Former ambassador weighs in on NATO’s request to withdraw Russian troops from Moldova

NATO’s letter to Russia on “security guarantees in Europe” calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova, as well as from Georgia and Ukraine, where “they are deployed without the consent of the state of residence”, notes Mihai Gribincea, former ambassador of Moldova to Romania, in a post on Facebook. Gribincea anticipates that “Russia will probably respond to NATO, without any shame as it did earlier, that Russian troops in Moldova are ‘peacekeepers’ and are stationed in Transnistria legally”.

“To refresh (Russian foreign minister) Lavrov’s memory”, the Moldovan diplomat posted two documents on the subject of Russian troops in Moldova drafted by the Russian and Moldovan foreign ministries in 2013. The Russian one, entitled “Памятная записка о правовой основе пребывания российских войск в Приднестровском регионе Республики Молдова” (Memorandum on the legal basis Russian troops’ stationing in the Transnistrian region of Moldova), was presented to Natalia Gherman, Moldova’s foreign minster at the time, during her visit to Moscow in July 2013.

The Moldovan response was handed over to Russia in early October of that year. “Even if the Ministry tried to not upset the Russians by addressing the issue of Russian troops stationed in the Transnistrian region, the arguments brought by the Moldovan side clearly demonstrated the illegality of Russian troops within Moldovan territory,” said Mihai Gribincea.

The latter document states that Russia expressed its “principal readiness” to withdraw its army from the Republic of Moldova in the Russian-Moldovan agreement of July 21, 1992. This readiness was subsequently confirmed during the 1994, 1996, 1998 negotiations, in several OSCE documents. At the 1999 OSCE Summit in Istanbul, a Declaration was adopted stating: “We welcome the commitment of the Russian Federation to withdraw Russian forces from the territory of Moldova by the end of 2002.” Although some troops and ammunition were withdrawn in 2001-2004, to date the process has not been completed.

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