimea-esque annexation by The Kremlin are not difficult to find even in the most informed journals and highbrow media.

It is though, quite different in many ways.

Firstly Transnistria has held referendums without looking down the barrel of an AK and overwhelmingly voted to become part of the Russian Federation – much to Moldavian consternation of course.

Secondly, The Kremlin has refused to allow the region both recognition or secession thus far.

However western media and commentators alike also see Transnistria as a possible/probable beachhead for Russian military/FSB/GRU agents from which to either head into Odessa (Ukraine), or head out into the rest of Moldova.  The few thousand Russian troops there indeed could do so – I suppose – though it is not a very convincing number at all for any conventional act of aggression.

At the moment, the Russian military aerodrome there is still under construction as far as I know, and thus not as optimal as it could be.

However, there has been a lot of FSB and GRU operatives arriving there over the past month according to both Moldavian and local Odessa media.  How accurate that is, who knows, though I would expect it to occur.

But there is a fundamental difference between Moldova and Ukraine which nobody has commented upon in anything I have read – be it from the learned to the hoy polloy.

The first, and almost an aside issue to what I want to comment upon, is that on 28th April all Moldavian citizens are Visa-free with the EU Schegen states as long as they hold biometric passports.  How do you turn away Visa-free refugees if you allow The Kremlin to play the same game in Moldova as it is being allowed to play in Ukraine?

That though is not the issue I want to raise – The issue I want to raise, and as I have mentioned before, is what Moldova has that is very different to Ukraine, is 800,000 (22/23%) of its population, holding Romanian passports via grandfather rights, as well as Moldavian citizenship.

That makes 800,000 EU citizens – and EU citizenship is a point made very clear on every EU Member State passport.

By extension, as Romania is also a NATO member, that makes 800,000 NATO citizens to protect – a number large enough it can hardly be ignored in the western capitals, particularly as Bucharest must be sure to raise the matter if circumstances dictate.

Quite clearly, what is good for The Kremlin goose when over-extending the right to protect mantra to every Russian speaker regardless of ethnicity or nationality – also suits the Romanian gander when it comes to actual bona fide passport holding citizens.

One would hope that the EU and NATO are making such matters known to The Kremlin in very clear terms.  800,000 of “our” citizens live there.  We will protect them even though Moldova is not covered by Article 5.

At the very least making such firm statements may have the effect of curbing Kremlin action to little more than the on-going and continued diplomatic frustrations and attempted spoilers with regards to Moldova – but little more.  Perhaps The Kremlin would go as far as recognising Transnistria in retaliation, but maybe it will anyway.

Conversely of course, if that firm European line is taken, and a continually belligerent Kremlin simply calls that bluff straying outside of Transnistria, hard power may have to be the result – with geography on the side of Romania.

Whilst Russian troops heading into Odessa from Transnistria will raise yet more collective western tutting – a different response may be necessary if they head into Moldova.

Whatever the case, I must admit to being surprised that nobody I have read thus far, has mentioned that 22% of the Moldavian population actually hold Romanian passports – which has implications by way of considerations, policy and justification for Romania, the EU and NATO.

Something quite different from Ukraine that nobody seems to have mentioned.

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