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article imageOp-Ed: Is Transnistria the next Crimea?

By Ken Hanly     Mar 24, 2014 in Politics
Tiraspol - The press and pundits seem anxious to predict places that Russia will go next. Will it be eastern Ukraine, or even to Transnistria, which is officially part of the Moldova Republic.
Transnistria is along the western border of Ukraine and is a portion of the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova. Officially it is governed as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR). It has other names as well including Transdniestria. The Republic declared its independence in 1990 and after a war with Moldova in 1992 there was a ceasefire with an international agreement with a Joint Control Commission that has been in place ever since: In 1998, the commission was enlarged by the addition of 10 Ukrainian military observers. Moreover, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also has a Transnistria-based observation mission and participates in all JCC meetings. The current peacekeeping mechanism is a multi-state mission equipped with an international mandate, which began deployment on 29 July 1992.[1]
Of the three original sides supplying troops, Russia has traditionally provided the most, with Moldova second and the smallest contingent provided by Transnistria[clarification needed]. As of 2006, however, each of Moldova and the PMR participate with slightly more soldiers than Russia: Moldova currently supplies 403 men to the force, the PMR 411 men and Russia up to 385 men.[2]
As part of the agreement Russia has the right to keep 2,400 troops in Transnistria.
Several sources have headlines that claim that Transnistria could become the next Crimea including the UK Channel4.com news. If you look at the map at this article you will see that Transnistria is a narrow strip of territory in Moldavia along the western border of Ukraine. Russia borders the eastern border of Ukraine.
Yet US Air Force General Philip Breedlove NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe warns about what he terms a large build up of Russian forces on the eastern borders of Ukraine. Breedlove told a think tank in Germany: "There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Trans-Dniester if the decision was made to do that. That is very worrisome,"
Perhaps Breedlove does not know that there can already be up to 2,400 Russian troops in Transnistria or PMR or that it has been independent for over two decades, unlike the Crimea. It has its own flag with the Hammer and Sickle, its own currency and its own police force — even its own passports. It is hardly like the Crimea which until recently was part of the Ukraine but with some autonomy. There has also been an international joint commission in Transnistria since 2002. The OSCE monitors have been there long enough to retire unlike Crimea where they never got in.
There is no need for a referendum in Transnistria. It had a referendum in 2006 with 97 per cent voting to join Russia. Yet Russia does not officially recognize Transnistria. The European Court of Human Rights already considers Transnistria "under the effective authority or at least decisive influence of Russia." Why on earth would the Russians rush their forces clear across the Ukraine from the west to the east borders just to enter Transnistria when they already effectively control it? Perhaps they might decide to recognize it as an independent nation but over the last 20 years it has not even moved to do that. It does not seem much of a priority. At the most it might annex Transnistria which would be much more of a boon for Transnistria than Russia and it might be difficult to annex while the Joint control commission is there. Why bother? If Russia wants to annoy the west it could just recognize Transnistria as an independent country. Then Transnistrians could use their passports. As a modest proposal, I would suggest that if the Russians are going to go all the way through the Ukraine to free Transnistria they might as well occupy the Ukraine while they are at it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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