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Continuity and Change in Transnistria’s Foreign Policy

Continuity and Change in Transnistria’s Foreign Policy after the 2011 Presidential Elections Marcin Kosienkowski

The Catholic University of Lublin Publishing House Lublin 2012

Reviewer Dr hab. Marek Figura Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland Language editor William Schreiber Typesetting Marcin Kosienkowski Cover design Mirosław Bocian

Copyright © by Marcin Kosienkowski, Lublin 2012

ISBN 978-83-7702-521-5

Published by The Catholic University of Lublin Publishing House ul. Zbożowa 61, 20-827 Lublin, Poland tel. (+48) 81 740 93 40 fax (+48) 81 740 93 50 [email protected] Printing elpil ul. Artyleryjska 11 08-110 Siedlce, Poland [email protected]










Actors behind Transnistria’s Foreign Policy



Transnistria’s Aim: What Status to Strive for?



Transnistria and Russia



Transnistria and Ukraine



Transnistria and Moldova



Transnistria and the West



Transnistria and Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh





About the Author



The article examines the external activity of Transnistria, a quasi-state that has been outside of Moldovan control since 1992. The paper presents the policy of the Transnistrian region toward Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Western countries and organizations, as well as other breakaway states like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The main research question is whether Transnistria’s foreign policy has undergone changes and, more generally, what can be expected in this field following the landmark 2011 presidential elections. Then, Igor Smirnov, Transnistria’s seemingly unshakable leader, unexpectedly failed to be re-elected for his fifth term and was replaced by a young politician, Yevgeniy Shevchuk. The paper concludes that the strategy driving the quasi-state’s external activity has remained unchanged. Primary goals regarding the status of Transnistria—namely keeping the status quo, which means maintaining the de facto independence of the Transnistrian region—and its main external partners are still in place. The exception is that Shevchuk would like to establish positive working relations with Western actors. The most significant change between the departure of Smirnov and the arrival of Shevchuk is a tactical one. While Smirnov’s approach was, in short, confrontational, excessively self-interested, highly politicized, and partially isolationist in its nature, the quasi-state’s foreign policy under the new president has many more positive elements. Shevchuk’s approach is more pragmatic, constructive, cooperative, active, and economized. This stabilizes the situation in the region and gives hope for the activation of the Transnistrian conflict settlement process. Crucially, the new Transnistrian president may not be as entrenched as his predecessor on the topic of reintegration with Moldova. Keywords: Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, European Union, the United States, Transnistrian conflict 7


The author would like to thank Professor Marek Figura (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland), William Schreiber (The George Washington University, Washington, DC), Octavian Milevschi (National School of Political Science and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania), and Andrey Devyatkov (Tyumen State University, Russia) for comments on the paper. The author also thanks all persons interviewed during field research conducted in Moldova and its breakaway region of Transnistria, as well as in Ukraine and Russia: Vitalii Andrievschi, Victor Chirilă, Il’ya Galinskiy, Vladimir Korobov, Mikhail Kushakov, Maksim Kuzovlev, Oazu Nantoi, Andrey Safonov, Yevgeniy Shevchuk, Nina Shtanski, Dmitriy Trienin, and others who preferred to stay anonymous.


1 Introduction

Transnistria, or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is a quasi-state situated in the European part of the post-Soviet territory. What differentiates this entity from a state is its lack of international recognition. This means that under international law, Transnistria’s territory belongs to a recognized state, namely Moldova, although Moldovan authorities have had no control over the region since the beginning of the 1990s.1 Transnistria is a ca. 4,000 km2 narrow strip of land inhabited by no more than half a million people, mainly Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians; each of these ethnic groups constitutes about onethird of the population. The quasi-state has its own government located in the city of Tiraspol, an economy based on industry, a constitution, army, currency, flag, etc. It also takes part in international relations, mainly in the regional dimension. Critically, despite the fact that Transnistria is unrecognized and tiny, it conducts a quite active and effective foreign policy, which contributes to its survival. There are five main reasons behind Tiraspol’s activeness. First, like it or not, Transnistria is involved in a constant interaction with its parent state. For instance, Tiraspol and Chişinău have been engaged for two decades in the process of peacefully resolving their con1

The Transnistrian region declared its independence from Moldova on 2 September 1990, however, de facto independence was fully achieved only two years later, in July 1992, when Transnistria won a brief war with its parent state; this date should be recognized as the beginning of Transnistria’s existence as a quasi-state. 9


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flict. Another important reason for interaction is that in many cases the conditions for the quasi-state’s function depend on the good will of Moldova—the internationally recognized state, with official rights to the Transnistrian region. For example, Chişinău can domestically and diplomatically influence conditions of Transnistria’s exports which has the potential to generate substantial revenues for the quasi-state. Second, the internationalization of the Transnistrian conflict settlement process stimulates Tiraspol’s foreign policy. At present there are five international players participating in official negotiations. Three of them work as mediators, namely the Russian Federation (involved in the dispute since its very beginning), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE; since 1993),2 and Ukraine (since 1995); Moscow and Kiev also act as guarantors of achieved agreements. The others operate as observers (since 2005); this includes the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). Along with the two opposing claimants, they form the official 5+2 negotiation format. The internationalization of the settlement process makes Transnistria engage in a constant contact with negotiation participants and other interested international players to promote Transnistrian interests. Moreover, the fact that this group is diversified has allowed Transnistria for many years to play on the differences between them to its own benefit. Third, Transnistria lacks enough internal resources—such as money (to pay salaries and pensions etc.) or means of production (i.e. natural gas), necessary for an economy based on heavy industry—to function properly and simply survive. It means that these resources must be found outside. It is the Russian Federation which gives Transnistria in-depth support and can be identified as the principal actor responsible for guaranteeing its continued function. Fourth, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic desperately needs open access to the outside world. It should be mentioned that it has a 2

More precisely, this structure held its current name since 1 January 1995, when the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was transformed into an organization.

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very open economy, maintaining trade relations with about one hundred states, of these the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and non-CIS markets are the most important. The problem is that Transnistria has only two geographic neighbors—Moldova and Ukraine. Given that Tiraspol is in conflict with its parent state, it is Ukraine which serves as Transnistria’s main window to the outside world. The quasistate must do its best to keep this window as wide open as possible. Fifth, Transnistria is tied by historical, political, cultural and social ties to Russia and Ukraine. Transnistria also feels some kind of unity with the other quasi-states located in the post-Soviet area, namely Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. These common identity lay important foundations for enhanced cooperation between Tiraspol and the aforementioned states and quasi-states. This article considers the problem of Transnistria’s foreign policy. The paper is supposed to present external activities conducted by the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic since its appearance in an analytical way rather than give its detailed and chronological picture. The content of Tiraspol’s foreign activity had been quite stable for the twenty years of its existence, under the long-time rule of the quasistate’s first president, Igor Smirnov. In December 2011, however, he unexpectedly lost power. The reason for his defeat was a popular mandate for revival and renewal in Transnistria. In a reference to this power shift, the paper seeks to answer whether Tiraspol’s external activity has undergone changes. It examines the history of the quasistate’s foreign policy under Smirnov region by region, and then, in general terms, it forecasts what foreign policy developments can be expected under Yevgeniy Shevchuk, the president who won the most recent election with the slogan “Changes we need!” The first section of the article examines actors behind foreign policy in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. The second section identifies its main political aim, which is associated with the quasi-state’s most important issue—the definition of its legal status. Crucially, external activity is among the main means used to reach this goal. The next five sections analyze Transnistria’s policy toward the aforemen-


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tioned actors, namely: Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Western players, and the three other quasi-states from the post-Soviet area. Although the OSCE also includes Eastern European and Central Asian states, it is grouped with Western actors because of the Western values on which this organization is based.

2 Actors behind Transnistria’s Foreign Policy

Although Igor Smirnov and his government never had a monopoly on contact between the outside world and the Transnistrian population and elites, the Smirnov administration managed to keep a dominant role in the region’s external policy. The most serious challenge to Smirnov’s privileged position was issued by the party Obnovleniye (Renewal)—sponsored by economic elites grouped in the company Sheriff—which took control over the local parliament in 2005 and managed to get Russia’s support a few years later (when Moscow backed Obnovleniye’s leader, Anatoliy Kaminskiy, in the 2011 presidential race). However, Tiraspol’s external activity was still under the control of Smirnov due to his authoritarian grip on power and his position’s formal prerogatives. Moreover, Obnovleniye did not question Smirnov’s foreign policy, focusing mainly on the internal struggle for power. In the beginning, Transnistria’s diplomacy stemmed from civil society, involving many private individuals sympathizing with an emerging state entity. It resulted from the fact that the Transnistrian region had had no official status within the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) and was faced with building its state structures from a scratch upon separation from Moldova. The institutional development of Transnistrian diplomacy started in late 1991, when the post of the secretary of state was established. It was filled by Valeriy Litskay who—as it turned out—dominated Transnistria’s diplomacy for many years. He became the head of the republican office for external relations 13


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in 1993, the official representative of Transnistria in the negotiations with Moldova in 1994, and the Transnistrian foreign minister in 2000 (when the state secretary bureau and the office for external relations were merged into the foreign ministry). Litskay left his office only in mid-2008 and was replaced by the 29-year-old Vladimir Yastrebchak.3 The Transnistrian diplomacy under Smirnov’s rule can be recognized as both professional and successful. This was admitted, for example, by Western representatives observing the Moldovan-Transnistrian negotiations.4 The Transnistrian diplomats were supported by experienced Russian experts, they learned quickly how to deal with crisis situations because they worked in time of nearly permanent crisis for their quasi-state, and finally were led for many years by the same practiced person, Litskay, while Moldova changed its negotiators and foreign ministers very frequently. The situation has started to change and became more balanced in the mid-2000s, when Moldovan diplomats began to cooperate more with their Western counterparts and especially in 2009, when the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) came to power in Moldova and appointed highly professional diplomats to deal with Moldova’s external relations.5 Despite the fact that the new president, Yevgeniy Shevchuk, is not as strong as his predecessor, he also plays a leading role in Transnistrian foreign policy. To be clear, Shevchuk’s real authority is limited by two influential political players—Obnovleniye, which controls the quasi-state’s parliament, and supporters of the former Smirnov regime—but this is not so much an interference, because he himself wants to take the opinion of these groupings into account, seeking internal political unity. This is most probably why the President’s Advisory Council on International Affairs was established in February 2012. It includes people who previously worked in the Smirnov administration, including two former foreign ministers, and experts as3

“Stanovleniye pridnestrovskoy diplomatii,” Diplomaticheskiy vestnik Pridnestrov’ya, no. 1 (2010): 14–22. 4 Author’s interviews with various Western diplomats to Chişinău, August 2007. 5 Author’s interview with a former Transnistrian official, June 2010.

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sociated with Obnovleniye.6 Although Shevchuk’s formal prerogatives have been in some ways limited by introduction of the prime minister post (previously the president was the head of the government), he is still granted a constitutional right to determine the guidelines of foreign policy and it was his closest aide, Nina Shtanski, who became Transnistrian foreign minister and the Transnistrian representative in negotiations with Moldova. Transnistrian diplomacy has not undergone substantial changes, and importantly the core of the foreign ministry personnel has been kept.7 Special attention, however, should be paid to the new foreign minister. Nina Shtanski may lack broader experience in international relations, but the 34-year-old woman with the good looks of a model, together with the young 43-year-old President Shevchuk, have refreshed the image of Transnistria in the international arena and eased the tensions surrounding the quasi-state. The arrival of a new and modern Transnistrian leadership, with its willingness to consult other Transnistrian power centers and include experienced officials from the Smirnov regime, is a mixture which might make Transnistrian diplomacy no less professional and effective than it was under the previous president Smirnov. Finally, it should be noted that Transnistria is considered by some experts as Russia’s puppet, although this opinion cannot be supported with facts. Many disputes between Tiraspol and Moscow during the rule of the Smirnov regime, demonstrated that the previous Transnistrian leader had his own political interests and did not blindly follow Russia’s opinion. It is sufficient to say that Smirnov ran for his fifth term in 2011 against Moscow’s will. Shevchuk likewise cannot be categorized as a Russian puppet, as Moscow supported a third candidate other than Shevchuk during the December 2011 presidential elections. 6 Ukaz Prezidenta PMR №107 «O Konsul’tativnom Sovete pri Prezidente Pridnestrovskoy Moldavskoy Respubliki po mezhdunarodnym delam», 18 February 2012, (accessed 1 March 2012). 7 Nina Shtanski, Nikogda ne sdavat’sya!, interview with Profsoyuznyye Vesti, February 2012, (accessed 5 February 2012).

3 Transnistria’s Aim: What Status to Strive for?

Smirnov’s aim concerning Transnistria’s status is not so easily identified. The Smirnov regime itself announced many goals over the twenty years of its rule. The most frequently declared were: gaining independence, or in other words obtaining recognition from the international community, and/or joining Russia; becoming a part of Ukraine; creating confederation with Moldova. Additionally, establishing a federation with the parent state was considered. Moreover, the aims declared in a given period were often contradictory. For example, Igor Smirnov justified the removal of presidential term limits from the constitution in 2000 by his promise to the Transnistrian population not to leave his post until Transnistria received (full) independence.8 All of this took place while the 1993 Transnistrian law on creating a confederation with Moldova was still in force—it was cancelled only in 2006. Furthermore, despite the fact that officially the Smirnov regime followed the will of the Transnistrian people—as expressed in a September 2006 referendum—to gain independence and subsequently pursue accession to Russia, the Concept of Foreign Policy of Transnistria approved a year earlier in 2005 remained unchanged and mentioned only achieving international recognition. Moreover, the Trans8

Igor Boţan, “The hostages of Transnistrian regime,”, 14 March 2006, 0603142/ (accessed 15 March 2012). 16

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nistrian authorities suggested several times over the five years following the referendum that Transnistria could join Ukraine. Although there may be some exceptions, particularly in the early stages of Transnistria’s existence, in reality the nominal foreign policy goals were never truly supported by the Smirnov regime.9 If implemented, they would more or less deprive the Transnistrian authorities of power. It should be kept in mind that the quite broad scope of their authority resulted from the fact that Transnistria was an authoritarian entity, where the use of international law was restricted. Moreover, the aforementioned foreign policy course would limit or eliminate the possibility of the Smirnov regime to derive money from the functioning of Transnistria, including fraudulent appropriation of assistance funds granted by Russia and bribes and other benefits from smuggling, a thriving profession mainly due to Transnistria’s unique status. Achieving internationally recognized independence or establishing a Moldovan-Transnistrian confederation would most likely increase the influence of the international community in Transnistria and its control over this region. If Transnistria joined Russia or Ukraine, the Smirnov government would be obliged to obey Russian or Ukrainian central authorities, and could be ousted if it did not. Finally, a federal solution would mean that power would be shared with Moldova. It was also not so easy for the Transnistrian authorities to give up a status quo that they had adapted to very well over the course of twenty years. It should be added that the Smirnov regime must have been aware of the fact that its nominal foreign policy goals—with the exception of the federal solution—would be extremely hard, if not impossible, to realize. Achievement of internationally recognized independence was highly unlikely. Even Russia, Transnistria’s patron, has not officially recognized it. Even if it did, the level of recognition would be rather minimal, as in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and would not 9

Cf. Andrey Devyatkov, “Political dynamics in Transnistria in context of the conflict situation” (unpublished manuscript, 15 May 2012), Microsoft Word file.


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change Transnistria’s quasi-state status. Russia was not going to incorporate the Transnistrian region because it would significantly limit its possibility of influencing the political situation in Moldova. Detachment of Transnistria from its parent state would also make Moldova more Latin and less Slavic, which was undesired both by Moscow and Kiev. Furthermore, the Ukrainian authorities were afraid that its incorporation of the Transnistrian region would encourage Ukrainian national minorities and its neighboring states, which formerly possessed many Ukrainian territories, to undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Finally, it was clear that Chişinău would never agree on the establishment of a confederation with Transnistria. Arguments that the Smirnov regime did not in reality strive for independence, a union Russia or Ukraine, or a confederation or federation with Moldova are many. The fact that the Transnistrian authorities nonetheless advertised these goals can be explained in at least three ways. First, in signaling that the government was leading them to better, more stable and secure future, these nominal foreign policy objectives legitimized the regime in the eyes of the Transnistrian population. Second, the Transnistrian authorities were sometimes pressured by Russia to support the idea of reintegration with Moldova. For instance, Mikhail Leont’yev—a pro-Kremlin TV journalist and columnist—claimed that “Russia literary raped the Transnistrian authorities to make them sign” the Kozak Memorandum,10 a 2003 plan advanced by Russia to resolve the Transnistrian conflict on a federative basis (in a reality, it was closer to confederative one). Third, the Smirnov regime declared nominal goals for opportunist motivations. For example, ideas of Transnistrian independence and Transnistrian-Moldovan confederation were advanced when Tiraspol wanted to block the conflict resolution with its parent state. Further, as Andrey Devyatkov claimed, based on interviews collected in Transnistria, “the slogan of independence [of Transnistria] would not have gotten such absolute 10

Mikhail Leont’yev, “Strannyye otnosheniya,” interview with Vremya, 23 January 2009, (accessed 15 March 2012).

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support [97.1%] during the ‘referendum’ in 2006, if it were not connected to the thesis of subsequent entrance to the Russian Federation.”11 Conversely, the scenario of accession to Ukraine appeared exactly as Transnistria lost Russia’s support. It might be mentioned that in these circumstances, Transnistria even expressed the intention to conduct multi-vector foreign policy or closely cooperate with the EU and the US, instead of Russia.12 If the Smirnov regime was not in fact striving to achieve its nominal goals, the question arises as to its true aims. It is true that the Transnistrian authorities enjoyed the status quo very much, they were used to it and learned how to benefit under it. Indeed, preserving the de facto independence of Transnistria—in other words the status of a quasi-state—should be identified as a persistent goal of the regime. However, it seemed that the Smirnov regime wanted to pursue an “improved status quo.” Transnistria, for example, desired to be recognized by Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus,13 which would bring significant benefits for the Transnistrian region, such as the enhancement of its security and the facilitation of foreign trade, at virtually no cost to the quasi-state. It also seemed that while keeping its de facto independence, Transnistria also wanted to be treated as a virtual territory of Russia, which meant becoming an established client of socioeconomic, educational and other benefit programs financed by the Russian budget. Finally, it seemed the Smirnov regime was content for the time being to settle for international recognition of Transnistria’s de facto status and to leave the formal definition of its international status—in other words the full settlement of the Transnistrian conflict— to future generations. If wisely managed, this “postponed status” could 11

Devyatkov, “Political dynamics.” See Vladimir Bukarskiy, “Glava pridnestrovskogo MID – za mnogovektornost’ politiki Tiraspolya,” Russkaya liniya, 3 April 2008, /newsdata.php?idar=176271 (accessed 12 April 2012); “Smirnov: Rossiya nadeyetsya obmenyat’ Pridnestrov’ye na dividendy v ES,” Rosbalt, 25 April 2011, (accessed 7 June 2011). 13 “Prezident Pridnestrov’ya: Nam dostatochno priznaniya Rossii, Ukrainy i Belorussii,” REGNUM, 31 August 2010, 20628.html (accessed 14 March 2012). 12


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allow Smirnov to maintain to the twenty-year status quo and simultaneously legally guarantee the Transnistria’s existence for the foreseeable future. As a candidate for president in the December 2011 elections, Yevgeniy Shevchuk was in favor of this policy of postponing Transnistria’s formal status. To be sure, he said that recognition of Transnistria’s independence would be the most effective means of the conflict resolution, but he also suggested that it was an unrealistic outcome, since the international participants of the conflict settlement process are against such a solution.14 Another time, Shevchuk underlined that Tiraspol was bound by the international commitments signed by Smirnov—namely the 1997 Primakov Memorandum and 2003 Kozak Memorandum—to establish a common state with Moldova.15 Later on, when it was closer to the election, he announced that he would follow the people’s decision in the 2006 referendum to gain independence for Transnistria and subsequently join Russia. His opponents accused him of intending simply to surrender the quasi-state and merge it with Moldova, but this possibility could be ruled out. Finally, when Shevchuk became the president, he confirmed his devotion to people’s will as expressed in the referendum.16 Shevchuk may truly strive for the international recognition of Transnistria and its accession to Russia. He seems far more responsive to public opinion than Smirnov. Moreover, as a native Transnistrian, 14

Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Nikakaya dolzhnost’ i privilegii ne stoyat togo, chtoby ne pytat’sya ostanovit’ stranu ot skatyvaniya v propast’ ”, interview with Voyennoye obozreniye, 13 June 2011, 2%ABnikakaya-dolzhnost-i-privilegii-ne-stoyat-togo-chtoby-ne-pytatsya-ostano -vit-stranu-ot-skaty (accessed 15 June 2011). See also Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Prezhde, chem kuda-to voyti, nado znat’, kak ottuda vyyti,” interview with, 27 July 2012, (accessed 2 January 2012). 15 Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Otvety na voprosy blogerov i chitateley sayta storonnikov,” 16 June 2011, -na-voprosy-blogerov-i-chitatelei-saita-storonnikov (accessed 2 January 2012). 16 Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Ya nikomu ne sobirayus’ sdavat’ Pridnestrov’ye!”, interview with Komsomol’skaya prawda, 26 December 2011, http:// (accessed 2 January 2012).

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he appears to care more about region’s fate than its previous leader. He was born in Rybnitsa, a city located in the northern part of nowadays Transnistria, and spent half of his life in the de facto independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, while Smirnov only came to Transnistria in 1987, when he was already 46 years old, and eventually started treating the quasi-state as a business rather than as his homeland. Shevchuk, conversely, may identify Transnistria with the latter. However, Shevchuk must also be aware of the fact that his declared goal is almost impossible to achieve. It is sufficient to say that there are more and more signals the Russian Federation would like Transnistria to reintegrate with Moldova. Despite some countermeasures taken by Moscow, Chişinău is moving further toward a closer integration with the EU and cooperation with Romania. In this light, a rational solution for Russia would be to not postpone reintegration, because Transnistria could provide Russia with a share in the reunified state. That is why it seems Shevchuk’s actual aim concerning the status of Transnistria is the same as Smirnov’s end—to keep the present status quo, in other words to preserve the de facto independence of the Transnistrian region. But unlike the Smirnov regime, Shevchuk is motivated neither by desire to retain exclusive power in Transnistria nor by a willingness to derive money from functioning of the quasistate. As it was mentioned, Shevchuk’s real authority has already somehow dispersed. Besides, he seems to be still devoted to the issues announced during his successful presidential campaign, stating that all Transnistrians should stand equal in the eyes of the local law and promising to curb the rampant corruption thriving under the Smirnov regime.17 Further, the status quo allows Shevchuk to keep and enhance statehood of Transnistria, his homeland; the mentioned “improved status quo” would be even more appreciated. Declaring his goal to be international recognition and union with Russia simply allows him to avoid accusations of high treason, stabilize the political situation, 17

William Schreiber’s and author’s interview with Yevgeniy Shevchuk, Tiraspol, 2 March 2012. See also: William Schreiber and Marcin Kosienkowski, “Cautious Optimism for Transnistria,” New Eastern Europe, 5 April 2012, (accessed 5 April 2012).


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reach internal unity and focus on reforms aimed at economic revival of Transnistria. Finally, it cannot be excluded that Shevchuk’s position on Transnistria’s status will be altered in the future, for example, under influence of Moscow or when the majority of the Transnistrian population changes its mind and relinquishes the idea of Transnistria’s independence and/or accession to Russia. Moreover, Kálmán Mizsei—the former European Union Special Representative for the Republic of Moldova (2007–2011)—hopes Shevchuk will simply realize that “only . . . through reintegration into a Moldova that itself is integrating with Europe, his beloved region will be able to raise economically in order to improve the welfare of the population, impoverished in two decades of self-isolation.”18 But Chişinău should create all necessary conditions for reintegration securing Transnistria’s interests in a sufficient degree.


Kálmán Mizsei, “Transnistria and the elusive settlement,” Info-Prim Neo, 23 February 2012, (accessed 23 February 2012).

4 Transnistria and Russia

The Smirnov regime identified Russia as a priority of the quasi-state’s foreign policy. The main aims of the Transnistrian authorities toward Russia were to prevent Moscow from forcing Transnistria to reintegrate with Moldova and to ensure further Russian support, allowing the Transnistrian region to survive as a quasi-state. Of course, Tiraspol would have been happy if Transnistria were recognized by Russia, but this was unachievable and did not come true. A complimentary task was developing cooperation with the Russian regions. First, agreements were signed as early as at the beginning of the 1990s and the number of Russian partner regions reached more than thirty in the 2000s. The problem for the Smirnov regime was that officially Moscow always supported the territorial integrity of Moldova. Such a declaration was evidenced as early as in the agreement ending the war between Moldova and Transnistria, which was concluded by the presidents of Russia and Moldova—Boris Yeltsin and Mircea Snegur—on 21 July 1992. Over the following twenty years, Moscow made some attempts—albeit with varying intensity—to orchestrate conflict resolution by merging Transnistria with its parent state against Tiraspol’s will. To conclude, reintegration under the appropriate conditions could strengthen Russian influence, mainly in Moldova, but also in Ukraine, the Black Sea region, and the Balkans. These provisions should legalize and/or enhance Russia’s military, political, economic, and cultural presence in all of Moldova, while limiting the presence of other exter23


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nal players there, such as Romania, NATO or the EU. Another Russian condition of conflict settlement was that any unified constitution should guarantee a strong degree of influence for the pro-Russian Transnistrian elements. The fact that Transnistria was able to survive thanks to Russia’s assistance was admitted overtly, even by Igor Smirnov.19 Importantly, the support was comprehensive, encompassing political, economic, military, and social activity. Moscow brought Transnistria under a protective umbrella in the international arena. Russia also provided the quasi-state with the natural gas crucial for its industry, although Tiraspol paid only some of it or did not pay at all, which led to its astronomical debt of about $3 billion owed to Gazprom at the end of 2011. Further, Russia kept its soldiers in the Transnistrian region—a peacekeeping contingent and the Operational Group of Russian Forces— which substantially enhanced Transnistria’s military security. Finally, it granted all Transnistrian pensioners extra money. These are only examples of Russia’s assistance to the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Crucially, this support—especially at the political and economic levels—was restricted by Moscow when it was dissatisfied with Smirnov and particularly when it wanted to make Tiraspol reintegrate with its parent state or simply negotiate with Chişinău on the conflict settlement. As a result of such instances, Transnistria’s socioeconomic situation would often worsen dramatically. The Smirnov regime took several steps to convince Russia to support Transnistria’s de facto independence. First, it emphasized that Moscow should protect and endorse a region persistently connected with Russia since the end of the eighteenth century, when it was conquered by the Russian commander Aleksandr Suvorov and merged with the Russian Empire. Furthermore, Smirnov also claimed that Moscow should also protect and endorse Transnistrian people heavily Russified and having a deep sense of togetherness with Matushka Rossiya, 19

Svetlana Gamova, “Amerikanskaya PRO kak podarok Pridnestrov’yu,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 3 March 2010, .html (accessed 10 April 2012).

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despite the fact that Transnistria is a multi-ethnic region.20 Tiraspol underlined that this sense of community was confirmed in the 2006 referendum, when the Transnistrian region’s inhabitants voted for independence and subsequent accession to Russia. As more and more Transnistrians acquired Russian citizenship—totaling 160,000 at the end of 2011—the Smirnov regime argued Moscow should help its citizens and defend them and their homeland from Moldova by all means. Second, the Transnistrian authorities presented Transnistria as an outpost of Russian, and in a broader sense, Slavic civilization in this part of Europe. The Transnistrian political scientist, Nikolay Ostrovskiy, even said: “Transnistria has always been, and we hope that it will still be, a mental and civilizational part of Russia, both in terms of its ethnic composition and historical traditions, culture, language. In this sense, Transnistria is even more Russian than, say, Moscow or Kaliningrad.”21 On the other side of the Dniester River lay Western civilization. It was pointed out that Transnistria’s reunification with Moldova would bring an eradication of Russian culture, language, mentality, etc. on the Dniester, which would be a substantial loss for Russia. That is one reason why, in the opinion of the Smirnov regime, Moscow was obliged to preserve Transnistria’s statehood. Third, the Smirnov regime presented Transnistria as the last military stronghold of Russia in Southeastern Europe. Its role was only to increase in 2004, when Moldova’s neighbor Romania joined NATO, and when Ukraine was strengthening its cooperation with this organization. NATO was considered by Moscow to be an enemy in the postSoviet area and this allowed the Transnistrian authorities to paint the quasi-state as a barrier to “aggressive Western expansionism,” enhancing Russia’s security. In 2010, for example, the Smirnov regime 20

See, for example, Yelena Tolmachevskaya, “Rossiya i Ukraina vo vneshnepoliticheskoy strategii Pridnestrov’ya” (master’s thesis, Transnistrian State University, 2010), 37. 21 Nikolay Ostrovskiy, “Rossiya, opyat’ brosayet na proizvol sud’by i ‘ukhodit,’ kak eto uzhe bylo v 1991 godu,” AVA.MD, 5 June 2008, 2-pridnestrove/0797-nikolai-ostrovskii-rossiya-opyat-brosaet--na-proizvol-sudbi-i -uhodit-kak-eto-uzhe-bilo-v-1991-godu.html (accessed 16 April 2012).


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suggested a deployment of medium-range Iskander missiles in Transnistria, in response to Romania’s intentions to have elements of a US anti-missile shield on its territory, thus underlining the quasi-state’s geostrategic importance for Moscow.22 Fourth, the Smirnov regime took steps to establish close personal relations with Russian officials and politicians of various levels. Smirnov himself noted that whenever a Russian official left office it negatively affected Transnistrian-Russian relations, since the Transnistrian side had to win favor with the successor.23 These Russian officials, together with representatives of the Russian elite, formed the Transnistrian lobby in Russia, representing and defending Transnistria’s interests there. Their motivations varied: political, patriotic or economic; in many cases they were simply bribed by the Smirnov regime.24 Fifth, in the first half of 2000s, the Transnistrian authorities took action to economically bind Russia with Transnistria even further. During privatization, the lion’s share of Transnistrian industry, including its main factories, was sold to Russian companies. Since Chişinău had never recognized the privatization as legally valid, Russian businessmen found their property investments relying on the de facto independence of Transnistria. It was a guarantee that Russian companies, not only the Russian authorities, would defend Transnistria’s interests. Sixth, when Moscow pushed Transnistria toward Moldova and limited its assistance to the quasi-state, the Smirnov regime would resort to histrionics. The Transnistrian authorities appealed to Russian public opinion and nationalist politicians for support, accusing any Russian official who acted in favor of merging Transnistria with Moldova of 22

“Smirnov: Pridnestrov’ye ne protiv rossiyskikh raket,” Interfax, 15 February 2010, (accessed 15 April 2012). 23 Igor Smirnov, Zhit’ na nashey zemle (Tiraspol: Liter, 2005), http:// Itemid=113. 24 See, for example, Theodor Tudoroiu, “The European Union, Russia, and the Future of the Transnistrian Frozen Conflict,” East European Politics and Societies 26, no. 1 (2012): 150.

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betraying Russia’s interests.25 They also announced their intention to enhance cooperation with Ukraine, including possibly joining this state. Overall, the Smirnov regime’s policy toward Russia can be recognized as quite successful—it helped shape Moscow’s Transnistrian policy in the direction desired by Tiraspol. Dmitriy Trenin, a Russian expert, called it a case of the tail wagging the dog.26 In reality, Transnistria came close to reintegration with Moldova only once, when the aforementioned Kozak Memorandum was due to be signed by Chişinău and Tiraspol; but then-Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin withdrew his support at the last moment under heavy pressure from the West. Russian assistance to Transnistria has never been restricted to the level which would constitute an existential risk for Transnistria. The soft-power conflict that broke out between Tiraspol and Moscow in 2011 was connected with Smirnov—who decided to battle for his fifth term as president against Moscow’s will—but did not target Transnistria itself. Yevgeniy Shevchuk also declares that Russia is a strategic partner for Transnistria and seeks to improve cooperation with this state.27 The new president made his first trip to Moscow only four days after his inauguration. Shevchuk’s initial goal has been to inform Moscow that there will be no U-turns in Transnistria’s foreign policy.28 Although Shevchuk established good working relations with Russian officials when he was the speaker of the Transnistrian parliament 25

See, for example, Il’ya Galinskiy, “ ‘Kremlevskiye mechtateli’ slishkom otkrovenno simpatiziruyut planam po unichtozheniyu Pridnestrov’ya,” REGNUM, 31 May 2011, (accessed 6 June 2011). 26 Dmitriy Trienin, “Opasnost’ na Dnestre,” Transnistrian Digest, no. 18 (2006): 21–22. Author’s interview with Dmitriy Trienin (the deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center), Moscow, 7 November 2007. 27 “Polnaya versiya inauguratsii prezidenta PMR Yevgeniya Shevchuka,” 30 December 2012, =related (accessed 4 January 2012). 28 Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Pridnestrov’ye budet vmeste s Rossiyey,” interview with Rossiyskiye vesti, 4 January 2012, /44360.html#cutid1 (accessed 19 January 2012).


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(2005–2009) and the head of the Obnovleniye party (till 2010), Russia was unsure of his intentions as president; after all, Moscow had supported another candidate, who was perceived as a loyal politician, during 2011 Transnistrian presidential elections. Transnistria’s main foreign policy goals with regard to Russia clearly have not been changed. The current Transnistrian leader—as his predecessor—wants Moscow to continue giving Transnistria comprehensive, vital assistance. According to official announcements, of the main topic of the Transnistrian-Russian diplomatic meetings was socioeconomic support to the quasi-state. The primary problem the new president faced was that Russia did not give Transnistria the $300 million in assistance that it had promised during 2011 electoral campaign. Due to Shevchuk’s efforts, however, Moscow announced in mid-March 2012 that it would grant the quasi-state $150 million.29 Then, in late April 2012, it promised to give $30 million to stabilize the Transnistrian ruble.30 It seems likely that Shevchuk eventually managed to win Moscow’s heart. Beyond continuing to receive assistance from Russia, Tiraspol would also like to prevent Moscow from compelling Transnistria to merge with Moldova. Where Transnistria’s policy toward Russia differs under Shevchuk’s rule from the Smirnov period is in the quasi-state’s exclusive use of positive methods of policy implementation. The Transnistrian authorities only speak highly of Russia and underline Transnistria’s inseparable links with Russia, mentioning the numerous Russian citizens living in the region and the results of the 2006 referendum.31 Additionally, to gain some political points and preserve previous Rus29

Svetlana Gamova, “Moskva vydelila Pridnestrov’yu 150 millionov,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 16 March 2012, _pridn.html (accessed 17 March 2012). 30 “Rossiya vydelila Pridnestrov’yu $30 mln dlya stabilizatsii mestnoy valyuty,”, 27 April 2012, /04/27/n_2315693.shtml (accessed 27 April 2012). 31 Nina Shtanski, “Bednost’ – bolezn’ Pridnestrov’ya,” interview with Georgia Times, 11 March 2012, .html (accessed 10 April 2012).

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sia’s policy toward his quasi-state Shevchuk appealed to Russian citizens living in the Transnistrian region to vote for Vladimir Putin in the March 2012 Russian presidential elections.32 Furthermore the new president of Transnistria wants the entity to be involved in Eurasian cooperation organized by Russia and accompanied by Belarus and Kazakhstan, such as the Eurasian Economic Community, the Customs Union, and the Common Economic Space.33 Critically, Transnistria tries to present itself as a responsible, reasonable, and trustworthy partner, not as an ungrateful suppliant, a party unwilling to negotiate, or a troublemaker, as the quasi-state may have previously been seen in Moscow on many occasions. It should be noted that such an approach suggests that if Transnistria were pressed by Russia to reintegrate with Moldova, the Transnistrian authorities could finally agree. But Shevchuk would probably do his best to secure his region’s interests in the highest possible degree.34


„Yevgeniy Shevchuk prizval pridnestrovtsev, imeyushchikh rossiyskoye grazhdanstvo, progolosovat’ 4 marta za Vladimira Putina,” Olvia-press, March 2012, (accessed 12 March 2012). 33 “Glava gosudarstva: «Yevraziyskiye ustremleniya Pridnestrov’ya – eto osnova natsional’noy idei»,” Ofitsial’nyy Sayt Prezidenta PMR, 6 June 2012, 437&Itemid=1 (accessed 6 June 2012). 34

On Transnistria and Russia see also: Andrey Devyatkov, Pered vyzovom evropeizatsii: politika Rossii v pridnestrovskom uregulirovanii (1992–2012 gg.) (Tyumen: Izdatel’stvo Tyumenskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2012).

5 Transnistria and Ukraine

Under Igor Smirnov, Transnistria’s foreign policy goal with regard to Ukraine was to ensure its benevolent neutrality and, when needed, to have it as an ally in disputes with Moldova. The Smirnov regime understood that if Kiev—which officially supports Moldova’s territorial integrity—truly took Chişinău’s side, then Transnistria’s existence would be put in serious risk. The importance of Ukraine to the quasistate resulted from the fact that it was Transnistria’s window to the outside world, from its role as a mediator and a guarantor of the conflict settlement negotiations, and more generally from its position as an influential actor in the region. Ukraine was supposed to serve as a counterbalance to Russia’s influence in Transnistria and Moldova, when Moscow’s policy went against Tiraspol’s interests. It should be noted, however, that during the periods when the Smirnov regime had an understanding with Moscow, relations with Ukraine were put to the side. A complementary, but also significant aim of Tiraspol toward its Eastern neighbor was to develop cooperation with the Ukrainian regions, particularly Odessa and Vinnytsya, which are adjacent to Transnistria. Implementation of Tiraspol’s policy toward Ukraine was in many cases similar to its Russian policy.35 First, the Smirnov regime re35

See Vladimir Yastrebchak, “Gde interes Kiyeva k pridnestrovskomu uregulirovaniyu?” Zerkalo nedeli, 12 June 2010, _kieva_k_pridnestrovskomu_uregulirovaniyu-60386.html (accessed 6 June 30

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minded Kiev on many occasions that the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic was nearly a third inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians, many of whom—up to even 100,000—held Ukrainian passports. Tiraspol claimed that quasi-state’s reintegration with Latin Moldova would pose a direct threat to these people’s identity, while a de facto independent Transnistria would guarantee the preservation of their Ukrainian and Slavic character; thus the quasi-state should be supported or at least tolerated by Kiev. In truth, the Smirnov regime conducted a relatively favorable policy toward the Ukrainians living in the Transnistrian region. At least formally, Ukrainian served as one of the three official languages in Transnistria, along with Russian and Moldovan (written in Cyrillic), while in Moldova there was only one official language—Moldovan (written in Latin script). Second, Transnistria tried to play Ukraine’s sentimental attachment to the Transnistrian region, Kiev’s distrust of neighboring Romania, and Ukrainian national pride. Tiraspol reminded the authorities that the Transnistrian territory used to belong to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1940, when it was included into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. This was one argument why Kiev should not be indifferent to Transnistria’s fate. Tiraspol also tried to fuel Ukraine’s unspoken fears of Romania, claiming, for example, that Bucharest harbored designs on Ukrainian territories, namely Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia, which belonged to Romania in the interwar period. At the same time, Transnistria presented itself as a friendly state and an ally against Bucharest’s “expansionist policy.” Further, when the Smirnov regime was brawling with Moscow, it offered Ukraine the chance to provide wide-ranging support for the quasi-state, giving Kiev an opportunity to increase its position in the region. When Ukraine, after being pressed by Moldova and the EU for several years, finally in March 2006 introduced new customs regulations at the Transnistrian-Ukrainian border requiring Transnistria’s 2011); Il’ya Galinskiy, “Politika i natsional’nyye interesy Ukrainy v pridnestrovskom uregulirovanii,” REGNUM, 31 May 2011, /news/1346612.html (accessed 7 June 2011).


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export goods to be cleared in Moldovan customs, the Smirnov regime labeled the move a test of Kiev’s loyalty to the West, claiming the move undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty.36 Third, Tiraspol used the economic factor, including the close economic links between Transnistria and Ukraine, which were established as early as the Soviet period. Smirnov himself worked in Soviet Ukraine’s heavy industry for many years. If bilateral trade turnover was relatively low, it was still important for the adjacent Ukrainian regions. Transnistrian grocery stores were dominated by Ukrainian products. Furthermore, Ukraine earned money on the transit of Transnistria’s foreign trade. It was especially beneficial for the nearby Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Transnistria was also an important transit corridor for goods conveyed from Ukraine to Moldova and further into the Balkans and also for commerce flowing via Ukraine’s Danube ports. There was also Ukrainian investment in the quasi-state. All of these economic factors allowed the Smirnov regime to emphasize that any action taken by Kiev or other regional actors against Transnistria would automatically hinder Ukrainian economic interests. Tiraspol’s campaign intensified when Ukraine introduced the previously mentioned customs regulations in 2006. Transnistria’s rhetoric became harsher and included, along with economic factors, accusations of imposing a blockade on Transnistria aimed at triggering social disorder in the quasi-state. Fourth, the Smirnov regime strove to establish links with Ukrainian officials and representatives of the political and business elite, which under most circumstances were renewed following political turnover. Smirnov made the mistake of not engaging with a successor at least once. In 2004, during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Smirnov supported the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych and overtly opposed Viktor Yushchenko, perceived as a pro-Western politician, 36

Author’s interview with Andrey Safonov (a Transnistrian political scientist and the editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper Novaya gazeta), Tiraspol, 23 June 2011. See also Vladimir Yastrebchak, “Itogi goda v oblasti vneshney politiki Pridnestrov’ya,” Diplomaticheskiy vestnik Pridnestrov’ya, no. 2 (2010): 8.

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but who in the end became the Ukrainian president. This deteriorated Transnistrian-Ukrainian relations and finally induced Smirnov to reach out to Yushchenko, the more so as the latter proposed a Transnistrian conflict settlement plan in spring of 2005.37 Very often relations were established following a simple procedure. For example, once Transnistrian officials took part in a conference about Transnistria on the Ukrainian Black Sea, where they met representatives of region’s political and business elite. This channel was used by the Transnistrians to meet the local Ukrainian authorities. In many cases Ukrainian officials, politicians, and businessman who acted within Ukraine in favor of Transnistria were somehow involved in Transnistrian smuggling, personally benefiting from this practice.38 The Smirnov regime’s policy toward Ukraine can be recognized as quite effective. Due to Tiraspol’s activities, Ukraine kept a stance of benevolent neutrality and sometimes even supported Transnistria. There was only one major failure, limiting quasi-state’s de facto independence, when Chişinău took control of Transnistrian exports in 2006, thanks to Kiev’s help. But it should be noted that Ukraine, pushed by Tiraspol, refused to do this for a several years. It is likely that even president Yushchenko in mid-2005 gave a verbal order not to introduce a new custom regime at the Ukrainian-Transnistrian border.39 Moreover, although Moldova also wanted to control Transnistria’s imports, this did not happen because Kiev declined. Like Smirnov, the new Transnistrian president, Yevgeniy Shevchuk, puts Ukraine behind Russia. This has not been changed by the fact that Shevchuk is an ethnic Ukrainian, who studied at the Diplomatic Academy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine be37

Author’s interview with Andrey Safonov, Tiraspol, 16 September

2009. 38 See, for example, Christopher J. Borgen, Thawing a Frozen Conflict: Legal Aspects of the Separatist Crisis in Moldova. A Report from The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Legal Studies Research Paper Series #06-0045 (New York: St. John’s University School of Law, 2006), 92–93. 39 See Oazu Nantoi, “Republic of Moldova: Past and Present,” The Institute for Public Policy in Chişinău, 2007.


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tween 2002 and 2003 and was previously perceived by Kiev as “our man.”40 Yet Shevchuk also considers Ukraine an important Transnistrian partner. That is why he paid his second foreign visit to Kiev two weeks after his inauguration. It should also be mentioned that the first meeting between Shevchuk and the Moldovan prime minister, Vlad Filat, took place two weeks later in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Transnistria’s aim toward Ukraine under the new president is the same as in the case of the predecessor. The difference is that Shevchuk pays attention to the positive dimension of bilateral interaction. He declares that he wants to establish good-neighborly, constructive, pragmatic, and mutually beneficial relations that reach a higher level of cooperation and understanding between Transnistria and Ukraine.41 This means that bilateral relations may be unburdened of previous ills, such as Tiraspol’s excessive self-interest, zigzags, negative emotions, and elements of confrontation. This new potential was seen, for example, when Nina Shtanski, Transnistrian foreign minister, clearly stated that Transnistria did not want to join Ukraine.42 Furthermore, although Shevchuk claims that Transnistria’s “economic potential is oppressed artificially from the outside,” referring to the current export regime of Transnistrian goods (under the control of Moldova, Ukraine, and the EU), he bears no grudges against Kiev. Instead, he seeks changes in cooperation with the actors involved in the Transnistrian conflict settlement process, including Ukraine.43


International Crisis Group, Moldova’s uncertain future, Europe Report 175, 17 August 2006 (Chişinău & Brussels: International Crisis Group), 10, note 66, _future.pdf (accessed 10 January 2012). 41 Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “Pridnestrov’ye zagnalo sebya v iskusstvennuyu izolyatsiyu ot vneshnego mira,” Zerkalo nedeli, 20 January 2012, /POLITICS/evgeniy_shevchuk_pridnestrovie_zagnalo_sebya_v_iskusstvennuyu _izolyatsiyu_ot_vneshnego_mira-95987.html (accessed 28 January 2012). 42 Nina Shtanski, “Vneshnyaya politika Pridnestrovskoy Moldavskoy Respubliki,” REGNUM, 4 April 2012, .html (accessed 4 April 2012). 43 Schreiber’s and author’s interview with Shevchuk.

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Shtanski stated in late April 2012 that the “active good-neighborly policy toward Ukraine has started gaining momentum.”44 But in reality there are no palpable signs of substantially strengthening cooperation between Tiraspol and Kiev. As in the Smirnov period, the relationship seems to have been put to the side, especially when compared to interaction with Russia. However, even if Transnistrian-Ukrainian relations are not intensively developed, they are calmer. This will certainly be appreciated by the Ukrainian authorities, who seek a more stable situation at their south-western border. Thus, Kiev’s benevolent neutrality toward Tiraspol is likely to be kept.

44 Nina Shtanski’s Facebook page, 21 April 2012, https://www.facebook .com/nina.shtanski (accessed 21 April 2012).

6 Transnistria and Moldova

The Smirnov regime’s foreign policy goals related to Moldova were to preserve its independence from the parent state and to strengthen its own statehood. To reach these aims, Tiraspol conducted a policy of retarding, exploiting, retaliating and weakening. Transnistria attempted to retard progress in the Transnistrian conflict settlement negotiations. The fundamental task of talks was to find a peaceful solution while maintaining Moldova’s territorial integrity. This has always been accepted by all of the participants except for Tiraspol, because it ran completely contrary to its interests. Various means were used to slow down the negotiations. Transnistria claimed that no substantial decision could be made because of Moldovan and Russian presidential or parliamentary elections and other important political events. Initially, the Smirnov regime also accepted arrangements to withdraw its consent at the last moment. Tiraspol put forward unrealistic demands, such as recognition of Transnistria’s independence by Chişinău, as a prerequisite for further talks, and finally, it broke off the negotiations when Moldova had the upper hand. This occurred, for example, when a new customs regime on the UkrainianTransnistrian border was introduced in March 2006. Even if some document was signed, Tiraspol tended to interpret the resolutions in own favor, in a manner unacceptable to Moldova. For example, the provision of the Memorandum on the Bases for Normalization of Relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria (the socalled Primakov Memorandum) of 8 May 1997 states that “the Parties 36

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shall build their relations in the framework of a common state [obshcheye gosudarstvo in Russian] within the borders of the Moldavian SSR as of January of the year 1990,” which was interpreted as an announcement of the creation of a confederation.45 When Chişinău took a benign approach toward Transnistria— mainly in the period between the end of the 1992 war and first months of the Moldovan Party of Communists’ rule in 2001—the Smirnov regime tried to exploit the situation and gain as many concessions from Moldova as possible, while offering almost nothing in return. Initially, Tiraspol was interested in security guarantees and recognition of its equality with Chişinău within the conflict settlement process, because it was afraid that the quasi-state could be attacked again or forced to accept a solution without its consent. Later, emphasis was placed on socioeconomic problems important to the function of Transnistria. Tiraspol exploited the fact that Moldova was usually ready to make concessions unilaterally. Even if both parties committed themselves to make some concessions, the Transnistrian side—in contrast to the Moldovan counterpart—often did not fulfill its obligations. Interestingly, the Moldovan authorities did not seek to revise this policy of unilateral concessions to any great extent (even when they tried to correct this weakness, their efforts usually failed).46 This can be explained by Chişinău’s willingness to show goodwill, but also by corruption and incompetence among Moldovan officials.47 For example, when Tiraspol conducted a 24 December 1995 Referendum on the adoption of its second constitution, defining Transnistria as a “sovereign, independent state,” the Moldovan central government withdrew from the negotiations on the Transnistrian conflict settlement. But as early as 7 February 1996, the Moldovan govern45

See Igor Boţan, “The negotiation process as a way to postpone the solution,” in Moldova–Transdniestria: Working Together for a Prosperous Future. Negotiation Process, ed. Denis Matveev et al. (Chişinău: Cu drag Publishing House, 2009), 116–34. 46 See Boţan, 116–21. 47 Author’s interview with Oazu Nantoi (Program Director at The Institute for Public Policy), Chişinău, 19 November 2008.


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ment decided to sign the Moldovan-Transnistrian protocol on customs issues, in which Transnistria obtained very beneficial autonomy in the conduct of its exports thanks to the right of using Moldovan customs seals. However, it ignored its own obligations, for example, when it blocked the creation of joint Moldovan-Transnistrian customs posts on the border between Transnistria and Ukraine, which Chişinău was unable to control. Only on 1 September 2001, did the Moldovan central authorities introduce new customs stamps and withhold them from Transnistria (but even this did not solve the problem, because Ukraine allowed Transnistrian goods to enter its territory with the old stamps for the next few years).48 Thus, by exploiting the parent state, Transnistria enhanced its de facto independence. When Chişinău pursued a confrontational policy toward the quasistate—mainly in almost the entire period of Communist rule between 2001 and 2009—involving the heavy use of sanctions and unilateral decisions on matters concerning Transnistria, the Smirnov regime took a retaliatory approach. During this period Tiraspol, for example, imposed a 100 percent custom duty on Moldovan goods, engaged in a “telephone war” of communications jamming with Moldova, prevented Moldovan farmers from accessing land located in territory under Transnistrian jurisdiction, harassed Moldovan schools using Latin script that were located in Transnistria, took control over the Transnistrian section of the Moldovan railway company, blocking it when necessary, arrested some Moldovan policemen and officials working in Bendery, a town controlled by the Transnistrian authorities, tried to seize by force the Dniester River infrastructure belonging to Moldova, and even accused Chişinău of genocidal intentions toward Transnistrians, the list goes on and on.49 The Smirnov regime cut off many links with Moldova despite the significant economic and social costs. It even imposed a self-blockade when Moldova introduced a new customs regime in March 2006, in order to blame Chişinău for blocking Transnistria. All of these under48

Boţan, 119–21. See Stuart Hensel, Moldova Strategic Conflict Assessment (London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2006). 49

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mined the economic basis of the quasi-state, which was already weak. On the other hand, it should be noted that Tiraspol managed to withstand Moldovan pressure, consolidate the support of the local population for Transnistria’s independence, and convince the Moldovan central authorities—both the Communists and later the AEI—to soften their policy toward the quasi-state. The Smirnov regime was disinterested in strong Moldovan authorities. When there were several competing power centers in Chişinău—mainly in the 1990s (after the war) and since mid-2009, when the AEI coalition came to power—the Moldovan elites treated the Transnistrian conflict as a side issue and were more willing to accept compromise approaches. But when the Moldovan authorities were consolidated, as during the rule of Communists between 2001 and 2009, Transnistria came under consistent and direct pressure. This induced the Smirnov regime to influence the political situation in the parent state to prevent a concentration of power in the hands of any single political force, although Tiraspol’s opportunities to do so were not extensive. This process included, for example, providing PR for the Moldovan opposition.50 Transnistrian security services may have also been involved in inciting civic unrest in Chişinău on 7 April 2009, after allegedly fraudulent Moldovan parliamentary elections.51 Incidentally, it can be added that paradoxically the Smirnov regime was quite satisfied when the Moldovan authorities were more pro-Western and less pro-Russian, like the AEI government. They were handily labeled “pro-Romanian nationalists” by Tiraspol and used to fuel the anti-Moldovan/Romanian and pro-independence propaganda machine.52 50

Andrey Safonov, “Transnistria: A Policy of Denial, Containment, and Separation from Moldova,” in Moldova: Arena of International Influences, ed. Marcin Kosienkowski and William Schreiber (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012), 269–71. 51 Witold Rodkiewicz, ed., Transnistrian Conflict after 20 Years (Warsaw & Chişinău: Centre for Eastern Studies & IDIS Viitorul, 2011), 5, http:// (accessed 1 December 2011). 52 Safonov, “Transnistria,” 269–71.


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Yevgeniy Schevchuk’s primary aim concerning Moldova is the same as that of Smirnov: to maintain Transnistria’s independence from Chişinău and to strengthen Transnistrian statehood. However, as in case of new president’s policies toward Russia and Ukraine, the methods have changed to become more pragmatic and cooperative. Shevchuk wants Transnistrian-Moldovan relations, including the 5+2 negotiations, to be dedicated chiefly to socioeconomic problems, but not to reaching a political solution to the Transnistrian conflict. He explains this policy in the following way: “With twenty years of experience in negotiations on political issues, today we offer our partners the tactics of small but concrete steps in the fields of economy, transport, communications, this is exactly what, in our opinion, can minimize artificial barriers to the development of the economy and contact between the two banks. It means that this can form a real platform of confidence for the future, more complex political debates! . . . In this we see the untapped potential of our cooperation.”53 He also underlines that socioeconomic cooperation would be mutually beneficial, useful first of all to the ordinary people living both in Transnistria and Moldova. Crucially, focus on this kind of cooperation, would ease the functioning of the quasi-state. This, in turn, would enhance its statehood. At least in general terms, however, Shevchuk’s approach fits Moldova’s policy regarding the Transnistrian conflict settlement, which was worked out before he came to power. The AEI is also in favor of a “small steps” policy. It wants to (re-)build and strengthen ties between Moldova and Transnistria, enhancing mutual confidence and security. Furthermore, the AEI intends to win over inhabitants and politico-economic elites from the quasi-state, for example, by resolving common socioeconomic problems which affect the day-to-day life of ordinary people and raising the standard of living in Transnistria. Chişinău believes as well that joint work with Tiraspol on practical 53

Yevgeniy Shevchuk, “V budushchem vozmozhno obsuzhdeniye ekonomicheskogo ob”yedineniya s Moldaviyey,” interview with ITAR-TASS, 27 February 2012, (accessed 27 February 2012).

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issues will, in the future, create conditions that will allow political problems to be dealt with. Furthermore, it seems that the ruling coalition would also like to delay the conflict’s final resolution. The coalition is an internally incoherent structure and its ability to jointly elaborate conflict settlement provisions would be doubtful. The AEI also realizes that a prompt reunification with the pro-Russian Transnistria could hinder the Europeanization process of Moldova. Additionally, the more pro-Western parties of the AEI are afraid that Transnistria’s population would support their opponents, for example the pro-Russian Moldovan Party of Communists, in elections within a unified state.54 Shevchuk has translated his words into action quite quickly. The first steps undertaken by him as the new president were to make it easier for Transnistria citizens to cross the quasi-state’s border and to abolish the 100 percent import duty on Moldovan goods imported to the Transnistrian region. He has also been eager to meet with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat. There have been several meetings between these two leaders within a period of just four months and they seem to have established a very good working relationship. Furthermore, Tiraspol has become actively involved in the 5+2 negotiations, which resumed in late 2011 after a break of several years.55 Crucially, Transnistria under Shevchuk is ready to make substantial compromises. For example, it agreed in late March 2012 on the common, Transnistrian-Moldovan customs clearance of Transnistrian goods in the quasi-state’s territory, in order to resume full railway freight transportation through Transnistria—which had originally been halted in 2006—strongly facilitating the external economic activity of Transnistrian companies.56 It is highly unlikely that Smirnov could agree to such a concession. 54

For an overview of the Alliance of European Integration’s policy on Transnistria, see Marcin Kosienkowski, “The Alliance for European integration and the Transnistrian conflict settlement,” Sprawy Narodowościowe–Nationalities Affairs 38 (2011): 23–32. 55 See William Schreiber, “Tiraspol warms up,” Eastern approaches (blog), The Economist, 17 April 2012, /easternapproaches/2012/04/transdniestria-talks (accessed 17 April 2012). 56 “Pervyy poezd poshel,” Europa Liberă, 30 April 2012, http://www (accessed 30 April 2012).


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Despite this cooperative attitude, Tiraspol does not avoid applying pressure on Chişinău. For example, Shevchuk warned the Moldovan authorities that if his initial steps aimed at facilitating the movement of people and goods were not reciprocated by Moldova, the process of normalization of bilateral relations may be suspended or even broken.57 He probably counted on the fact that Chişinău would not dare to overtly neglect the Transnistrian conflict settlement and feel obliged to turn its words into action. He probably also hoped that Moldova would be pressed by its Western partners, appreciating the region’s new prospects, to make mutual concessions. It can be said that Transnistria’s policy toward Moldova has found success. In mid-April 2012 Chişinău agreed, after initial reluctance, to equal status between the conflict parties in the negotiating process and consented that socioeconomic problems be the first and the widest dimension of the 5+2 talks.58 Moreover, soon after railway freight transportation through the quasi-state was resumed. Filat and Shevchuk announced that bilateral cooperation on socioeconomic matters would be further developed.59 It is supposedly a beneficial approach for both sides and it may substantially contribute to confidence building between the conflict parties, but its quick, direct, and palpable results are favorable mainly to Transnistria.

57 Svetlana Gamova, “Tiraspol’ beret pauzu,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 1 March 2012, (accessed 1 March 2012). 58 Irina Ivashkina and Ol’ga Paterova, “Istina v Vene,”, 19 April 2012, (accessed 21 April 2012). 59 “Pervyy poezd.”

7 Transnistria and the West

The Smirnov regime intended to keep normal relations with the West,60 however, it seems that the relationship was treated as a necessary evil by Tiraspol.61 This problem appeared in earnest in the mid-2000s, when the Western actors intensified their involvement in the Transnistrian conflict settlement process. On the one hand, it appeared that Smirnov did not need to maintain interaction with the West, because the quasi-state was clearly defined as a part of the Russian world and preferred to function within this space. Moreover, Tiraspol found political contacts with Western actors somehow inconsistent with Transnistria’s pro-Russian geopolitical choice and thus undermined its loyalty to its sponsor—Russia. The Smirnov regime was also very suspicious of the West, seemingly still devoted to the Cold War vision of the world. The Western actors were perceived as wanting insidiously, and even by means of force, to oust the pro-Russian and authoritarian government and destroy Transnistria’s statehood.62 Tiraspol was afraid mainly of the US which was, 60

Author’s interviews with Il’ya Galinskiy (the director of the Institute of History, State and Law of the Transnistrian State University, Tiraspol, 22 June 2011) and Vitalii Andrievschi (a Moldovan political analyst and the head of the informational-analytical portal AVA.MD, Chişinău, 22 November 2011). 61 Author’s interview with Maksim Kuzovlev (Transnistrian journalist and political analyst), Chişinău, 21 November 2011. 62 Alyona Getmanchuk et al., Scenarios for the Development of the Transnistria Conflict: Challenges to European Security (Kiev: Institute of World Policy, 2011), 89–91. 43


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in the Tiraspol’s eyes, the mastermind of Western activity in the region. The Transnistrian authorities believed that Washington controlled the OSCE mission in Chişinău, because since 1995 its head had always been an American,63 and that the US highly influenced the policy of the EU, because the EU was considered to be a weak structure or only “a set of rules.”64 Generally, the policy of Transnistria under Igor Smirnov toward the Western countries had strong elements of isolationism. On the other hand, contact with the West—for many years represented in the region mainly by the OSCE—was treated as a sort of legitimization of Transnistria’s statehood. It was also an opportunity to make Western representatives— (who maintained working relations with Transnistria)—sympathetic or at least neutral in Tiraspol’s conflict with Chişinău. The West strongly supported Moldova’s territorial integrity and recognized the Transnistrian region as an authoritarian entity, so its attitude toward Transnistria was rather negative from the very beginning. Furthermore, in the late 1990s, the quasi-state’s external trade with non-CIS countries—and chiefly Western partners— came up to more or less the same level as trade with traditional CIS markets. Maintaining normal relations was supposedly in favor of maintaining this valuable trade exchange. Finally, in the late 2000s, the EU made an offer to finance socioeconomic projects in Transnistria, which was met with interest by Tiraspol, which was facing severe consequences from the global financial crisis.65 63

Author’s interview with Il’ya Galinskiy, Tiraspol, 15 September 2009. Interestingly, some Moldovan and Romanian experts perceive the OSCE Mission to Moldova as openly pro-Russian and pro-Transnistrian. See, for example, Mihai Gribincea, The Russian policy on military bases: Georgia and Moldova (Oradea: Editura Cogito, 2001), 207–8; Vladimir Socor, “New Broom at U.S.-Led OSCE Mission in Moldova,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 13 September 2006,[tt_news]=320 32&tx_ttnews[backPid]=177&no_cache=1 (accessed 28 April 2012). 64 Author’s interviews with Maksim Kuzovlev (Chişinău, 24 June 2011) and Safonov (23 June 2011). 65 Author’s interviews with Mikhail Kushakov (the vice-rector of the Transnistrian State University, Tiraspol, 22 June 2011), Kuzovlev (24 June

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Because of treating relations with the West as a necessary evil, Transnistria rather did not advance its own proposals or initiatives, but only reacted to the Western actors’ policy. Importantly, the Smirnov regime restricted and selected the West’s activity on Transnistrian territory. First of all, it was against taking steps in the politico-military field which was reflected, for example, by its obstructing OSCE inspections of the Transnistrian peacekeeping contingent.66 Admittedly, Tiraspol accepted the EU proposal for the realization of socioeconomic projects in the Transnistrian region, but the Smirnov regime wanted the assistance to be granted not via Chişinău but directly to the quasistate, administered by the Transnistrian authorities, focused on select issues like healthcare and environmental matters, and finally given without any preconditions. Such restrictions were made because the Smirnov regime was afraid that the Western funding might be used to form a “pro-Western fifth column” in Transnistria and build an excessively positive image of the West among the Transnistrian population to the detriment of Transnistrian statehood, or that it could come with conditions detrimental to the quasi-state’s de facto independence.67 Additionally, the Smirnov regime did not try significantly to improve the very poor image of Transnistria in the West, where the quasi-state was perceived, for example, as an open-air Soviet museum, the black hole of Europe and a hotbed of weapons deals (to some extent not without reason). Such ignorance in Western public opinion was admitted even by the Transnistrian foreign ministry.68 If Tiraspol indeed took steps to correct this, they involved rather a primitive, Soviet-style propaganda about Transnistria as a fully democratic state inhabited by happy people, whose existence was put to risk by Mol2011), and Victor Chirilă (the executive director of The Foreign Policy Association of Moldova, Chişinău, 23 November 2011). 66 Author’s interview with a Western military diplomat Chişinău, August 2007. 67 Getmanchuk, 89–91. 68 Oleg Yelkov, “Rol’ SMI vo vneshney politike i formirovanii obraza gosudarstva v mezhdunarodnom massovom soznanii,” Diplomaticheskiy vestnik Pridnestrov’ya, no. 3 (2011): 44–48.


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dovan fascists. The weakness of this information was that it was simply not true and, for example, one trip to the region was enough to ruin this image. Conversely, anti-Western elements were used by the Smirnov regime in its internal propaganda machine. All in all, relations between Transnistria under Smirnov and the West were quite difficult. As far as Yevgeniy Shevchuk is concerned, he declares that Tiraspol not only wants to keep normal relations with the Western actors— which Smirnov intended but did not achieve—but also declares his will to develop them. He would like to establish a positive working relationship with the Western players to secure the quasi-state’s interests. When asked how he perceived the relations of Transnistria with the West, the new Transnistrian president answered: After Romania joined the European Union, the West is practically our neighbor. We are interested in good-neighborly and mutually beneficial relations with EU member states along the lines of economic cooperation. We seek assistance from equal partners in solving the human problems that have resulted from twenty years of international non-recognition. We also seek to continue our tradition of cooperation with Eastern neighbors. We want to be understood. There should not be a formula that the West is always right and Transnistria is always wrong. We want to develop a stable state that can cast off all the clichés that have arisen in recent years. We want Transnistria to be seen as a calm member of the international community.69

When he was asked about the democratic transition process after the departure of the authoritarian president Smirnov, a problem in which the West is very interested, Shevchuk replied: We do have democratic priorities. We want our partners taking part in negotiations [on the Transnistrian conflict settlement] to understand that democratic transformation should not be based on extending poverty, but on extending economic opportunities. Our economic potential has been downgraded by outside actors. We are not ask69

Schreiber’s and author’s interview with Shevchuk.

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ing for handouts. However, our citizens have a right to twenty first century standards of living, they should not face hurdles put in place by certain Moldovan politicians. EU structures were also involved in unfairly controlling our border with Ukraine. This had a serious impact on our economic opportunities.70

Shevchuk’s position regarding relations of Transnistria with the West can be complemented by Nina Shtanski, Transnistrian foreign minister. In an interview with the author, she gave a general outline of Tiraspol’s foreign policy, but much of her focus concerned Transnistria’s relations with the Western countries: We are open to dialogue with the actors involved in the process of normalization of Transnistrian-Moldovan relations. We want to be understood and heard in both the East and the West. We intend to expand our international relations and do it very actively, in contrast to the previous period. We want to be involved in the discussion on problems concerning our region issues held in international forums. We can and should be a party to the dialogue. This is needful for the people living here. It is necessary to solve many practical problems. This is necessary in order to dispel a lot of negative and far from the truth myths, which have consistently and persistently replicated about Transnistria in the Western mass media. Partly because of our isolation, we stimulated the multiplication of these lies, causing enormous damage to the image of Transnistria. This situation should be changed. We live in the twenty first century, which dictates its own conditions of interaction.71

Indeed, Transnistria has become more open, active, cooperative, and pragmatic in its contacts with the Western actors. However, Shevchuk tends to act with caution while developing relations with the West and he does not flaunt this policy internally. First, he is quite critical of the West’s activity in the region and appears also to be suspicious of its intentions. For example, he promised to ensure that projects realized 70 71

Ibid. Author’s interview with Nina Shtanski, Tiraspol, 3 March 2012.


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in the quasi-state by international actors do not have political accents aimed at destabilizing the situation in Transnistria.72 But it should be noted that this position may change with time. Already at the beginning of March 2012, Shevchuk said: “I must admit that recent meetings with representatives of the West have shown the beginnings of a pragmatic approach.”73 Second, he has to be careful not to be accused of treason of Transnistria’s interests. A portion of the Transnistrian population perceives an intensification of visits from Western representatives to the quasi-state as a sign Tiraspol’s resignation from the policy of nearing and integrating into Russia.74 Interestingly, when asked by William Schreiber and the author about relations with the West, the new Transnistrian president mentioned only the EU, which has a far better reputation in the quasi-state than another important Western actor—the US. Importantly, Western actors seem to appreciate the new Transnistrian leadership. This is certain to contribute to the development of relations between Transnistria and the West.


Yevgeniy Shevchuk, interview with Pridnestrov’ye, 15 February 2012, =3049&Itemid=1 (accessed 20 April, 2012). 73 Schreiber’s and author’s interview with Shevchuk. 74 Shevchuk, interview with Pridnestrov’ye.

8 Transnistria and Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh

Transnistria led by Igor Smirnov established close relations with the three other quasi-states from the post-Soviet area—Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh—as early as the beginning of the 1990s. The basis for cooperation was the similar ontology and nonrecognized status, as well as common interests and threats. All of these entities appeared during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, strove to be detached from their parent states and later felt endangered by them. Moreover, except for Nagorno-Karabakh which looked to Armenia, they sought close cooperation with Russia, including a desire to join or be associated with this state. Transnistria not only established bilateral relations with these entities, but was also involved in their multilateral cooperation, which was called CIS-2, referring to a play on words in the Russian language.75 This group was not institutionalized until the 2000s, when the Foreign Ministers Forum of the four quasi-states was created during a meeting in Tiraspol in 2000, and when an organization called the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations was established in 2006 by Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Nagorno-Kara75

Commonwealth of Independent States or CIS is Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudartsv or SNG in Russian, while SNG-2 stands for Sodruzhestvo Nepriznannykh Gosudarstv, what means Commonwealth of Unrecognized States. 49


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bakh only took part in some activities within the community). Both events were inspired by Russia and were triggered by an enhancement of cooperation within the pro-Western structure of GU(U)AM. It included the parent states of mentioned quasi-states—Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova (plus Ukraine and, between 1999 and 2005, Uzbekistan)—and was perceived by Moscow as a threat to its interests in the post-Soviet area. The community was supposed to contribute to “the development of the long-term strategic partnership between its members,” envisaging their comprehensive cooperation.76 One of the main goals of this structure was to help Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia reach international recognition. It can be mentioned that Valeriy Litskay from Transnistria became its executive secretary. The establishment of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations was the period of closest relationships between the quasistates from the post-Soviet area. However, quite soon—when Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were recognized by Russia in August 2008— the two of them quickly lost their interest in this organization. Tiraspol was left alone, but this did not mean that cooperation was suspended or cancelled. Mainly because of the considerable geographical distance between Transnistria and other quasi-states located in the post-Soviet area, but also due to their low economic, military, and demographic capabilities, their relationships were limited chiefly to the political dimension. It involved relatively frequent meetings at various levels, where the parties worked out common positions on foreign issues, criticized their parent states, assured themselves of mutual support, especially in case of an outside pressure, issued appeals to the international community for their recognition as states and discussed cooperation in various fields, such as the environment, tourism, etc. Addi76 Sovmestnaya Deklaratsiya o sozdanii Soobshchestva «Za demokratiyu i prava narodov», Sukhumi, Abkhazia, 14 June 2006, (accessed 20 March 2012). See also: Ustav Soobshchestva «Za demokratiyu i prava narodov», /index.php?Itemid=134&id=703&option=com_content&task=view (accessed 20 March 2012).

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tionally, there were social contacts, for example between universities, which were supported by the quasi-states’ authorities. The aim of cooperation between Transnistria and Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh was to gain some psychological and propagandistic benefits. The Transnistrian authorities and population did not wish to feel consigned to solitude as a quasi-state. They were even called “companions in misfortune” by the Smirnov regime. Cooperation could demonstrate to the Transnistrian inhabitants that Tiraspol was already functioning in a small but international community, having been recognized by a few fellow “states.” The establishment of Transnistria’s diplomatic missions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and deployment of their delegations in Tiraspol were supposedly another confirmation of this. Moreover, Transnistria’s stance could be better heard by the international community if articulated it in union with other quasi-states. Transnistria under Yevgeniy Shevchuk also appreciates the relationship with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and declares its will to keep and strengthen ties. Nina Shtanski called these entities “fraternal peoples” and added “it is not just empty words. They are people who share our purpose and problems, and our difficulties.”77 The new Transnistrian leadership has quickly and smoothly engaged in diplomatic contacts with these quasi-states. It seems that the previous cooperation between Transnistria and Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh will be continued and no significant progress in their relations should be expected. The most likely change is that Tiraspol will put an emphasis on the positive joint-actions with these quasi-states which means, for example, that it might not be eager to participate in defaming campaigns against the parent states.


Nina Shtanski, “Glavnaya tsel’ nashey vneshney politiki – dostizheniye priznaniya nezavisimosti Pridnestrov’ya,” interview with, 23 April 2012, (accessed 30 April 2012).

9 Conclusion

When Nina Shtanski, Transnistria’s foreign minister, was asked by the author how Tiraspol’s external activities changed under the rule of Yevgeniy Shevchuk, she answered: The foreign policy of Transnistria is determined by our President and, first of all, it is policy aimed at gaining the recognition of our republic and its independence. Such was the course under the former president. However, the difference lies in the approach: from confrontation and isolation to cooperation, openness and partnership.78

Although this paper challenges the thesis about the international recognition as the main goal of Transnistria, the quotation fits well with its general outline. Regardless of its leadership, the strategic aim of the quasi-state’s foreign policy is the same. Indeed, it appears that the primary aim concerning Transnistria’s status has not been changed when Igor Smirnov was replaced by Yevgeniy Shevchuk. Smirnov strove to keep the status quo—in other words to keep the de facto independence of the Transnistrian region—a policy which seems to be continued, albeit for different reasons, by Shevchuk. Moreover, the main goals of quasi-state’s policy toward international actors—Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, the Western countries and organizations, as well as Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh have also been re78

Author’s interview with Shtanski. 52

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tained, with only one exception. Transnistria’s foreign policy objectives relating to these international actors are as follows: 1. to prevent Russia from forcing Transnistria to reintegrate with Moldova and to ensure further Russian support allowing the Transnistrian region to survive as a quasi-state; 2. to ensure Ukraine’s benevolent neutrality and, when needed and possible, to have it as the Transnistrian ally in a dispute with Moldova; 3. to keep independence from the parent state and to strengthen the Transnistrian statehood; 4. to have normal relations with the West; and 5. to keep a close relationship with three quasi-states from the post-Soviet area. The mentioned exception is that Shevchuk declares his willingness to further develop contacts with the Western actors and to establish a positive working relationship. Finally, it can be added that the president is still in charge of the quasi-state’s policy, and that the core of Smirnov’s foreign ministry is still in place. Tactics are what changed in Transnistria’s foreign policy after the departure of Smirnov and arrival of Shevchuk. The quasi-state’s external policy under the new president involves far more positive elements, while Smirnov’s approach was, in short, confrontational, excessively self-interested, highly politicized, and partially isolationist in its nature. Shevchuk would like to cooperate with all interested international actors and keep pragmatic, constructive, transparent, and mutually beneficial relations with them. This also includes more active relations with the West. He speaks only high terms of Transnistria’s patron—Russia, and wants to be seen as its responsible, reasonable, and trustworthy partner. Shevchuk is also in favor of developing a good-neighborly policy toward Moldova and Ukraine, while paying attention to positive aspects of these bilateral relationships. Additionally, the new Transnistrian president strives to depoliticize relations with the parent state and generally emphasizes economic cooperation with all players, which is designed to stabilize the situation in the region.79 Crucially, this generally positive policy has already translat79 Cf. Maksim Kuzovlev, “Pridnestrov’ye: vziraya na Rossiyu, oglyadyvayas’ na Chernogoriyu,” interview with Europa Liberă, 20 February 2012,


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ed into action. However, it should be noted that the new approach does not mean that Transnistria has given up elements of conflict, namely pressure, bargaining, and criticism, predominantly in the case of its relations with Moldova and the Western actors. Equally important, Shevchuk’s policy may be no less successful than Smirnov’s activities.80 Somehow, the Soviet-style leadership of the Smirnov period has been replaced by far more modern politicians, who take a more pragmatic outlook on politics. At the same time, Shevchuk draws on the experience of the previous government. He has engaged experienced personnel from the Smirnov and his policy retains some elements of the old tactics that have been found effective. Importantly, Shevchuk’s policy is stabilizing the situation in the region. Moreover, the new Transnistrian president does not seem to be as entrenched as Smirnov once was, where the Transnistrian conflict settlement is concerned. This may contribute to some progress in the negotiations between the conflicting parties—Moldova and Transnistria. Moreover, as a pragmatic politician amenable to rational arguments, Shevchuk may even modify his strategic goals concerning the Transnistrian region’s status.81 However, it is important not to underestimate Shevchuk’s abilities to act as a tough negotiator in defending Transnistria’s interests. (accessed 21 February 2012). 80 Cf. Dmitriy Soin and Vyacheslav Sirik, “Nuzhna li modernizatsiya vneshney politiki PMR?”, 22 January 2011, (accessed 7 June 2011). 81 Cf. Eugen Revenco, “Tiraspol’-Kishinev: Pochva dlya dialoga est’, shagov konkretnykh net,” interview with Europa Liberă, 13 February 2012, (accessed 20 February 2012); Vlad Socor, “Too Early For A Political Investment In Transnistria’s Shevchuk,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 9 March 2012, http://www.jamestown .org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39117&cHash=5b1e5901a83 ad0aeb1bfead02cecf6e9 (accessed 10 March 2012).

About the Author

Marcin Kosienkowski, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Institute of Political Science of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. His research focuses on the post-Soviet area, mainly Moldova and its breakaway region of Transnistria. Kosienkowski is co-editor (with William Schreiber) and author of Moldova: Arena of International Influences (Lexington Books, 2012) and the author of The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic: Survival Determinants [Polish] (Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, 2010). e-mail: [email protected]


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