On July 10, the Moldovan Defense Minister, Anatol Salaru, asked NATO to help withdraw Russian soldiers from the autonomous region east of the Dniester River, known as Transnistria.
“For 25 years, forces of the Russian Federation have been illegally based on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. We ask you to support our initiative to transform the mission in the Dniester region of the Republic of Moldova into a multinational civilian mission, as well as to withdraw the Russian army and its munitions in accordance with international obligations,” he said.
Salaru thanked NATO for its help in raising the defense potential of the Moldovan army within the framework of the DCB (Defense Capacity Building) and gave assurances that the republic “aspires to become a reliable partner of the alliance”. The Defense Ministry chief also invited NATO members to hold military training in Moldova.
Other officials in Chisinau have been making demands for the withdrawal of Russian forces and the transformation of the peacekeeping operation in the Dniester region into a civilian multinational mission, including President Nicolae Timofti. He confirmed that Russia assumed such obligations at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Istanbul Summit in 1999. Chisinau is also supported by Ukraine on this issue, having recently denounced the agreement with Moscow on supplying Russian troops in the Dniester region.
Although Moldova is not a NATO member, its leaders are trying to benefit from NATO’s anti-Russia resurgence to remove the 1,200-man Russian regiment in Transnistria. The Russian troop presence is a remnant and holdover from the Soviet Army that was based in Moldova in the1980s and in the early 1990s.
Transnistria declared independence from Moldova after a war of secession in 1992. Since then it has been self-governing. The armed intervention by the Russian 14th Guards Army in Moldova at that time was critical to Transnistria’s de facto secession. The Transnistrian region remains pro-Russia and uses many Soviet-era symbols and practices.
In 2014, Transnistria sent a delegation to Moscow to request recognition and support for secession from Moldova at the time Donetsk and Luhansk announced their secession from Ukraine. Russia denied their request
The Russians consider the soldiers to be peacekeepers. Moldova wants the Russians to withdraw and to be replaced by a civilian peacekeeping mission. Moldovan leaders judge that the Russian military presence encourages Transnistrian intransigence and prevents reunification. The status and future of the Russian regiment is a potential flashpoint between NATO and Russia.
I’ve discussed this issue on this blog before. This is merely an update.