Presumptive peace in Ukraine and prospect for Moldova. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



The future agreement on peace in Ukraine will not only lead to the de-escalation of the international situation, but will also create new risks and challenges for the Republic of Moldova, for which the preservation of the status quo in the Transnistrian conflict is equivalent to further anchoring of the Moldovan state in Russia’s sphere of influence...


Anatol Țăranu

More than two years after Russia started the war in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have died, over a million have been injured, over six million have become refugees. The war damage in Ukraine already amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars and none of the sides fighting in Ukraine is closer to victory. It is obvious that Russia will not achieve its imperialist goal of conquering Ukraine, given that it is equally unlikely that Ukraine will regain full control of the territory occupied by Russia in the near future. Sooner or later, both sides will have to agree to a ceasefire and start negotiations on a peace agreement.

Two points of view on peace

A peace agreement, even a shaky one, is a prospect awaited by many people, including Ukraine’s friends and sympathizers in the West. Western society can hardly bear the complications caused by the war and is inclined, on consistent segments of, it to accept a peace with concessions, including territorial ones by Ukraine. They are counting on the effects of a peace agreement that will not only reduce the number of deaths and victims of the war, but will also stop the enormous expenses associated with the war, which led to a particular deterioration in the standard of living in Europe, which is solidary with Ukraine. It is believed that a peace agreement will eventually make Ukraine stronger with the help of allies, allowing it to better defend itself and its democracy in the future. And most importantly, for Westerners, reducing the likelihood of a dangerous escalation of the conflict to nuclear war takes precedence over other priorities.

It is true that many say the concessions that Ukraine will have to make for a peace agreement are equivalent to the encouragement of the Russian aggressor and will make it insist on its intentions to continue the territorial expansion. At least, the latest peace initiatives launched by Putin, through which he practically demands the surrender of Ukraine, speak in favor of this deduction about the imminence of Moscow’s course of imperialist revenge. But despite the Russian leader’s bellicose rhetoric, Moscow has failed in more than two years of war to achieve its initial military objectives and will have to make significant concessions in any peace agreement signed with Ukraine. And the interruption of the war will allow Kyiv to rearm and integrate more deeply into Europe and the West, which will effectively strengthen its ability to fight back against the Russian Federation in the future.

Massive support, but without the main clause

At the peace conference in Switzerland last weekend, Ukraine managed to mobilize diplomatic support for its defense of an impressive number of states, as well as to test the opportunity to start a dialogue with Russia in order to obtain a peace agreement. However, the final communiqué of the summit was supported by only 80 countries out of 92 participants as 12 states did not sign the declaration. Among the latter are the states of the Global South and BRICS members. China decided not to participate in the event at all. Later, two states withdrew their signatures from the document agreed at the summit.

According to the text of the declaration, the participants in the summit reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state, including Ukraine, within the internationally recognized borders, as well as the principles of peaceful resolution of conflicts. The States and organizations that signed the communiqué expressed their readiness to work towards achieving these goals, but stressed that “reaching peace requires the involvement of and dialogue between all parties. We, therefore, decided to undertake concrete steps in the future in the above-mentioned areas with further engagement of the representatives of all parties,” the document reads. However, experts drew attention to the fact that this communiqué does not contain a principled clause in Vladimir Zelensky’s peace formula on the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine.

Better a bad peace than...?

At the press conference held immediately after the summit, Ukrainian President Zelensky announced Kyiv’s intention to hold a new international meeting on the issue of peace in Ukraine in the coming months, this time not ruling out Moscow’s participation in the next summit and noting that the presence of the Russian Federation will mean that “they want peace and are ready to end the war”. Beyond the categorical rhetoric of Moscow and Kiev, the prospect of both capitals to start a diplomatic dialogue on reaching a peace agreement is evident. At this stage, no one can realize what concessions the parties to the conflict will have to make in order to have peace, but more and more people are of the opinion that compared to an endless war that consumes lives and resources at an alarming rate, even an imperfect settlement would be better.

It is obvious that Ukraine cannot give up its rights to the territories occupied by the Russian army. But for lasting ceasefire, it may have to accept that Russia has control, but not sovereignty over parts of four Ukrainian regions, Sevastopol and Crimea, and Kyiv stops military actions to return the territories occupied by the Russian army. This would be a difficult and painful concession, but in exchange for it the Russian Federation will have to sign a renunciation of further attacks on Ukraine. In this way, Kiev will apply the tactic of waiting for the opportunity when Moscow overturns the imperialist political line and then the Ukrainians will regain their territories, as Germany did in 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification.

Possible provisions of a possible peace agreement

It is very likely that the price of the peace agreement will also include Ukraine’s commitment to interrupt the process of joining NATO, at least for a period of several years.  To make the peace deal more acceptable to Russia, it could be offered a relaxation of sanctions. Russia could trade its oil and gas at market prices again, but Western countries could create mechanisms to immediately reimpose sanctions if Russia violates the agreement. Russia would once again have access to gold reserves and to the foreign exchange reserves seized by the West.

After the signing of the peace agreement, the security guarantees for Ukraine could be provided collectively by the great powers, this time with accurate description of the mechanisms for their implementation. These guarantees can also be supported on the basis of bilateral agreements to support Ukraine’s security with individual NATO members - something that has already begun to be done, for example, the bilateral agreements signed by Ukraine with France, Germany, the UK, etc. Future security safeguards should include strict provisions on the supply of weapons and information to Ukraine and help prevent cyberattacks against it. But Ukraine’s allies will not be allowed to establish military bases on Ukrainian territory.

It is very likely that the future agreement on peace in Ukraine will include clauses regarding the Republic of Moldova. First of all, the situation regarding the Transnistrian separatist area in which Moscow’s interest indicates the preservation of the status quo ante bellum could be codified. And this already means keeping in Moscow’s hands an effective lever for influencing Chisinau’s policy for many years to come. A real danger that Chisinau is obliged to anticipate from now on.

In the same way, the government in Chisinau in political planning must start from the perspective of changing the EU requirements in relation to the conditions imposed on accession candidates in the post-war period. The agreement on peace in Ukraine will most likely lead to the tightening of Brussels'’requirements regarding the quality and depth of European reforms in the Republic of Moldova, which will call into question the reaching of the threshold of accession to the EU in 2030. 

The future agreement on peace in Ukraine will not only lead to the de-escalation of the international situation, but will also create new risks and challenges for the Republic of Moldova, for which the preservation of the status quo in the Transnistrian conflict is equivalent to further anchoring of the Moldovan state in Russia’s sphere of influence. To counter this danger, Chisinau needs a well-thought-out strategy on the Transnistrian problem, applicable to the post-war period, a strategy agreed and adjusted through diplomatic channels with Western partners. Only under these conditions, in the perspective of the pacification of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova will feel protected and sure that it effectively detached itself from Moscow’s imperialist revenge. 

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

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.

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