Aug 12, 2008 | 16:58 GMT

2 mins read

Moldova: Transdniestria Grows Bolder

The government of Moldova's pro-Russian secessionist province Transdniestria has frozen all contact with the Moldovan government, Russian news agency Interfax reported Aug. 12. The statement from Transdniestria's government said the reasons behind the breaking off of relations are the Moldovan government's support for Georgia in its recent conflict with Russia, and Moldovan government officials' failure to attend a scheduled meeting on economic cooperation with their Transdniestrian counterparts. Transdniestria became de facto independent during a brief but bloody conflict in 1992. The Russian minority in Transdniestria felt that its rights would not be guaranteed by a new, ethnically Moldovan state and began waging a separatist war. Moscow eventually got involved, siding with the Russian minority in Transdniestria, and elements of the Russian 14th Army — originally headquartered in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau during the Cold War — acted on their own to support the separatists. Transdniestria has been seriously emboldened by the Russian intervention in Georgia. Nestled between Moldova proper to the west and Ukraine to the east, and with no access to the Black Sea, Transdniestria is far away from Russia, its main backer and security guarantor. Russia maintains a contingent of 1,200 troops there, leftovers from the once massive 14th Army. However, the encirclement of Transdniestria by Western-leaning powers was completed when Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution brought pro-Western politicians to power in Kiev. Russia's willingness to actually use force, as it has done in Georgia on behalf of South Ossetia, reaffirms Transdniestria's belief that Russia will not abandon it despite the geographic distance between them. With Russian "peacekeepers," as Moscow calls them, present in Transdniestria, Moldova — and its potential allies Romania and Ukraine — will think twice about attempting to change the mainly Russian-speaking Transdniestria's status quo. The reasoning goes that if Russia invaded Georgia for South Ossetia, it could take similar action to protect Transdniestria's de facto independence. This new security reality will change the calculus of Transdniestria, emboldening it in any future negotiations with the Moldovan government (assuming it stops shunning such talks in the first place). In short, the Transdniestrians feel that, with the events in Georgia, the tide has turned in favor of the Kremlin's client regions.

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