BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Troubles in Transnistria: Why not a referendum to decide the issue?
HITS: 13276 | 19-02-2008, 15:39 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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The West and its surrogate agencies have shown themselves resolutely uninterested in the conduct of elections in Transnistria. After a month of impasse on the PMR-Ukrainian border, the OSCE in Vienna announced that it would not recognise the results of any referendum held in Transnistria to allow the local population to express its opinion on its fate.[1]
Igor Smirnov has been president of the breakaway region since 1990. During an interview with BHHRG he pointed out wearily how often the West – the “international community” as it calls itself - has ignored elections in Transnistria or prejudged them. Last December’s parliamentary elections had been won by the opposition but the West still denies legitimacy to such polls even though it accepts, for instance, that Montenegro’s Milo Djukanović has held power as premier or president or now again premier for almost 17 years. Despite the fact that the West has been happy to accept the disintegration of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, it remains strangely fixated on preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the post-Soviet states whose claim to political legitimacy is often shaky to put it mildly.[2]
Mr. Shevchuk even suggested that the PMR’s leaders could take a vacation during the referendum process so that no-one could claim their presence put any pressure on voters to choose as they would wish. What the West seems to fear is precisely the democratic legitimacy of the polls in Transnistria and the likelihood that its people would not vote the “right way” unless subject to heavy-handed preparations by the self-proclaimed international community and its enforcement agencies.
However, a referendum is likely to be held on 17th September, 2006.[3] Depending on changes in Ukraine following the prolonged governmental crisis there, it is possible that the blockade on the eastern border of Transnistria might collapse if Kiev is no longer in thrall to Western grand strategy and the “soft war” agenda for the greater Black Sea region. But “soft wars” can escalate when their proponents will not accept a “soft” defeat. Will the West back off from measures which risk re-igniting conflict in Transnistria if a new government in Kiev stymies the current strategy of slow strangulation by economic measures?

  

Kindling flames around Russia’s southern rim

 

For all of the West’s high-flown rhetoric about promoting democracy, human rights and prosperity as the reason for its meddling in the unrecognised statelets around Russia’s southern rim, the gulf between the reality of life for ordinary people in Moldova, Ukraine or Georgia and what Western positive assessments of the regime’s there would suggest is so wide that it is difficult to take Western principles at face value. Why should any well-disposed foreigner wish to impose on the functioning economy of Transnistria the basket-case model of Moldova?
Grand strategy is the answer. Geo-politics are at play behind the smokescreen of Western rhetoric.
Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia in particular have populations who have increasingly adopted dual citizenship with the Russian Federation.[4] Any conflict involving these statelets risks drawing in Russia, not least because Russian public opinion is increasingly contemptuous of perceived Western double-standards: non-Slav independence movements like that in Kosovo receive generous support on their path to independence despite evidence of massive corruption and ethnic cleansing, but Slavic or pro-Russian separatists are treated as pariahs.[5] Iraq war-hawk, US Assistant Secretary of State, Dan Fried, insisted that there could be no comparison between Kosovo and the Transnistrian, Abkhazian or South Ossetian situations because they had not led to an “international war”! “Kosovo’s status is only for Kosovo. Period.” In other words only if NATO attacks another country to promote separatism can it be legitimate. [6]
Russia may also be accused of hypocrisy because it has resisted Chechen separatism, but even if the Kremlin can be faulted on these grounds, why should the self-proclaimed champions of democracy and self-determination in the EU and NATO states refuse to test the popular will in Transnistria or any other de facto state which seeks international recognition?
Sadly far from promoting stability or peace, the West’s meddling in these unrecognised states risks re-igniting the wars which scarred the region from 1991-93. The brief but bloody clash between Moldovan security forces and the Transnistrian military in 1992 left ... dead. It is not forgotten. Even a brief visit to Transnistria quickly confronts the outsider with local hostility to both Western meddling and any attempt to reassert Moldovan control.
Evgeny Shevchuk warned BHHRG observers during their interview on 27th March that even if external pressure forced a re-imposition of direct Moldovan rule on the breakaway state, 90% of the population would resist it. Whether OSCE and EU monitors would be happy to find themselves caught in a mini-Iraq remains to be seen. Nonetheless the aggressive attitude of some of the protestors gathered at the Ukrainian-PMR border towards any Westerner suggests that an OSCE/EU mission would require NATO protection and that it would not face the easy ride enjoyed by the occupying forces in Kosovo or Bosnia. Whether Western publics would have the stomach for garrisoning disgruntled regions like Transnistria or Georgia’s two rebellious regions must be doubted. If our forces face difficulty garrisoning Basra and Mosul, it is doubtful if the slogan Mourir pour la Moldavie would gather queues outside the recruiting sergeant’s office. Yet we should never forget that the men who make Western policy and the pundits who propagandise on behalf of it never send their sons to face the wrath of local people enraged by gratuitous interference in their everyday lives.
Breakaway states like Transnistria have had fifteen years of de facto independence. Moldova offers no inducements to reunion. How could a bankrupt state like Moldova attract the people from the left bank of the Dniestr? Only force majeure can achieve Moldovan reunification and that reality shows the moral hole at the heart of the West’s insistence on reunification. Even the force has to be provided by other states like the NATO members and Ukraine since Moldova is pitifully weak, corrupt and corroded by fifteen years of economic self-destruction and moral decay.
If bullying and blockading are the only routes to reunification, then comparisons with the Berlin Wall are absurd. East Germans envied their Western cousins’ prosperity and freedom. What do Transnistrians stand to gain from submitting to Moldovan authority?
If the West backs forcible reunification via embargos and military pressure to bring the unrecognised states to heel, it will confirm ethnic Russians, inside and outside Russia, in their belief that Russophobia is the driving force behind the NATO-states’ policies. When Russians conclude that the West is bent on the destruction of their statehood and the immiseration of their people, the backlash could be brutal. Already unpleasant stirrings of Russian nationalism and xenophobia are widely reported. They have yet to become a popular movement, but the West’s dogmatic refusal to take the interests and well-being of ordinary Russians and pro-Russian peoples into account risks blundering into that backlash.[7]


[1] See Moldova.Azi, “OSCE nu va recunoaste rezultatele referendumului organizat de autoritatile de la Tiraspol” (7th April, 2006):

http://www.azi.md/news?ID=38780
[2] Consistency is not a Western virtue. In the case of ex-Yugoslavia, the West is moving towards creating an “independent” Kosovo regardless of the UN resolution 1244 legitimising the presence of NATO and other foreign forces there after the 1999 which declared the province part of Rump Yugoslavia. Genuine expressions of the popular will ought to be the basis of international legitimacy but in both Kosovo and especially Montenegro this Group has repeatedly observed deeply flawed polls. Moldova.org, Chisinau’s quasi-official news agency carries adverts for “Kosovo Independence. The Alliance for a New Kosovo A resource on Kosovo independence”
http://politicom.moldova.org/articole/eng/922/ listing former CIA officials among its sponsors.
[3] See
http://www.rbcnews.com/free/20060711095652.shtml.
[4] The worthlessness of dual citizenship with Ukraine for Moldovans was demonstrated by the decision Kiev not to permit the establishment of polling stations in Transnistria for the recent Ukrainian parliamentary elections unlike in previous polls – effectively denying over 80,000 Ukrainian citizens of the right to vote.
[5] For corruption in Kosovo, see Irwin Arrief, “ Inquiry faults Kosovo's UN governor on corruption” Reuters (7th April, 2006):
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060408/wl_nm/serbiamontenegro_kosovo_un dc_1&printer=1;_ylt=AtA8RnssggVSWmkij4xNaZRn.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-
[6] See Ljudmila Barba, “Vicesecretarul de Stat al SUA - "Statutul Kosovo va fi numai pentru Kosovo, et punctum" (10th April, 2006).
http://newsmoldova.md/news.html?nws_id=527584
[7] Belatedly, one of the leading spokesmen of the New World Order, US assistant secretary of state, Dan Fried, seems to have recognised the danger of Western backing emboldening local satraps like Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili into taking unilateral military action which could unleash unfathomable consequences. On 7th April, Fried told journalists, “Georgia can not afford military adventurism”. See http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.html?id=12289.

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