Transdniestria: The Next Flashpoint for War Against Russia

June 12, 2015

The Transdniester region of Moldova, a land-locked territory along Ukraine's western border, could prove to be the next flashpoint for escalation by the West against Russia. Russia has had a contingent of peacekeeping troops there since 1992, following a civil war between Moldova and the Transdniester Republic, which is about 60 percent Russian, including about 150,000 Russian citizens. Since the 1990s, the OSCE has been involved in efforts to negotiate a settlement between Moldova and the Transdniester Republic. A law passed, by the Kiev parliament on May 21 and subsequently signed into law by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, blocking any military cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, includes a provision prohibiting the transit through Ukraine of any Russian troops and supplies going to the contingent in Transdniestria. Transdniestrian Foreign Minister Nina Shtanski warned, at the time of the vote, that Kiev's decision to cut off all military cooperation with Russia, including support of the Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria, creates the potential "to destabilize regional security," according to a Sputnik report of June 3. Russian Ministry of Defense official Yuri Yakubov said that "The Ministry of Defense is left with no other option than to supply Russian forces with all the necessities by air bridge, with military-transport aircraft."

Yesterday, TASS, citing the Odessa-based Taimer newspaper, reported that Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials announced that they would be placing S-300 air defense batteries along the Ukrainian border with Transdniestria.

Dniester Republic President Yevgeny Shevchuk said:

"The Dniester leadership is acting with maximum openness in this situation...We've made proposals more than once to the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE, the Ukrainian embassy, other partners in the Five-plus-Two negotiations format [embracing Moldova, Transdniestria, Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, as well as the U.S. and the EU in the capacity of observers -- TASS] to come over to us and to see for themselves that there are absolutely no military preparations on our side." He continued, "We're astonished by the OSCE's reluctance to bring this fact to public awareness."

TASS also reports that the Russian troops, reportedly numbering about 1,300, are engaged in military exercises. "The troops will perform training tasks to eliminate light armored vehicles, fire emplacements and manpower of a hypothetical enemy," Western Military District spokesman Col. Oleg Kochetkov said yesterday. Poroshenko's appointment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Odessa province--after granting him Ukrainian citizenship last month--is widely seen in Russia as preparations for an escalation around Transdniester. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has also been mucking around in Moldova, visiting there in March 2014, only weeks after she engineered the coup that brought neo-Nazis to power in Kiev, to visit with Moldovan government officials.