In November 2023, it was 20 years of the failure of the so-called Kozak Memorandum – a plan for settling the Transnistrian conflict by creating an asymmetric federation on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. This plan was conceived in the summer-autumn of 2003 after the then President Voronin at the beginning of the year, without informing other intermediaries in the conflict settlement process, requested Russia to work out a new plan for resolving the Transnistrian dispute. The Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted swiftly to this request formulated by the Moldovan leader, delegating Dmitri Kozak, first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Executive Office of Russia, to think up the plan asked by Voronin in coordination with Chisinau and Tiraspol.
Voronin chooses between OSCE and Russia
For the first time, the idea of settling the conflict through the federalization method appeared at a gathering of experts which was initiated by the OSCE and was held in Kyiv in July 2002. However, as it turned out, there was no solid consensus between the mediators on this issue. But the OSCE’s initiative concerning the federalization of Moldova, which was to be debated broadly and transparently by the mediators, was replaced by another settlement project, which is known as the Kozak Memorandum. This document was a pure creation of the Russian diplomatic service and was conceived bypassing the international negotiation format that included five parties.
In his call to Russia to design a new plan for resolving the Transnistrian conflict, President Voronin concentrated his political prejudice and naïve faith in the almost “messianic” mission of Moscow in the Transnistrian settlement. This was an initiative built on the false interpretation of the geopolitical situation around Moldova and the method of overcoming the Transnistrian crisis. This initiative was also based on the whole range of erroneous views of the Party of Communist’s government on the real causes of the Transnistrian conflict and the ways of settling this. During the years that followed, the Republic of Moldova paid a high price for those mistakes made by the Communist administration in the practical approach to the Transnistrian settlement process.
Asymmetric federation hatched in secret
Under the Kozak Memorandum, the Republic of Moldova was to be turned into an asymmetric federation consisting of three subjects – Chisinau, Tiraspol and Comrat. The Kremlin was to assume political responsibility for this project by excluding any consultation with other international players. Through this, Moscow impudently dodged the international Transnistrian settlement format, aiming to transform Moldova into a banana republic that would be fully dependent on Russia. The dependence was to be ensured by the Memorandum’s provisions saying that a bicameral parliament was to be created, with an inferior chamber elected based on the proportional representation system. All the laws were yet to be endorsed by the senate whose representation was disproportionate to the representation of the population at the local level: 13 senators elected by the inferior federal chamber, 9 – by Transnistria and 4 – by Gagauzia. According to the census taken in 2004, 14% of the republic’s population lived in Transnistria and less than 4% of the population lived in Gagauzia. As a bonus, the Russian troops were to stay on Moldova’s territory for another 20 years, until 2023.
The text of the Memorandum was compiled in secret, without any debate on its main stipulations in society. When a version of the Memorandum became known to the public on November 15, 2003, Vladimir Voronin said the document provided a realistic, compromise scheme for overcoming the territorial, political and economic division of the country... “History offers us a unique chance. If we think about our country and its future, we must overcome the narrow party interests,” he told the press.
Protests with “Voronin, a traitor” slogans
The official signing of the Memorandum was planned for November 25, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Chisinau. One day earlier, two Russian planes of the Presidential Office with teams and devices to secure President Putin’s visit landed at the airport in Chisinau. This showed that Voronin really intended to sign the document that was initialed by him beforehand. An act of national treason was being hatched up behind the people’s back with the most unfavorable consequences for the Republic of Moldova and its citizens.
But the plan to subjugate the Republic of Moldova by federalizing the state according to Moscow’s pattern that was so meticulously prepared by its authors unexpectedly failed. Immediately after the intention to sign the Memorandum during Putin’s visit to Chisinau became known, eight parliamentary and extraparliamentary parties created the Committee for the Protection of Independence and the Constitution. The opposition leaders accused the Communist government of designing the document in secret, without discussing it in public, with the citizens, and that this represented the interests of Russia, not of the Republic of Moldova. On November 24, one day before the Russian President’s planned visit, the opposition coordinated by the Committee for the Protection of Independence and the Constitution mounted a large-scale protest in front of the Presidential Palace where the participants burned portraits of Putin and Russia’s flag and chanted “Voronin, a traitor”. By the statement issued by the Committee, Voronin was warned that if the Memorandum imposed by Russia was signed, his immediate resignation would be demanded and snap parliamentary elections would be called.
Putin doesn’t forgive
At a distance of 20 years of those events, more details became known, shedding light on such aspects as the mobilization of the opposition’s protest and of the international factor in thwarting the signing of the Memorandum. Recently, the known Moldovan diplomat Mihai Gribincea revealed how he at that time was informed by another Moldovan diplomat, Vlad Lupan, who, working to prepare Putin’s visit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sounded the alarm about the document that was initialed and prepared for signing and that not only federalized Moldova, but also contained an article that legitimized the presence of the Russian troops on Moldova’s territory until 2020. Serving then as an Adviser to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities at the Hague, Gribincea passed on the received information to the opposition in Chisinau, simultaneously notifying opinion leaders from the West, like political pundit Vlad Socor, about Moscow’s intention to exclude the Western factor from Moldovan politics.
Ultimately, the Moldovan diplomats’ warning had an effect. The concerted effort of the opposition’s protest and the Western diplomatic service made Voronin to resort to one of the most scandalous political decisions in his political career. At 2 a.m. on November 25, several hours before the start of Putin’s official visit to Chisinau, Voronin informed the Russian leader about the deferment of the visit, arguing that the Moldovan side refused to sign the Memorandum. It was a humiliating gesture for the Russian President who was at the start of his career of international political leader. The humiliation and frustration experienced by the Russian President in the relationship with his Moldovan counterpart in the case of the Kozak Memorandum materialized during the next few years in economic bans imposed by the Russian Federation on the Republic of Moldova.
During the past 20 years, Moscow not only once tried to revitalize its plan to subjugate the Republic of Moldova by imposing the principle of federalization as a solution to the Transnistrian conflict. Among the most infamous cases is the corrupting of ex-President Dodon, who, by order of Moscow, intended to de-facto federalize the Republic of Moldova, shrewdly proposing, as a ham actor, avoiding the use of the term ‘federation’ in the document that claimed to be a new plan for settling the Transnistrian conflict. But once it was thwarted 20 years ago, the plan for federalizing-subjugating the Republic of Moldova by Moscow to the imperial revenge has few chances of being implemented. Instead, any attempt on the part of Moldovan politicians to promote the idea of federalization as a solution to the secessionist conflict definitely points to involvement in a project to betray the national interest. It is important that each citizen of the Republic of Moldova acknowledge this truth as this will be the safest cushion on the path of the imperial revenge.
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.