The Russian-Ukrainian war continues as Putin’s idea of blitzkrieg failed. Ukraine chose not to be an easy target for the Russian army. The strategy to annihilate the Ukrainian command centers, destroy the aviation and air defense and swiftly occupy the large cities during the first days of the Russian invasion and to ultimately replace the country’s administration with one loyal to the Kremlin was thwarted by the Ukrainians heroism. The Russian army that is so much eulogized by the official propaganda of Moscow in reality does not cope with a war of advanced military technology, suffers from low morale and is good only for shelling residential areas in Ukrainian cities, which can be classed as war crime.
Russia’s blitzkrieg in Ukraine turned into a war of attrition. But this does not mean that Putin is ready to concede, while the escalating complications of the invasion, as many experts consider, make him even more unpredictable in his reactions. On the contrary, the Russian leader who has autocratic power can no longer back down. Therefore, he is pressed to show real accomplishments before public opinion in Russia while the war is becoming more difficult and the losses are growing. Putin’s political destiny is at stake in the war in Ukraine. So, any scenario to pacify Ukraine will definitely be a very difficult one and it is impossible to anticipate all its details at the moment.
Peace negotiations under a number of scenarios
However, any war ends with a peace agreement. The military hostilities for now go on and hundreds, if not thousands of civilians and soldiers die daily in the war in Ukraine. But the diplomats already started to shape the conditions of the peace treaty. The first diplomatic contacts took place recently. The Ukrainian side announced that the negotiations take place nonstop through videoconferencing and the working groups function permanently in parallel. After the meeting of the Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the press exposed particular details of a “final” offer of Moscow to put an end to the crisis, which the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky was to accept or reject. The same sources said Russians’ proposals are considered “difficult”, but not “impossible” for the Ukrainian side.
At the same time, other sources said the real negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are much more consistent than what is reported. Kyiv keeps secret a number of details from the talks as it does not want to soften the sharpness of the global perception of the situation. In reality, the Ukrainian officials realize very well the real pretentions of Putin and know that a dramatic decision will be needed for a ceasefire. These expectations are fueled by Putin’s address to the administration in Kyiv with the warning that Ukraine could lose sovereignty if it continues the war. Simultaneously, the Russian president, in his public speeches, presents an optimistic version of the invasion of Ukraine to the Russian audience, suggesting that everything goes according to plan and threatening with a military riposte against any of the Western nations that will create a no-fly zone, saying such an action will be “immediately” considered waging of war on Russia.
We are witnessing a new Cold War?
At the moment, all the people make predictions about Ukraine’s capacity to retaliate against the Russian invasion and about the Russian army’s capacity to continue the war at high intensity. Meanwhile, the price paid by Ukraine is enormous. Many Ukrainian cities are turning into the ruined Groznyy of 2000. The victims of the war total tens of millions, while the number of refugees amounts to millions. Russia, whose economy is affected by the unfavorable consequences of the international sanctions, while society is shocked by the rising flow of graves of soldiers killed in war, has all the reasons to look for a diplomatic way out of the war crisis.
Objectively, the situation in Ukraine evolves towards a peace solution. But the problem is how swiftly and in what conditions the peace will be agreed. Western experts believe the attack on Ukraine ordered by Putin shook the bases of the old world order and we are witnessing the start of a new Cold War. It is suggested that the front line is moving toward the Eastern border of Latvia, Lithuania Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Romania. As regards the way in which “the face of Europe” will look like from now on, nobody risks formulating an unambiguous answer as there are too many variables. First of all, it depends on what will happen in Ukraine. If Kyiv yields, the government of Ukraine would be eventually moved to Lvov, with a truncated territory and a population that would be very hostile to Russia. For the Republic of Moldova, it is vital for Ukraine to keep control over Odessa, excluding this way the intersection of the Russian army with Transnistria.
“In a world full of meat-eaters, vegetarians have a tough time”
Another peace variant debated in the press is the assumption by Ukraine of the status of neutral country with the recognition of the loss of control over Crimea and Donbas. Burt the implementation of this scenario means that the world organized by the principle of observance of the rules-based international order is nothing but empty rhetoric. Putin’s policy imposes another behavioral view on the international conception, which derives from the Hard Power arguments that can impose new rules of organization of the interstate relations. Again in a trenchant way, they resort to the old historical practices that are so unpleasant for the small and non-influential international players that consider those who adopt the Hard Power approach ultimately write the rules of the big game. Under this new world order for the players like the Republic of Moldova, a metaforized opinion of a former German minister of foreign affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, has a special meaning. He said that “in a world full of meat-eaters, vegetarians have a tough time”.
“Lukashenko’s arrow” reappears in notes of intelligence services
Recently, the Western press published parts of a note of the intelligence services of a NATO member state. The note said that the Russian offensive is expected to be stepped up in the theaters of war in the near future and the Ukrainian forces may be unable to resist a long confrontation. The note also says that after Ukraine, Russia could try and attack another state of the post-Soviet space. The note authors drew attention to the fact that in the absence of direct military intervention against Russia, the NATO member states could come out of this crisis weakened, while Vladimir Putin, who tested his limits by the invasion of Ukraine, saw that he is not confronted by direct resistance on the part of NATO and, after Ukraine, could try and attack other nations, like Georgia, Moldova or the Baltic states within a year.
Amid the Russian-Ukrainian war, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Chisinau and spoke about a special status for Transnistria as part of the Republic of Moldova following reports that Moscow could apply a scenario similar to that in Donbas, which preceded the invasion of Ukraine, with the assistance of the separatists from Transnistria. Simultaneously, the separatists from Tiraspol asked to be recognized as an independent state. This fueled the suppositions of commentators, who believe that the Transnistria region could be used as a support base in the invasion of Ukraine. On March 15 this year, in the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, it was adopted a resolution on the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which provides for Russia’s exclusion from the Council of Europe and calls for an immediate halt to the hostilities, including the withdrawal of the military forces from all over Ukraine.
International changes concerning legal status of Transnistrian region
This resolution was adopted with an amendment tabled by 20 MPs of Romania, Ukraine, France, Estonia, the UK, and Georgia, which recognized the occupation by Russia of the Transnistrian region. The PACE resolution clarifies the current legal status of Transnistria as part of the Republic of Moldova, recognizing this as an area occupied by the Russian Federation. The Nistru war of 1992 was a Moldovan-Russian war that was based on the same fundamental causes as the current Russian-Ukrainian was – restoration of the geopolitical domination of the Kremlin over the post-Soviet area. So, the signing of a peace treaty between Moscow and Kiev will have, by the extension of the precedent factor, clear repercussions for the Republic of Moldova, influencing both the general security level of the Moldovan state and the prospects of solving the secessionist conflict on the left side of the Nistru.
Political opportunism as solution in times of war
Amid the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, the official Chisinau occupied a distinct position of condemnation of the war and of support for the territorial integrity of the neighboring state. At the same time, the attitude of Chisinau in the period showed excessive prudence for not irritating Moscow and not giving reasons for the escalation of the military danger in Transnistria. This can explain the non-subscribing by the Republic of Moldova to the international program of sanctions against Moscow and such a move bothered Kiev. Therefore, in the future peace solution for Ukraine, the political and diplomatic position of Chisinau looks ambiguous and without the necessary dose of involvement.
In the opinion of Francis Fukuyama, renowned American political scientist and political economist, there is no diplomatic solution to the war and there is no conceivable compromise that would be acceptable to both Russia and Ukraine given the losses they have taken at this point. As a compromise is impossible, if the future peace is dictated by Russia, Moscow will ignore the ambiguous attitude of Chisinau to this war and will break all the Transnistrian pots against the heads of the “prudent ones” from the banks of the Byk. Otherwise, if the peace is concluded by observing the legitimate rights of Ukraine, a question will appear as to the rationality of Chisinau banking on the assistance of Kyiv, with predictable sacrifices, in settling the Transnistrian conflict. The truth about the political opportunism as a bad solution in times of crisis of history is confirmed again and again. But Chisinau still has time to secure an honorable position in the future new construct of the European security, which will be inevitably designed after the end of the war in Ukraine.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.