Lost letters. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“In fact, President Maia Sandu’s behavior towards the Transnistrian settlement should be extremely conservative and precautious and based on the classical formula “be a little patient”...”

There is no one who could write to the colonel?

In the recent past, the separatist Transnistrian region’s administration repeatedly insisted on negotiations at the upper level based on the principles of the peaceful political settlement of the conflict between the Republic of Moldova and the Moldovan Nistrean Republic. The last letter addressed by the separatist leader, Vadim Krasnoselsky, dates from the middle of August 2022. In total, in November 2020 – August 2022, the President of the Republic of Moldova, was addressed eight letters of the kind, which Maia Sandu avoids answering. Such behavior by the President irritated the separatist leaders who invoked the lack of capacity to negotiate and the accumulation of unaddressed problems.

In the mentioned context, the key question is, what do the separatist leaders want to negotiate at the upper level? The answer to this question can be deduced from the August 31 meeting of Krasnoselsky and journalists from Transnistria in which they discussed the deterioration of the political and socioeconomic situation in the separatist region due to:

  • the rupture in the commercial and economic relations with Ukraine and of the logistical chains in the trade with Russia, caused by the Russian military aggression;
  • the existence of unsolved problems in the banking-financial sector owing to which the commercial relations with the main commercial  partner of Transnistria – the European Union (EU) – cannot be strengthened;
  • the interruption of the Transnistrian settlement talks in the 5+2 format owing to the aggression by a guarantor and mediator in the Transfusion settlement against another guarantor and mediator;
  • the non-observance by the Republic of Moldova of over 200 agreements  negotiated with Transnistria;
  • the danger to the peace and security in the region amid the war in Ukraine and following eight terrorist incidents that occurred in Transnistria etc.

In fact, the separatist leader admitted that he is waiting for answers, but found himself in the situation in which there is no one who could answer to him. He confirmed that it is the right of President Maia Sandu to answer his messages or not given the existence of an ideological discrepancy. According to Krasnoselsky, Chisinau and Tiraspol share different ideologies that form contrary attitudes towards the heroes. In Transnistria, heroes are those who defended, while in Moldova, heroes are those who attacked. This is an interesting conclusion. Its solidity can be subject to the consistency test. For example, in the first Chechen war, the Russian constitutional forces attacked, while the Chechens defended themselves. So, who are the heroes? Currently, in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war, if the separatist leaders are consistent, they should consider the Ukrainians who defend their homeland as heroes and should eventually accept the greeting formula – Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes! In fact, it is useless to prove evident things - that the ideology of the separatists is inane.

At the request of the press of the Republic of Moldova, President Maia Sandu had to publicly present her stance on separatist leaders’ demands to negotiate at the upper level. The following things can be deduced from the responses provided by her and by other officials:

  • President Maia Sandu does not have counterparts with whom to negotiate at the upper level in Transnistria;
  • the official negations are held in the 5+2 format and a dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol to solve different problems is ensured constantly, with the involvement of the chief negotiators of the sides and within working groups, exactly as the signed documents stipulate;
  • the Republic of Moldova is interested in settling the Transnistrian conflict by exclusively peaceful methods;
  • the Republic of Moldova rejects the threats against it and insists on the observance by the Russian Federation of the undertaken commitments concerning the withdrawal of its military troops from Transnistria as part of the Transnistrian settlement etc.

In the aforementioned circumstances, the separatist leaders’ insistence to negotiate at the upper level was a priori aimed at obtaining a negative response so as to have pretexts for making threats – those who oppose the negotiations can face armed confrontations – the allusion being made to the war in Ukraine. It is here appropriate to remind the separatist leaders that:

  • the separatist administration was the one that during six years, in 2006-2012, had blocked the Transnistrian conflict settlement talks in the 5+2 format;
  • after the talks in the 5+2 format were resumed on April 18, 2012, the separatist leaders constantly refused to discuss the third basketpolitical settlement of the conflict;   
  • in the Republic of Moldova, there is political consensus among all the political parties represented in Parliament, this being confirmed by the adoption of the law on the special legal status of the localities from the left side of the Nistru by the votes of all the MPs;
  • the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova clearly provides that the country’s territory is inalienable, while the unitary character of the state can be modified by a constitutional referendum by a majority of votes of the citizens with the right to vote.

Evidently, in such circumstances, separatist leaders’ calls to have negotiations at the upper level are media smokescreens, especially amid their insistence over the really pursued goal – joining of Transnistria to Russia

Problem of counterpart for separatist leader

In fact, we should admit that the separatist Transnistrian leaders are somehow right when they insist on negotiations at the upper level with the President of the Republic of Moldova. It goes to the reflexes that were developed in them by ex-President Igor Dodon. The latter used to welcome Krasnoselsky at official residencies and to treat him as an equal counterpart, naming him President. So, not accidentally the separatist leader has reflexes that now can justify his pretensions to seek negotiations at the upper level from President Maia Sandu too.

Why did it happen so? Probably because ex-President Igor Dodon had been dependent on the money of Gazprom for financing the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), by $700,000-800,000 a month. He is now investigated over this. Moreover, the dependence on Russian support was so great that ex-President Dodon started to consider the separatist leader as being superior to him after his term in office expired. This fact was confirmed when he asked Krasnoselsky for permission to visit Transnistria. Anyway, it is well known that ex-President Dodon has served for a long period of time as a local leader of the Russian imperial movement and this status developed his reflexes of counterpart with the separatist leader Krasnoselsky.

The pinnacle is that the reflexes based on pecuniary interests are so strong that ex-President Igor Dodon insists that incumbent President Maia Sandu should follow his example in the eventual relations with the separatist leader by responding affirmatively to the calls to negotiate at the upper level. For now, President Maia Sandu ignores the reflexes of the ex-President Dodon and the separatist leader.  

Absence of counterpart for owner of Transnistria – oligarch Victor Gușan

There is one more problem that makes President Maia Sandu not respond to the separatist leaders’ requests to negotiate at the upper level. The point is the latter is not independent in his actions. Krasnoselsky is twice dependent. On the one hand, he is dependent on the Russian administration that ensures political and military support for him. On the other hand, he is dependent on the real owner of Transnistria – oligarch Victor Gușan, who monopolized almost the whole economy of the separatist region.

It became evident that the separatist leader is dependent on the will of oligarch Gușan in 2018, when the problems in the relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol were solved at the upper level without the involvement of Dodon and Krasnoselsky, by the executive coordinator Vlad Plahotniuc, on the one side, and by oligarch Victor Gușan, on the other side. This was revealed by the ex-Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Adrian Candu, who explained the prompt success obtained in the talks of Tiraspol with Chisinau without the involvement of the two counterparts and negotiators in the 5+2 format.

Currently, the big problem is that Krasnoselsky continues to be dependent on oligarch Gușan, while Dodon is dependent only on the public revelations of Vlad Plahotniuc about the dependence of ex-President Dodon and on Russian political circles’ instructions to federalize the Republic of Moldova. After Plahotniuc fled the country in June 2019, the Transnistrian oligarch Victor Gușan also remained without a counterpart in Chisinau, as Krasnoselsky remained without his counterpart Dodon. A part of the blockages in the Transnistrian settlement talks derive from here.

Be a little patient... 

The eight letters of the separatist Transnistrian leader most probably got lost in bureaucratic drawers. As it was noted, this is because the author of the letters does not have an appropriate counterpart in Chisinau, while oligarch Gușan remained without a counterpart in 2019. There is one more delicate aspect. The separatist Transnistrian regime has been supported by Moscow, which recently started to base its policy of negotiations on the formula: real men do what they say! Therefore, President Maia Sandu has a big handicap. She cannot fall into the category of real men, as ex-President Dodon did.  

However, President Maia Sandu should do at least something to convince the citizens that she is preoccupied with the Transnistrian settlement. We realize that she is very busy, primarily with the problem of inflation that is breaking all records. But at least the inflation concerning the number of letters received from the separatist leader can be solved by the simple publication of these. This way the citizens can see what the separatist leaders really want, especially because Krasnoselsky insists that the documents sent to the President are also intended for the general public.

In fact, President Maia Sandu’s behavior towards the Transnistrian settlement should be extremely conservative and precautious and based on the classical formula “be a little patientso as to clarify a series of important things like: a) how the war between the two guarantors and mediators in the Transnistrian conflict – Russia as the aggressor and Ukraine as the aggressed state – will end; b) who the winner will be and what consequences the war will have for the security of the Republic of Moldova; what benefits the aggressor will enjoy; c) the acceptance of an aggressor recognized as such as a peacekeeper, guarantor and mediator in the Transnistrian conflict that it generated itself; d) if the post-conflict conjuncture will be favorable for resolving the Transnistrian dispute based on the constitutional framework of the Republic of Moldova etc. Only after we have responses to such questions, the resumption of negotiations can become opportune.

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