Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Prospects for Unfreezing Moldova’s Frozen Conflict in Transnistria
Chief of Staff,
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Policy Advisor on Political-Military Issues,
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Ambassador to the United States,
Republic of Moldova
Lyndon K. Allin,
2008-2009 IREX Policy Specialist,
U.S. Embassy in Chisinau
The hearing was held from 10:00 to 11:47 in Room 2203, Rayburn House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) moderating
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
MARK MILOSCH: Good morning. My name is Mark Milosch. I’m the staff director
at the Helsinki Commission. And on behalf of Chairman Smith, I’d like to
welcome Ambassador Munteanu, our other panelists and everyone joining us today,
including those joining us on video.
This morning, we will examine the human cost of Moldova’s frozen conflict with
its breakaway region of Transnistria and the prospects for resolving this
20-year-old conflict. We say it’s a frozen conflict because it was settled not
by a peace agreement, but simply by agreeing to freeze each side’s positions.
In Moldova, this happened immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, in 1992, when armed conflict between Moldova and Russian-backed
separatist forces was frozen by mutual consent. The Moldovan government had no
reasonable alternative. Yet, it can hardly give away its territory. In the
ensuing 18 years, almost nothing has been resolved.
The Moldovan government has not managed to reassert control over Transnistria,
nor has Transnistria won recognition, even from Russia, as an independent
state. As is generally the case in frozen conflicts, we’re also dealing with
grave human rights and humanitarian concerns. Let me quote briefly from the
2010 country reports on human rights practices for Moldova.
Quote, “In Transnistria, authorities restricted the ability of residents to
freely change their government and interfered with the ability of Moldovan
citizens living in Transnistria to vote in Moldovan elections. Torture,
arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions were regularly reported.
Transnistrian authorities continued to harass independent media and opposition
lawmakers, restrict freedom of association, movement and religion, and to
discriminate against Romanian speakers.
Today, we’ll examine two general questions. First, given the frozenness of the
situation, how can we address the human rights and humanitarian concerns in
Transnistria? Second, and more optimistically, can the conflict be unfrozen?
What should our policy be to promote the reintegration of Transnistria into
Moldovan government? We are fortunate to have an impressive panel of experts,
and I will now turn the microphone over to Winsome Packer, staff advisor at the
commission, who will introduce them.
WINSOME PACKER: Thank you, Mark. I also would like to welcome our panelists
and I’d like to also acknowledge my colleague, Kyle Parker, who has worked with
me to put this briefing together. The panelists’ full bios are available
outside the hearing so I won’t read them. We will hear first from Ambassador
Munteanu, Moldova’s representative to the United States, who also has a
distinguished academic and think tank career.
Ambassador Munteanu will be followed by Mr. Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at
the Jamestown Foundation and former analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty. Next, we will hear from Mr. Vlad Spanu, president of the Moldova
Foundation and former senior diplomat of Moldova. And then we will hear from
Mr. Lyndon Allin, a corporate lawyer and policy expert who has done extensive
work on Transnistria.
We also have a written statement from Matthew Rojansky, deputy director of the
Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
which will be included in the briefing record. Following the presentation of
the panelists, we’ll accommodate questions from the audience at the microphone
at the far right of the podium. Thanks. Ambassador?
IGOR MUNTEANU: Yes, good morning, everyone. (Inaudible, off mic) – it’s a
privilege for me to be here and speak in front of such a distinguished
audience. Allow me to state from the outset that the origins of this conflict
– Transnistrian conflict, which is called frozen – were not ethnic, not racial,
With its mixed population of religion, the region is not a state or a nation,
being artificially separated from the Moldova proper following the military
conflict in 1992. The trigger for secession was opposition, by 1991, 1992, of
the Soviets to understand and acknowledge the independent statehood of Moldova.
And that was the major objective pursued by the largest share of the
population of Moldova.
Military hostilities started in March, 1992, and lasted until July 21, 1992,
when a ceasefire agreement was signed by the presidents of Russia and the
Republic of Moldova introducing peacekeepers in the region with the aim to stop
military hostilities and disengage hostile sites.
An OSCE mission has been established in Moldova after 1993 but it has been
obstructed to perform its main tasks under constant objections, including from
the separatist regime, as regards their requests to do military inspections,
alleged arms production or accumulation of military illegal forces in the
so-called demilitarization zone.
Unconstrained by international law, the separatist regime in Transnistria
turned into a safe haven for criminal activities, smuggling and constant
violations of the human rights, which, performed systematically, imposed a
totalitarian control over the population of the region, business and mass
media. Movement of the population is hindered by multiple checkpoints.
People are put in jails and tortured physically or morally if they show dissent
towards the official propaganda endorsed by the so-called Tiraspol authorities.
Of special target are people which oppose the regime, like the villages of the
left bank, which remained loyal to the Moldovan statehood and Moldovan
jurisdiction after the conflict – the military conflict – ended.
And the second were the Moldovan schools, whose teachers are harassed, whose
parents are intimidated and whose licensing is suspended by the regime. Just
to mention that in spite of the OSCE mission actions, situation of the Moldovan
schools remains unclear until today, and that was the main reason why the
European Union introduced a visa ban for the leaders of the separatist regimes
after 2004, after the shutdown of some of these schools.
Of special concern for us in Moldova is the situation of the political
prisoners arrested by the local KGB, which is an instrument of power for the
administration in Tiraspol. In 2002, the European human rights court found
Russia guilty of actions or inactions that led to the arrest of Ilascu group
and imposed penalties to be paid, calling Tiraspol to release people that were
jailed for 12 years.
In 2010, Ernest Vardanyan, a journalist from Moldova, was arrested under
accusation of espionage for Moldova. He was jailed for more than one year.
Other cases of illegal arrests used by the authorities of this region to claim,
afterwards, payments for the reliberations have been reported almost weekly by
the watchdogs of the region.
In that same year of 2010, another Moldovan citizen, Ilya Kazak, was arrested
by the region’s KGB and sentenced for 15 years of prison under accusation,
again, of spying for Moldova. In April, 2011, Vardanyan was released, but
several other people still remain in jail for alleged accusations, which, in
some cases, seem to be an ordinary attempt to extort money from their families.
And this is documented by Amnesty International, by Helsinki Group, by
Promolex, local watchdogs.
We want this situation to be changed, and by creating all necessary conditions
to reintegrate the region of Transnistria into the Moldovan state within its
internationally recognized borders as of January 1st, 1990. We call the
settlement of the Transnistrian completely exclusively by peaceful means
through a transparent negotiations process in the framework of the existing
Today, we have a favorable international situation defined by an increased
attention to a viable settlement from Moldova’s major partners: European
Union, United States, Russia, Ukraine. As well, we’ve noticed a gradual
intensification of political consultations in OSCE. In 2010, there were five
unofficial meetings in the five-plus-two format; in 2011, there have been two
meetings – first in February and second in April – testing the ground for
official launch of talks, although the visions remain quite far distant.
We hope that the meeting scheduled for June 21st in Moscow will mark the
resumption of the official five-plus-two format of negotiations with all five
actors aiming to restore trust and respect international law. Once the
official negotiations are relaunched, we will be able to see a clearer
perspective in the settlement process and move towards identification of the
status of the Transnistrian region.
Moldova’s position is well-known. Transnistria should be an integral part of
the Moldovan Republic or the Republic of Moldova. Within its sovereign
constitutional space, it is supposed to enjoy a large degree of administrative,
financial and political autonomy. Respect of democratic norms, values and
practices should prevail, while national legislation should be applied in full
throughout the territory of the country.
Resumption of negotiations shall not be done or the sake of resumption but on
clear ideas related to the full and comprehensive settlement of this conflict,
appropriate to consolidate a viable, democratic, independent and sovereign
state of Moldova. We see this as a matter of exclusive internal power-sharing
mechanisms and the emergence of territorial autonomy in Transnistria, similar
to the Gagauz autonomy, which has been established in 1994, in December, in
It is by default that, that special statehood will provide fundamental civil
and political rights to the population without any discrimination and the basis
of the international and the European conventions. In fact, national
parliament of Moldova has adopted already, in 2005, a law on the principles of
the conflict settlement in line with the international and European rules
protecting the rights of local and regional governments.
And we want this sovereign law to be respected in full and acknowledged by the
mediating parties. It is my pleasure to commend, in the same regard, the
findings and conclusions of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report
distributed on February 8th, 2011, under the name “Will Russia End Eastern
Europe’s Last Frozen Conflict?”
Wrapping up my references to the basic principles of the Transnistrian conflict
settlement, I would like to quote Vice President Joe Biden, who put them in a
very eloquent way during his March visit to Chisinau. He said, they want a
solution that can be accepted is the solution which would ensure the respect of
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its
borders recognized by the international community. The future of Transnistria
is within the Republic of Moldova.
Dear colleagues, today, Moldova is a democratic state, which is proudly
advancing towards an (accession?) agreement with the European Union. It has
ratified and is effectively implementing the European Convention on Human
Rights. It is signatory of the most important international and the European
human rights conventions. As a member of the Council of Europe, it is
regularly monitored by specialized committees, which constantly assess the
progress towards the rule of law.
Following the installation EUBAM in 2006 – the border-monitoring mission of the
European Union – over 620 Transnistrian firms were registered by Moldovan law,
which allowed them, now, to use their access to the European common market with
no taxes paid for their exports. Population of the region receives all social
benefits from the national social budget. Hundreds of fellowships are provided
free of charge to the region’s youth annually.
Over 350,000 of its half-a-million population holds Moldovan citizenship, and
many of them are actively using their rights and freedoms protected by the
Moldovan constitution and support the reintegration process of the region
against the obstructions made by the separatist regime. Nevertheless,
conservation of the Russian troops and ammunitions and the territory of the
Republic of Moldova is a flagrant violation of our constitution, a violation of
international obligations and a challenge to the legitimated authorities of the
The political solution to the conflict should be consistent with the strategic
vector of the European Union integration for Moldova. A response (built of?)
more active participation of the United States and the European Union in the
conflict settlement is, of course, crucial, as it brings the impetus and the
resources necessary in reaching the positive result of this process.
Why should the Western community be interested in solving the problem, and how
this conflict can affect the West? The region is simply 60 miles away from the
border of NATO and the European Union. Therefore, this conflict is directly
affecting the European Union security areas. And we are talking here about 60
miles – something comparable to the distance from here, where we are now, to
Fredericksburg, Virginia – one-hour drive.
So the danger generated by the existence of a region of instability at the
immediate proximity of the Euro-Atlantic community is obvious and it is also
obvious that the price of solving the conflict is far lower than the price of
instability and the risks of escalation. A civilian mission under
international mandate would be of great value to the viable conflict settlement
by taking stock of the ammunitions and troops concentrated in the security zone
between the two banks of the Nistru River.
Today, there is not enough information about the heavy deployment of military
equipment and arsenals. At the same time, efforts to change the existing
so-called peacekeeping forces with the international mission under the mandate
of international organizations should be intensified. Constant violations of
the human rights must be stopped and innocent people ought to be released from
the jails of the regime.
Moldovan authorities call international organizations to intensify their
watching and monitoring activities on the region’s situation and intensify
collective efforts to stop the existing abuses, ensuring basic rights to be
protected in a region that is not covered by international law today.
We (call to arms?) all states and actors that are involved in the five-plus-two
format of negotiations to abstain from any sort of actions that directly or
indirectly obstruct restoration of the Moldovan sovereignty over the region,
focus attention to the three D-commandments that are indispensable for a
(full?) settlement: democratization, demilitarization and decriminalization of
the region. I think I will stop here to pass the floor to the next speakers
and to leave more room for discussion during the session of questions and
answers. Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): Ambassador, thank you very much for your
testimony. We’ll now hear from Vlad Spanu, president of the Moldova
Foundation, a former senior diplomat of Moldova. And I’ll turn it over to Mr.
VLADIMIR SPANU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to express gratitude to
the U.S. Helsinki Commission members and staff for including in its agenda this
important topic today. And a special thanks to Winsome Packer, Kyle Parker and
Mark Milosch, who made this briefing today and other briefings and hearings for
Moldova, in the past, possible.
I express this gratitude on behalf of those who suffer the most because of this
externally imposed conflict – that is, the residents of the towns and villages
east of the Nistru River in Moldova. Although they constitute the majority,
those people are not represented at the negotiation tables.
Their voice is not heard, not only in Moscow, Brussels, Vienna or Washington,
but even in their own capital, Chisinau. They are not on the front pages.
They are not interviewed by public or private TV stations in the Republic of
Moldova, or elsewhere to say their painful story of living in ghetto-type
settings where residents have no rights.
What is happening today in the eastern part of Moldova is nothing else than a
continuation of the Soviet Union geopolitical policies now, after 1991,
embraced by the Russian Federation. To understand better the conflict, one
should look back in history. There are several events that have to be
remembered when tackling the Transnistrian conflict.
First, the 1792 Treaty of Jassy, signed between the Ottoman Empire and the
Russian Empire, after which Russia, for the first time, reached the Nistru
border and became the neighbor of the principality of Moldova. Second is the
1812 Treaty of Bucharest between the same two actors – resulted in the
partition of the principality of Moldova, the eastern half of which was
incorporated into Russia as Bessarabia until 1917 Bolshevik revolution.
Third, the creation, in 1924, within the Soviet Ukraine, of the Moldavian
autonomous Soviet republic on the eastern bank of Nistru, where the majority of
population constituted ethnic Romanians. As beachhead to once again
successfully occupy Bessarabia in 1940 by the Red Army as an outcome of the
Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939.
Finally, in 1990 and 1991, the same territory east of Nistru, with its main
city, Tiraspol, was once again used by the Kremlin’s masterminds as an outpost
to keep the Republic of Moldova – back then Soviet Moldavia – from getting away
from the USSR control, and today, from Russia’s control.
Today, Russia’s minimum objective in Moldova is to create a second Kaliningrad
in the south to keep the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in check. Its maximum
objective is to get full control of the Republic of Moldova through
federalization schemes imposed on Moldova where Transnistria is to play the
main role of holding veto power on the future of Moldova, its internal and
As a bonus, by reaching these objectives, Russia will be able to encircle
Ukraine, closing its only large window to the West, thus keeping Ukraine into
its orbit. Focusing entirely on fruitless official negotiations to solve the
conflict between Russia and Moldova is a big mistake. During 19 years of
bilateral negotiation and multilateral negotiations, no result was achieved in
ending the conflict.
Russian troops are still stationed in Moldova and Russia’s support for
separatist movement continues while local residents of this region suffer.
These residents, who are nothing less than geopolitical hostages, are not
allowed to have access to basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, of
education in their native language and of assembly, among others.
Education in the Romanian language is viewed by those in charge of this
separatist regime as their main threat. This is why, as soon as the
legislative body in Chisinau, still within the Soviet Union back in 1989
adopted the language law that established the return of the Roman script to the
republic’s official language, the Soviet authorities in Moscow triggered the
separatist movement in Transnistria. The alphabet issue became central to the
secessionist movement and it developed into a school war against educational
institutions that opted for Latin characters.
As a result of discrimination policies in the field of education, the majority
of the population in Transnistria, Romanian ethnics, has only 88 schools that
are authorized to teach in the native language, but only eight are permitted to
use the Latin alphabet. The several Romanian language schools made headlines
in international media when, in July, 2004, the Tiraspol militia seized the
orphanage school in Tighina, and schools in Tiraspol, Ribnita and Corjova were
The closing down for good of these schools was prevented only thanks to the
international pressure. These days, the situation in the eight schools is
worsening. Last week, on June 9th, in an open letter to the Moldovan
parliament and to Prime Minister Vlad Filat, Eleonora Cercavschi, chairwoman of
the Lumina Association that represents teachers from Transnistria, asked for
She accuses Moldovan authorities of designing discriminatory policy against
Romanian-language schools that use the Latin alphabet. Cercavschi argues that
these students are put in tougher competition when applying to Moldovan
universities than those schools controlled by Tiraspol. Those, along with the
Tiraspol regime’s persecution and discrimination against pupils, their parents
and teachers, are the major cause why these five high schools and three middle
schools lose students.
An example: If, in 1989, the total number of students in five high schools was
about 6,000, in 2011, this number was only about 2,000, three times less. The
other 80 Romanian-language schools in the breakaway region continue to use the
Russian, Slavonic alphabet in teaching of their language, dubbed “Moldovan,” as
it was imposed by the Soviet regime on all schools in Bessarabia in 1940.
More than that, today, these schools continue to use an outdated curriculum and
use textbooks from the Soviet period. If the Russification of the Republic of
Moldova largely stopped in 1991, when Moldova gained independence, it still
flourishes in the Transnistrian region. Suffer mostly the Romanian-speaking
population, but the Russification policy also affects other minorities, such as
Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Jews and Gagauz.
This 21st-century soft genocide, called by the OSCE linguistic cleansing,
mainly against the Romanian ethnic population resulted in sharp reduction of
Romanian Moldovans, from 40 percent in 1989 to 31.9 percent in 2004, while
Russian ethnics increased their presence in Transnistria from 24 percent in
1989 to 30.4 percent in 2004.
Schools are not the only target of the regime in Tiraspol. Free media cannot
penetrate on the east bank of Nistru because of radio and TV jamming and
prohibition of printed media. Local journalists are arrested and intimidated.
The arrest, in 2010, of Ernest Vardanyan, an Armenian-born journalist, citizen
of Moldova and a resident of Tiraspol, is the most notorious example of the
KGB-style intimidation of free press.
He was accused by intelligence services of Transnistria, which are, in fact,
the local office of the Russian FSB, of spying for Moldova. That is, he was
accused for spying for his own country in his own country. In March, 2010, the
Transnistrian intelligence services kidnapped Ilya Kazak, an employee of the
Moldovan fiscal inspectorate in Tighina. He was kidnapped in the town of
Varnita, controlled by the Chisinau central authorities.
Kazak was accused, also, of espionage. His parents have been on hunger strikes
numerous times for weeks, protesting outside the Russian embassy in Chisinau,
hoping, through their actions, to secure the release of their son, but in vain.
Last Sunday, June 12th, Kazak’s mother approached U.S. Senator John McCain,
who was visiting Moldova, and pleaded for help. What else a mother can do for
The private property is another target of the separatist regime. From time to
time, local farmers are prevented to cultivate their land or bring home crops
from their own fields. Small business owners can also see their property
confiscated through different schemes, including intimidation, arrest or worse,
Why are these violations of basic freedoms allowed to continue to happen in the
21st century? Who is responsible for it? The right and obvious answer is the
masterminds behind the separatist movement strategy in Moldova’s eastern
region. Somehow, identical elements of this strategy can also be seen in
another ex-Soviet republic, Georgia, with two separatist regions, Abkhazia and
South Ossetia, that launched a war against the central government in Tbilisi in
1991-’92, the same time when the war against the central government of Moldova
In all these cases, Russia played the major factor in triggering the conflict
and then supporting the separatist puppet governments. As in Georgia’s
Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in Moldova’s Transnistria, leaders of the
separatist regime are Russian citizens and reportedly on payroll of the Russian
intelligence services and military. Blaming only Russia for the existence of
Transnistria is just part of the story. There are other actors who benefit
from the status quo, mainly in Kiev and in Chisinau.
Smuggling of arms and good, human trafficking and others are also associated
with Transnistria, dubbed the “black hole of Europe.” But the main
responsibility has to be put on shoulders of the political leadership in
Chisinau. After all, most residents of Transnistria are Moldovan citizens,
although Moscow and Kiev rush in giving passports in expedite mode to everyone
who asks, in order to later claim the need for protection of their citizens
and, eventually, claiming the territory east of the Nistru River. Russia’s
actions in Moldova are as many and as reckless, as allowed by both the Moldovan
government and by international community.
REP. GINGREY: Mr. Spanu, if you don’t mind trying to finish up in the next 15
seconds or so, we have other panelists, but continue.
MR. SPANU: OK. Moldova’s Western partners – United States and the European
Union, as well as other mediators like OSCE – should put more pressure on
Moldova, but also offer support when it comes to provide basic services for
residents in Transnistria.
When a Moldovan citizen from Transnistria comes to law-enforcement in Chisinau
to ask for help, they usually are told that Transnistria has no – that they
don’t have jurisdiction over Transnistria, which is wrong because those people
who order arrests, beatings and torture is the president of the self-named
Transnistrian region but those who execute are those in prosecution office and
militia and so forth.
And in all of the cases or most of the cases they are a citizen of Moldova,
they need to be prosecuted and asked to respond for their unlawful actions.
REP. GINGREY: We’ll go ahead and stop there with your oral presentation, and
your written remarks will be part of the permanent record. And now we’ll hear
from our next panelist, Vladimir Socor. Vladimir is a senior fellow at the
Jamestown Foundation and a former analyst with Radio Free Europe and Radio
Liberty. Mr. Socor?
VLADIMIR SOCOR: Thank you. I have been asked to review the background of the
Transnistria conflict and to provide an accounting of the current state of
play. It is frequently observed that the conflict in Transnistria is
comparatively easier to resolve than the conflicts over territories of Georgia
or Azerbaijan because this particular conflict has neither an ethnic, nor a
religious component. Therefore, the solution seems to be more reachable.
Why, then, the solution has not been reached during the past 20 years? It is,
of course, because of the role of Russia. The conflict in Transnistria has
been entered into the international diplomatic lexicon as a conflict between
two parts of Moldova. This is the greatest success of Russian diplomacy in the
last 20 years, in terms of approaching this conflict.
We are in the presence of an interstate conflict between Russia and Moldova.
There is no inner conflict between two parts of Moldova. The conflict
originated in the overt Russian military intervention of 1991-1992, when units
of the Russian 14th army stationed in Transnistria occupied, in a piecemeal
fashion, one-by-one in a low-level conflict operation, the seats of Moldovan
authorities on the left bank of the Nistru River.
And in March, 1992, elements of the Russian 14th army crossed over onto the
right bank of the Nistru River and established a large beachhead in the city of
Bendery and around it. It was a clear case of foreign military intervention.
It culminated with the shelling of the right bank of the Nistru River by the
14th army in 1992, resulting in a ceasefire agreement signed by the Russian
Federation and the Republic of Moldova.
This was a ceasefire agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic
of Moldova, not between two parts of Moldova. The agreement was signed and
ratified by then-President Boris Yeltsin and Mircea Snegur of Moldova.
Transnistria was not a party to the conflict. Russian diplomacy subsequently
introduced the fiction that Transnistria is a party to the conflict while
Russia is a mediator, and this fiction is being accepted to the present day.
It will be very difficult to remove this approach from the five-plus-two
negotiations, which are about to restart in Moscow on June 21. This frame of
reference is officially accepted by international diplomacy. It will be very
difficult to change it, and it is the main reason why the conflict remains
unresolved – because it’s misinterpreted as a civil conflict, which it is not.
Since 1992, Russian troops are stationed in the Transnistria region of Moldova
in the role of peacekeepers. This peacekeeping operation lacks any
international legitimacy. It is a purely bilateral arrangement imposed by
Russia on a weak and incompetent Moldova back in 1992, which has never changed.
This arrangement is part of Russia’s wider policy of obtaining international
acceptance of Russia’s role as a peacekeeper in the so-called former Soviet
Moldova, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, at one time Tajikistan, possibly at the
present time Kyrgyzstan are examples of Russia’s attempts to establish a
peacekeeping monopoly on the former Soviet-ruled territories. The
international community as never granted acceptance to Russia for this role but
it has tolerated it in practice without any official acceptance.
A peacekeeping monopoly is one ingredient to rebuilding a sphere of influence,
and this is what is happening, also, in Transnistria. Transnistria, as I
mentioned earlier – and this is generally acknowledged – is not an ethnic
conflict or an inter-ethnic conflict, however, it does have an unmistakable
Russian dimension. Transnistria is a Russian-ruled territory.
Most of its officialdom are people born in Russia, part of the Russian
hierarchy or chain of command, who are assigned to jobs or to administrative
positions in Transnistria. It is an operation, so to speak, of holding the
fort for Russia, pending a more active resurgence of Russia in Europe. Most of
Transnistria’s leaders are born in Russia and seconded to Russia on this
Transnistria state security ministry is a branch of Russia’s intelligence
services. Its leader, from 1992 to the present day, General Vladimir
Antyufeyev, used to be a commander of the Russian special police in Riga,
Latvia, and moved from there – he is from Russia – he moved from Riga, Latvia,
to Transnistria in 1992 under a covert identity, which he soon thereafter
Negotiations to resolve the Transnistria conflict began almost as soon after
the ceasefire agreement of 1992. The negotiations went through a lot of
stages, and there is a lot of negotiating acquis and a lot of negotiating of
documents that was generated by this negotiating process. And I’m going to
skip most of these stages, but I want to explain the background to the current
negotiations, which are about to resume in Moscow on June 21, after a five-year
Negotiations were strictly a Russia-Moldova bilateral matter from 1992 until
1997. In 1997, Russia lent a semblance of internationalizing the negotiating
format by co-opting the OSCE and Ukraine. The OSCE is the only international
organization in charge of handling this conflict. The OSCE mission in Moldova,
active since 1993, has, as the main part of its mandate since 1993, resolution
of the Transnistria conflict.
The OSCE is very poorly equipped for this job because Russia has an internal
veto power in the OSCE. Putting the OSCE in charge, either of negotiations or
of a possible replacement peacekeeping operation, would be the worst solution.
It would provide a semblance of internationalization without the reality of
internationalization due to Russia’s veto power within the OSCE. The OSCE
cannot speak, much less act, without prior consent by Russia in the internal
deliberations of this organization.
In 2005, when Russian influence was at a low ebb in Europe and in Eastern
Europe and U.S. influence at an all-time high – in 2005 – it was possible to
internationalize in a genuine way the negotiating format. That was the origin
of the five-plus-two format, which was joined in 2005 by the United States and
the European Union in the capacity of observers. So the format consists of
Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, United States, European Union, Chisinau and Tiraspol.
This is the five-plus-two format established in 2005.
This format has had a life of five months, from October, 2005, until March,
2006. At that point, Russia and Tiraspol dropped out of the negotiations in
response to a decision by the European Union to establish a border control
mission on the eastern border of Moldova, EUBAM – the European Union Border
Assistance Mission. In response to that, Russia and Tiraspol dropped out of
the negotiations and blocked the negotiations until now – the official
negotiations. Informal contacts were continued.
So this is the process that is about to restart in Moscow on June 21. What has
led to the initiative to restore the negotiations – the official negotiations?
Primarily, a German initiative – the initiative agreed at the top level by
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in June, 2009,
in a document known as the Meseberg Memorandum, signed in the Meseberg Castle
It is an ideological tenet of German foreign policy to include Russia, in one
way or another, in the decision-making processes of the European Union, and
potentially down the road, in the decision-making processes of NATO, as well.
The German chancellor’s office has thought of a possible way of achieving this
goal, and that would be for Russia to prove to the European Union that it can
be a constructing partner in settling one European Security issue –
Transnistria – because this is regarded, of the reasons already mentioned, as
easier to solve, compared to other conflicts.
So Russia is asked, by Berlin, to be constructive in resolving the Transnistria
issue, in return for which, under the Meseberg Memorandum, which is published,
Russia and the European Union would establish a joint committee on European
security affairs for joint decision-making on European security issues – a way
for Russia to gain access to EU decision-making processes.
Russia’s entrance ticket to this mechanism would be a constructive attitude on
settling the Transnistria issue – a low price to pay, in my view, but these are
the terms under which negotiations are resuming. There are a number of
REP. GINGREY: Mr. Socor, if I could ask you to conclude within the next
minute, your remarks, thank you.
MR. SOCOR: OK, thank you. There are a couple of potential pitfalls in the
negotiations that are about to resume on June 21 in Moscow. The first would be
a starting document that would establish the principles of the new negotiating
process that would contain ambiguities regarding the Transnistrian status in a
reintegrated Republic of Moldova.
That might open the way for Transnistria to exercise decision-making powers in
Chisinau’s internal governance, not just local autonomy for Transnistria but a
role for Transnistria in the decision-making processes of the central Moldovan
government. This is in the form of some sort of federalization.
This is one pitfall and the other pitfall would be pressure on Moldova to give
up its law of 2005 about the basic principles of settlement of the Transnistria
conflict. Those principles include democratization in Transnistria as part of
the process of conflict settlement, going hand-in-hand with the process of
conflict settlement and the political resolutions that would follow the
withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria – following the withdrawal of
Russian troops – and the internationalization of that peacekeeping operation.
REP. GINGREY: Thank you very much. And our final panelist, and I would ask
him, respectfully, to keep it between five and seven minutes with you oral
presentation, Lyndon Allin, a corporate attorney and policy expert, has done
extensive work on Transnistria. Mr. Allin?
LYNDON K. ALLIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to the
commission for convening this meeting and for inviting me to talk today about
economic interactions within and around Transnistria. I’m really happy that
we’re gathered and convened under such an optimistic idea of looking for a
breakthrough in the conflict-resolution process.
I want to emphasize, first, that my remarks are offered in a personal capacity
and I’m not going to try to provide a detailed legal or economic analysis of
any of the issues that I discuss. What I’m going to try to do is highlight the
economic circumstances that are going to have to be addressed if we hope to
move towards settling the Transnistrian conflict.
Those issues are, principally, Russian economic assistance and Transnistrian
and foreign business interests in the region. I’m also going to talk a little
bit about the potential upside if the conflict can be, ultimately, resolved,
resulting from reintegration of a number of regional networks, which are
currently fractured by the conflict. So I’m not going to talk about other
issues. Those have been quite well-handled by my colleagues. I’m not going to
use the F-word – federalization. I’m going to just stick to economic issues.
So first, economic assistance from Russia. Russia subsidizes Transnistria’s
budgetary operations in two ways. First, Russia provides publicly declared
subsidies of $25 million a year, roughly, to assist the Transnistrian
government in supplementing local pension payments. This assistance fosters a
sense, among the Transnistrian public, of being part of Russia.
In fact, it undermines Russia’s official position on Moldova’s territorial
integrity, which is that Transnistria is a part of Moldova, and it means that
residents of Transnistria are going to be concerned about who might provide
them with such aid in the event of a conflict settlement. One of my
interlocutors in Transnistria once said to me that the conflict boils down to
the question of who pays for us.
So to a certain extent, there are going to be some welfare issues that have to
be taken care of down the road. Russia also allows Transnistrian authorities
to cover budgetary shortfalls using money that they collect locally for gas
payments. Gazprom does not demand payment from Transnistria directly. And
I’ll deal with that a little bit later, also.
Transnistria’s economy, according to some local experts, would be sustainable
only for two to three months if these forms of Russian assistance were cut off.
So who are Transnistrian economic actors? I will focus on the most important
one of those, which is Sheriff, which monopolizes trade in the region,
including food, gasoline, wholesale and retail.
They have some production assets. They also run the local television network
and the only local Internet and fixed-line and mobile telephone service. So
they’re a monopoly provider of a number of services to Transnistrian residents.
Sheriff’s business model depends on relationships with Transnistrian officials
and on market distortions created by the conflict.
For example, their supermarkets can get away with selling expired and
counterfeit goods because consumers don’t have a lot of options. Some of the
assets owned by Sheriff and other economic actors in the region were acquired
in the Transnistrian privatization program. This was another way that the
government filled its economic shortfalls in recent years.
Those privatizations are not valid under Moldovan or international law;
nevertheless, in the past, the Moldovan government in Chisinau has acknowledged
the need to reach an agreement on property rights of existing owners in the
event of a final settlement. So that’s going to be a very important issue down
This is also going to be an issue for the foreign property owners, principally
Russian and Ukrainian, in the region. The two most valuable industrial assets
in the region are foreign-owned. The first of those is MMZ, a modern and
competitive steel mill that’s located in Ribnita. It’s the largest enterprise
anywhere in Moldova and, in the past, has been the country’s largest exporter.
Interestingly, the interests of local elites in Transnistria and foreign
investors are not always aligned and MMZ’s Russian and Ukraine owners have had
some disputes with the Transnistrian authorities in the past, and that may come
to the fore again in the future. The factory purchases scrap metal from
right-bank Moldova, which is an example of how interaction with Transnistria
can be profitable to Moldovan elites.
The second large industrial asset that’s owned by Russian interests is the
power station at Kuchurgan, which was designed to supply Moldova, as well as
large parts of Ukraine and the Balkans, with electricity. It’s owned by an
affiliate of Russian electricity provider RAO UES. Both of these industrial
plants run exclusively on Russian natural gas and their ability to pay
discounted rates on this gas is important to their profitability.
Nevertheless, they would likely be profitable under market conditions, as well.
The region also has other viable production assets and Transnistrian exporters
are able to take advantage of Moldova’s trade preferences with the European
Union. Overall, it’s estimated that 35 percent of Transnistrian exports go to
the European Union. So the upside potential from resolution of this conflict
would be the ability to knit back together some of these networks that have
been broken up by Transnistria. It’s a shame we don’t have a map.
Transnistria runs along most of Moldova’s eastern border and, basically, it
breaks up a lot of transit routes that run eastward toward Ukraine and Russia
supply and infrastructure networks within and around Moldova were designed to
operate in the context of regional integration.
Instead, they’re fractured and operate inefficiently as a result of this
conflict. Enterprising and corrupt actors have created workarounds to evade or
cooperate with the multiple sets of officials and borders in the region and,
over time, these workarounds have hardened into self-perpetuating economic
ties, which are going to be very hard to dislodge.
Among the systems that are fractured are the telephone system – it’s not
integrated between the two banks of the Nistru, which results in higher costs
for callers on both sides; power generation and distribution, which suffers
from non-transparent and politically motivated pricing and corrupt transfer
pricing schemes; transit routes and railways, which are periodically blocked
off and held hostage to the political situation; natural gas, which is a
Gazprom has a single contract with Moldova, which has enabled the Transnistrian
portion of Moldova to run up debts of over $2 billion over the last 20 years
and to argue that the internationally recognized Moldovan authorities must pay
them. Also, Transnistria has its own currency system and central bank, which
will be a big challenge for reintegration.
So because of all these fractured networks, I would say that the region’s full
economic potential is also held hostage to this conflict. So what conclusions
can we draw? There are going to be a lot of economic challenges to reaching
and implementing a stable, durable settlement. First among those is going to
be treatment of the gas debt.
Additional ones will be guarantees or some kind of arrangement for current
holders of Transnistrian assets, dealing with Transnistrian public concern
about the loss of Russian-funded social assistance. Here, we have an
unfortunate example of the triumph of fear over hope among the Transnistrian
population. They know what they have and they are afraid of change.
We are going to have to deal with corrupt regional elites who want to maintain
personally profitable arrangements. There are a lot of potential benefits, I
would argue, to people on all side and parties on all side. First, Russia
could benefit if it no longer has to serve as Transnistria’s economic lifeline.
Russia’s Gazprom could benefit from greater payment discipline.
Ukraine could benefit from better transit routes westward and less corruption
on its western border. And the benefits to the entire population of Moldova,
including Transnistria – more efficient markets, better work opportunities, et
cetera – I think are obvious. Because of the setting of this briefing, I’d
like to make some recommendations about what U.S. policymakers can do.
First, the U.S. needs to give Moldovan products permanent normal trade
relations treatment and terminate the applicability of the Jackson-Vanik
Amendment to Moldova. Moldova should also be considered for a visa-waiver
program. This would help make right-bank Moldova economically more attractive
Second, the U.S. should promote regional cooperation on anticorruption
enforcement, to include Moldovan, Ukrainian and Russian authorities,
particularly as this issue has been a signature for Russian President Medvedev.
This could be perhaps a part of an OSCE-administered resource center on
economic development, which is proposed in my colleague, Matt Rojansky’s,
written remarks, which I encourage you to check out.
Hopefully, these remarks have made clear that the involvement of and difficult
decisions from all sides will be required to resolve this conflict. Therefore,
my final recommendation to the U.S. is that we should encourage our partners in
Europe, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova to devote the necessary political will to
pursuing a durable, comprehensive settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.
REP. GINGREY: I want to thank all of our panelists for an excellent briefing
on the situation and prospects for unfreezing Moldova’s frozen conflict in
Transnistria. Let me start off by asking a couple of questions and then I’ll
refer to the other staff members on the dais, including our staff director, who
will follow me. And then we’ll open it up for questions from any of you, and
the mic here to your left and my right is where you’ll come to present your
And this really is for any of the panelists: What measures may be taken to
effectively hold the Tiraspol regime accountable for its human rights
violations? Were the recent trials by the Transnistrian authorities of Kazak –
am I saying that correctly – and Ernest Vardanyan conducted fairly? What do
you think motivated the Transnistrian leadership to try these men and sentence
them to such long periods of imprisonment? Any of the – Mr. Ambassador?
AMB. MUNTEANU: Well, at this point, I don’t see how the Transnistrian leaders
can be motivated, personally, to respond to the claims from the human rights
organizations or from the political institutions because they are not
responsible to the population inside and they are not responsible to the
international law. It is not applied in this region.
I think, however, that through OSCE and through the members of the negotiation
format five-plus-two, to conduct a very comprehensive report on the situation
of human rights and to have a common view on how to prevent violations of human
rights in the region would be seen as an improvement in the situation of so
many people which are still detained in Transnistria.
The second: Of course, in order to advance on this complicated issue of
protecting human rights, there are some elements of democratization that need
to be implemented in the region. And democratization means guarantees for free
press, free movement of people, a kind of oversight of the security forces,
which impede this process of the democratization and liberalization of the
legal space. These kind of steps would generate a positive response from the
population of the region, which is, unfortunately, hostage to this current
REP. GINGREY: Mr. Ambassador, thank you. Anyone else want to comment on that?
Yes, go ahead, Mr. Spanu.
MR. SPANU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In those 15 seconds, I couldn’t answer
because that was exactly what I was going to cover. I was trying to jump from
one place to another. But in responding to that question, I think, besides
what the ambassador mentioned – the international pressure – it’s necessary to
hold accountable those people who commit these unlawful arrests of Mr.
Vardanyan and Kazak, their detention, and who set the system that is not based
on the law.
There are two main people – and the speakers here talked, today, about them:
Smirnov, who is the president of Transnistria, put by Russia in since ’91, and
Antyufeyev, who runs the intelligence services. Those lawyers and the human
rights groups who examine all these cases, including Vardanyan’s and Kazak’s
and many, many others – they see a pattern. They see orders from this Smirnov
and Antyufeyev and there are executors down the line who do these concrete
And as I tried to mention, those executors – some of them are Moldovan
citizens. So they need to be filed cases against them by the Moldovan law
enforcement and prosecutorial offices because these people freely travel to
Chisinau – to Moldova – or Ukraine or to other places. They commit these
crimes but they are not held accountable. So if they will know that they will
stay, one day, in court for their actions, they will think twice about
executing orders from Smirnov or Antyufeyev.
REP. GINGREY: Thank you very much. I want to ask one last question and then
we’ll quickly go to others for their questions. And I’ll direct this question
to Mr. Socor, who I went out of turn just a minute ago – but do you think that
the current status quo is satisfactory to Moscow? And if so, what needs to
change for Russia to be willing to negotiate seriously on Transnistria’s
status? What are the prospects for it to recognize Transnistria as an
MR. SOCOR: Russia has never pursued the goal of effecting Transnistria’s final
separation from Moldova. To the contrary, Russia wants Transnistria to remain,
on paper, a part of Moldova in order to share political power with the central
government in Chisinau and to act as an insurmountable obstacle to Moldova’s
Euro-Atlantic integration. This has been Russia’s goal since 1992 and remains
Russia has a minimal and a maximal objective in Moldova. The minimal objective
has been named by my colleague, Vlad Spanu: consolidating a Kaliningrad-type
exclave on the border of the threshold to the Balkan Peninsula and on the
southwestern border of Ukraine, forming a strategic chain of Russian military
outposts, together with the Crimea. This is the minimal goal.
The maximal goal is to integrate Transnistria’s political leadership with that
in Chisinau by awarding Transnistria de facto veto or blocking power on the
political decisions of the central government in Chisinau. And that was the
main goal of the so-called federalization project of 2002-2004, which Russia
and Berlin now seem on the verge of reviving.
REP. GINGREY: Well, thank you very much. And now, we’ll turn to the staff
director, Mark Milosch, for any questions that he might have.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you very much, Congressman Gingrey. Thus far, we’ve been
talking mostly about politics and security issues, which is entirely natural.
I’d like to switch gears if we could for a moment and ask a question about
And I’m wondering specifically is there any prospect for putting human rights
on the agenda at the five-plus-two talks. I can see naturally that Mr.
Smirnoff or the Russians would presumably not be very eager for this. But it
seems to me there are ways that this could be done by the OSCE or the EU and
the U.S. that might be difficult to resist. I’m thinking particularly of
When trafficking is out there on the table, it’s something that the governments
have a hard time walking away from. The Russian government has many people in
it who’ve actually been quite helpful on the issue and if Russia wants it on
the table, I think it will be on the table.
And that could be an issue perhaps in which Transnistria and Chisinau could
work well, build bridges. There might be something there. So I’d like your
thoughts on that. Secondly, in the Trafficking in Persons Report on Moldova,
we have very little reporting on Transnistria probably because we don’t have a
lot of diplomatic coverage there.
But if any of you have heard anything about the trafficking situation or have
any perhaps man or woman in the street report on that, I would really
appreciate hearing it. Thanks. I guess we’ll start with Ambassador Munteanu.
AMB. MUNTEANU: To my knowledge, the issue of the human rights situation never
– was never put on the agenda of talks in the five-plus-two format, with the
exceptional cases when some people were arrested and the people were citizens
of Moldova, of course the Moldovan side attempted to use the negotiation format
in order to create a getaway for those who were in jail.
It is not a pressing issue probably for Russians which want to see the
negotiation of the special status for Transnistria if they would not get more.
And of course we want to relaunch negotiations in this five-plus-two in order
to settle some existential problems for the populations of this region –
movement checkpoints which prohibit free movement of the population, even the
organization of elections in this region.
I just wanted to mention the fact that holding local elections in this region
and we have eight villages on the left bank of the Dniester under Moldovan
jurisdiction – effective jurisdiction – and we have – constantly we are blocked
constantly by militia of Transnistria which tried to steal the ballots from the
electoral precincts. They tried to threaten the people that participate in
elections. They tried to impose blocking posts for those who want to cross the
And generally speaking about the human rights situation, population of the
region feel not only – how to say – constant pressures. They feel hard
security threats because the demarcation lines which have to be by definition
free of military equipment and military forces they are full with Transnistrian
armory and munitions and hardware equipment particularly because of the Russian
peacekeepers do not fulfill their mandatory role. And this is one important
Speaking about the trafficking situation, we know there are several networks of
trafficking which have been recently annihilated by the Moldovan prosecution
and specialized forces. They have their roots and origins in the region. But
how we can intervene into this situation, how we can – how the prosecution can
act into this region because it is over-militarized, it is protected by the
Russian peacekeepers and our prosecution forces cannot act there.
And on a different note, if there will be in Chisinau in order to investigate
some cases, the Transnistrians will say that, look, Moldovans they are staging
a new war. So this situation is much more complex and more complicated than it
could be seen from outside. Thank you.
MR. SOCOR: May I contribute an answer to that question? Introducing the issue
of democracy and human rights into the negotiations would be a great innovation
and as in all diplomatic processes it would take a long time to implement
because it would almost revolutionize the existing routine five-plus-two
negotiating process. So formally introducing this issue would be very
However, on the one hand, Moldova’s law of 2005 on the principles of settling
the Transnistria conflict stipulates that a settlement can only go hand-in-hand
with democratization in Transnistria because otherwise a settlement negotiated
with the incumbent leadership in Transnistria would consolidate the role of
this Russian-installed dictatorship.
So a settlement cannot be concluded with this type of leadership. That’s on
the one hand. On the other hand, Moscow is aware of objections to the current
leadership in Transnistria on democratic grounds.
Therefore, Russia is about to change the regime in Transnistria and so, so to
speak, we won’t have Smirnov and – (inaudible) – to kick around anymore pretty
soon because the Kremlin administration chief Sergey Naryshkin and the Russian
security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev recently in May summoned Smirnov
to Moscow and asked him to depart from office.
One month later, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Duma’s international
affairs committee, attended a meeting of the Supreme Soviet in Tiraspol, making
clear that Smirnov and – (inaudible) – have to go. So we will have a new
leadership also installed by Russia in Transnistria but with less of a
monstrous face than Smirnov’s face.
Russia’s candidate to succeed Smirnov – Russia’s declared candidate to be the
new leader of Transnistria in Tiraspol is a character named Anatoly Kaminski,
who is an ethnic Ukrainian, a native of Bashkiria, who was assigned in Soviet
times to a job in Moldova in right bank Moldova, not in left bank Moldova.
So this is another example of these sort of individuals with no ties whatsoever
to Moldova or to Transnistria who are being assigned to hold the fort for
Russia in Transnistria. So we’ll have to be prepared for a regime change in
Transnistria orchestrated directly from Moscow and changing the person of the
leaders – Smirnov to Kaminski – and changing the name of Transnistria Supreme
Soviet into Transnistrian Parliament. And this will pass for some kind of
REP. GINGREY: I think Mr. Spanu wanted to comment as well.
MR. SPANU: Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think including in the
five-plus-two form of human rights is not only good but it’s a must if the
settlement to be reached. And first of all, Moldovan government needs to push
this forward as well as OSCE, European Union and the United States. Ukraine
must be interested because Ukrainian citizens are deprived of their rights. So
it is – Russia would not be willing to – and Transnistria of course not – but
at the negotiation tables everyone comes with its item on the agenda.
So it must be pushed by all the parties. Regarding trafficking in person, we
forget one simple thing. This person travel outside of the country through the
airports and airports are in Chisinau and in Kiev and in Odessa. So you need
to have land borders controlled as well as airport border control and to
prevent this trafficking and then go and persecute these people.
Till now, most of the human rights cases like arrest of the mayor of Corjova
which is under the – within the unification control commission which is set by
Russia Ukraine Moldova jurisdiction, but these people are not efficient in
terms of solving a concrete problem.
That arrest of mayor of Corjova. Therefore other mechanisms need to be put in
place, as I said, internally in Moldova as well as it was suggested in the
five-plus-two format to raise the importance of the human rights violations.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you.
REP. GINGREY: Any other questions from staff? Yes?
MS. PACKER: My first question is to Mr. Socor. The five-plus-two talks are
supposed to resume on June 21st in Moscow and can you elaborate on what you
think the German non-paper recently circulated, how that might impact the
outcome of these negotiations?
The second question is to Mr. Allin. While your recommendations for addressing
the conflict are commendable and extending PNTR and retraction of Jackson-Vanik
and addressing corruption are all commendable, I think that speaking of
allowing Moldova in to the visa waiver program is premature.
As you all acknowledged, a central government does not effectively administer
its borders or extend its control over its territory which are prerequisites
for any country entering this program. So what I wanted to ask you is whether
you think that extending economic sanctions or travel restrictions might affect
the players in the monopolies in Transnistria and the parties outside of
MR. SOCOR: Thank you for the question. The situation with the German
non-paper is a very strange one. The European Union is a participant in the
five-plus-two talks. It should have a position –a starting position in these
talks. It does not. Instead, one member country of the European Union –
Germany – has published its own position which does not have the endorsement of
the European Union but neither has the European Union rejected the German paper.
And this very situation reflects the fact that the European Union plays a weak
hand in its foreign security policies and on the other hand the bilateral
German-Russian relationship is emerging to undercut any foreign policy that
might be commonly agreed by the European Union.
The German non-paper pursues the goal of facilitating a Transnistria
settlement, not necessarily on terms consistent with Moldova’s sovereignty and
territorial integrity but primarily on terms consistent with Russian interests
so as to facilitate Russia’s entry into the European Union bilateral mechanisms
which I mentioned earlier, creating the appearance that Russia is being
cooperative on the Transnistria settlement.
So therefore the German non-paper – the starting position in this negotiation –
with remember, Germany not being a participant in the negotiation, being only a
member of the European Union.
The starting position does not mention withdrawal of Russian troops, gives –
opens the way for a role by the Transnistrian authorities in the central
government of Moldova and is being accompanied by the – (inaudible) – of
responsible German diplomats trying to persuade their Moldovan counterparts to
accept, A, some kind of federalization formula and, B, to give up the Moldovan
law of 2005 on the principles of a Transnistria settlement.
So we have a convergence of German and Russian views which if allowed to
prevail on this issue might constitute the basis for a wider German-Russian
partnership on settling European security affairs, circumventing the European
Union, circumventing NATO and indirectly sidelining a role for the United
States. And here I would like to complete my answer.
I’d like in just one sentence to add a recommendation for U.S. policy. Since
2007-2008, approximately – 2007, more or less – the United States has taken a
back seat to the European Union in Transnistria-Moldova issues, allowing the EU
to define the Western negotiating position with the United States supporting
whatever the EU decides. Given the weakness of the EU role, it is time for the
United States to advance from the backseat and to regain the front seat it once
had in these negotiations.
MR. GINGREY: Did you have another question?
MR. ALLIN: Sure. Thanks for the question. I think – I don’t think that
economic sanctions from the U.S. would have any great impact on any of the
players in the conflict. You know, the U.S. has from time to time been cited
as a market for some of the Transnistrian exporters.
But I don’t think it’s significant enough to have a real impact, not to mention
the fact that those companies have an ability to reorient their exports
eastward if markets in the West are cutoff. I think actually that what such
sanctions would do is just kind of feed the siege mentality that allows the
current Transnistrian authorities to maintain some legitimacy in the eyes of
And so I actually don’t think that – I think they would probably do more harm
than good. I would draw your attention to one of the items that I cited in my
written remarks which is the FinCEN alert about a number of Transnistrian banks
that was put out earlier this year. I think that’s the kind of measure that
the U.S. can take that’s useful. I would also note that while I don’t think
it’s related, what I mean to say is I don’t – FinCEN was piggybacking on
There were Russian complaints last year about – last summer about a Gazprom
bank which strangely is not affiliated with Gazprom apparently but which is
owned by a member of Smirnov’s family and which was alleged by some in Moscow
to be performing machinations with some of the humanitarian aid funds that
So again, I would emphasize I think I understand that it seems like a very
bland recommendation to collaborate on anticorruption. But I think that if
that’s done, that can be done with real teeth, it’s something that Russian –
the Russian government has certainly shown a lot of rhetorical interest in
within its own country.
Certainly I would think they’d like to protect their taxpayer money, you know,
during the time that it is still going to Transnistria and that’s an area in
which I think there may be room for some collaboration.
MR. MILOSCH: Yes, thank you, Lyndon. Now, we’ll hear from Ambassador Munteanu.
AMB. MUNTEANU: Thank you very much. I just wanted to add my comment to the
second part of your question related to the visa waiver. Well, you know, it is
a matter of truth that Moldova cannot at this point control its borders because
of what we have discussed so far.
But nevertheless, this is not an impediment for the European Union to work hard
with the Moldovan authorities in visa liberalization regime. And we are
advancing quite with speed towards the visa liberalization for Moldovan
citizens. And this is really heavy incentive for the institutional framework
in Moldova and also for the citizens of Moldova.
I think that it should be seen also as an incentive for the security sector
reform in Moldova, which encompass minister of interior reform, border
monitoring reform, biometrical passports which are introduced since January
And I think you have also if you – United States- wants to be an active
promoter of the settlement – conflict settlement – and will be not in the
backseat but in the front seat of this car, I think visa waiver should be seen
as incentive that citizens of both banks of the Dniester will see a real
accomplishment that can be achieved. Thank you.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you, Ambassador. Before we move to question from the
audience, I’ll invite Kyle Parker to ask the witnesses.
KYLE PAKER: Thank you, Mark. And I have a few questions kind of scattered.
So pardon me. We’re at a briefing and hopefully it’s an interesting exchange
of ideas. One, you know, it’s interesting to me to, I guess, ask if the
proximity of a few eastern chairmanships of the OSCE is any reason for hope.
Does this – you know, we recently had the Kazakh chairmanship and the
Lithuanians are quite engaged. We’ll skip a year with Ireland and then go back
to Ukraine. Does this give us any reason for hope? Sort of developing that,
how – how relevant is any success on this conflict to the other conflicts, the
more acute conflicts? They are different situations to be sure.
But I know in terms of trying to get people interested here in Washington one
of the issues is the prospect for success and also along those lines what is an
appropriate yardstick of success? I think, you know, when you’re looking
towards total solution and resolution, you know, it seems right now at least
that there’s not a whole lot of reason to think that’s happening any time soon.
At the same time, in these conflicts, you know, you do have the dogs that
don’t’ bark. And the notion that it simply – I mean, the status quo remains is
– I hate to call that a success but in a sense it’s also not a failure given
what we’ve seen in some of the other conflicts.
Another question I’m wondering you know, Moldova has sort of the unfortunate –
you know, it has a number of sort of unfortunate distinctions including the
poorest country in Europe, more recently the World Health Organization largest
consumption of alcohol in the world, high rates of multiple drug resistance TB
and other things.
And as we look sort of towards the human face, the human cost, comprehensive
security, how much of these types of indicators can be attributed to sort of a
wound in the country or the conflict or the sore? Certainly that is, you know,
obviously going to have an effect of deterring investment and certain things
that could perhaps improve standards of living.
And on WTO, I’ll just note that Moldova is a very interesting case of being an
early WTO member, sort of a poster child for a lot of interesting reforms
including land reform, you know, in the early ’90s and still subject to Title
IV of the Trade Act – a very interesting paradigm that has some relevance as we
move towards looking at possibility of terminating Title IV to other countries.
And last, if you would pardon two last points, one is just a question. You
know, recently the Holocaust Memorial Museum was able to work something out and
this was thankfully agreed to Vice President Biden’s visit on access to
Holocaust-era archives in Moldova. This is a matter that’s been of great
interest to this commission over many years.
And you know, we know that some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust were
committed on Moldovan soil, and particularly on the area that is now called
Transnistrian soil – but that part of the country. I would imagine a lot of
those sites are un-memorialized and unmarked.
And I’m just wondering is there perhaps an interesting opportunity for sort of
a new type of confidence and security building measure in terms of
collaboration on both sides on memorializing this important history. I say
that that’s something that would certainly have I think the interest of some in
It comes with interesting political, ideological baggage potentially but at the
same time it’s telling the truth and I would think that that should be
something that all sides can get together on and look into. It would be
interesting to know if that idea might have any legs.
And lastly, Lyndon, to your point on corruption and collaboration with Russia,
I would just have to say, you know, while you do mention sort of rhetorical
support, certainly by way of actions and the reality on the ground in Russia,
it certainly doesn’t match the rhetoric we’ve heard from some in the senior
And in terms of being concerned about taxpayer money as it’s going to
Transnistria, I’m a little skeptical particularly when we have not seen a whole
lot of concern to put it charitably about Russian taxpayer money to the tune of
almost a half a billion dollars that was stolen by Russian tax authorities in
the frauds uncovered by Sergey Magnitsky that have lately featured prominently
in the news including on Russian television.
NTV just did a 20-minute spot a weekend back on national TV. So I’m I guess
skeptical to put it mildly on where we can go with that in terms of, you know,
moving beyond sort of simple rhetoric on anticorruption and also, Vlad, your
idea of putting some teeth into this.
I’m wondering if anyone might comment on the wisdom or the ability of using
tools like the Interpol red notice to sting some people. Moldova does have
that ability to do that. It is an Interpol member. It’s an easy enough thing
to do and that is an awful thing to have in terms of cramping your style and
ability to travel and caution around the world. Sorry for the million
questions and –
MR. MILOSCH: Well, as usual, Kyle pitches them high and hard. I guess we’ll
start off with the ambassador.
AMB. MUNTEANU: Thank you very much for your questions. It is always very good
to have a long list of questions because you can pick up what exactly you
prefer to respond. I will start with the last question which is very important
– the Holocaust Museum. We have a great respect for the efforts put by the
Holocaust Museum and restoring the memory.
And we all know that the population of – the Jewish population of Moldova
before the Second World War was very important, a considerable part of the
urban population and the restoration of the leagues with their memories, their
personal attributes, it is very important. We have a constructive cooperation
with the Holocaust Museum.
Their leaders have to pay a visit by the end of June to Chisinau. We have
adopted a delegation to the low which protect the personal data and this will
allow the Holocaust Museum and their executive staffers to work in the archives
which have been closed so far. And we understand very well that this is not an
overnight effort. It will require a lot of institutional steps in order to
reach the truth, I would say.
But I think that in what concerns and worries Transnistria in this equation –
Transnistria is a space where hate speech is on the agenda of the day, I would
say. It is anti-Semitic discourage. It is anti-Moldova discourse.
It is anti-Western discourse. So when we try to understand how the Holocaust
Museum will accomplish its mission, of course it is open and it can do its work
in Chisinau and other cities which are in effective jurisdiction of Moldova,
not to in the Transnistria.
They are not sensitive to the human rights violations. They are not sensitive
to the issues that are part of our common memory. And of course as soon as we
will come closer to a final settlement, we will have a solution favorable to
the Holocaust Museum.
But of course, if the United States is interested, it should also put the leg
in the door and also advance the idea of having an important dimension of the
human rights and the five-plus-two format of negotiations and also the
Holocaust Museum. You know, Moldova cannot be responsible for the crimes and
atrocities committed in the Second World War – the Republic of Moldova.
It was too young a state. But we understand very well how important it is to
cooperate with the institutions. The status of the poorest country in Europe –
just to put it bluntly, we have been deprived in 1991, 1992 by – (inaudible) –
of our economic potential which are located in Transnistria. This explains the
level of deprivations of the population.
And the consecutive steps that were made in the last two decades to transform
the ownership of the industry to create the basis for the economic growth. It
mutated into a strength of the economy. By 1989 for instance, Moldova had
reached only 45 percent of its 1989 GDP. And we try to accommodate –
re-accommodate ourselves in these new international realties.
Now, we have 55 percent of our goods being exported to the European market,
which is a significant change in the structure of the economy. We are
benefiting from the automatic state preferences provided by the European Union.
And I’ve mentioned before that a large number of Transnistrian enterprises,
they can export without paying border excises to the European markets – their
They do not pay taxes to the state budget, which is not totally positive, not
totally good. But this is an important incentive for the business community to
develop own agenda in advancing and performing. I think that if Moldova will
receive the normal trade regime with United States, this will also influence
positively the way how the business community plans their life and their
This will create inventive for change in the minds of the Transnistrian
population as well. And I think that coming closer to the – (inaudible) –
decision agreement with the European Union and we are doing everything
necessary in order to advance in this way.
We will see different results and a different Moldova for those who want to be
part of European – a larger Europe – for those who want to remain loyal
citizens of Moldovan state and for those who believe that our place in the
Western community of democracies. Thank you.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you. I guess we’ll move next to Mr. Socor.
MR. SOCOR: I’d like to take up the question about the role of the OSCE
chairmanships. Although the OSCE as an organization has been a complete
failure in Moldova and in South Ossetia due to Russia’s veto power within the
organization, nevertheless the chairmanships are immune from Russian veto
power. They have a far greater leeway for action.
What can we expect from the current Lithuanian chairmanship or from the
Ukrainian chairmanship in 2013? Lithuania has changed its approach to policies
towards Eastern Europe in the last two years due to the unfavorable trends
geopolitically and economically in Europe.
Lithuania has renounced its former role of a vanguard player in terms of
extending NATO and EU influence eastwards. For the last two years, Lithuania
has played a far more cautious role than it used to be. And this is reflected
in the way in which Lithuania is exercising its chairmanship of the OSCE. The
official approach of Lithuania is that even a millimeter of change would be a
great positive success.
This is the Lithuanian approach. This official statement, possibly repeated,
of Lithuania’s officials, even a millimeter’s worth of progress will be a great
achievement, therefore nothing really to expect much. In 2013, Ukraine will be
the OSCE chairman. Ukraine has never been able to clarify its policy towards a
Transnistrian conflict, neither Kuchma nor under Yushchenko nor under the
Ukraine does not want to add another contentious issue in its bilateral
relationship with Russia. At the same time, Ukraine does not want to be
encircled from the southwest. Ukraine was never able to resolve this dilemma
in – the interest of the eastern Ukraine oligarchs in the bilateral
relationship with Russia, usually trump the strategic interest of the country
Let us, however, not underestimate the 2012 Irish chairmanship of the OSCE.
And I know this firsthand from conversation with people from Dublin. Ireland
is eager to share its own experience of conflict resolution in Northern
Ireland. There is a proliferation of outfits in Ireland trying to share this
experience on the international level and even trying to make a consultancy
type of business out of this.
And so therefore for the Irish minister of foreign affairs approaching
proactively the frozen conflicts in former Soviet territories will be a mark of
the Irish chairmanship. This chairmanship will operate much less free from a
Russian veto compared to the Kazakhstani chairmanship of one year ago or
compared to the Ukrainian chairmanship of 2013.
So I think it will be possible to work with the Irish chairmanship of the OSCE
constructively and proactively. Again, however what the chairmanship can
achieve is not to resolve anything but to put the issue on the table and keep
it on the table, at least so that the issue is not relegated to oblivion. And
to answer very briefly one of your other questions, what can be a measurable
progress in the year ahead or in the months ahead or in this calendar year,
what could be measurable progress.
Measurable progress would be to pressure Russia to comply with its commitments
under conventional treaty – forces in Europe treaty to withdraw the troops from
Moldova. The review conference of the CFE treaty is due to take place shortly.
The United States and NATO collectively would be remiss if they would not
publicly raise the issue of Russia’s unfulfilled commitments under the CFE
treaty including the withdrawal of troops from Moldova from the occupied
territories of Georgia and also in the CFE treaty, much neglected, the
withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. So
these three issues need to be raised, not in the hope of affecting an immediate
resolution this year, but to keep these in the public – this debate in the
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you, Mr. Socor. I’m going to have to ask the next two
witnesses to – in order that we will have time for audience questions – to be
very concise. Thank you.
MR. SPANU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just would add a few words in addition
to what Vlad said about OSCE chairmanship and I will focus on Ukraine. I think
Ukraine’s role in its chairmanship role in 2013 has a great potential but has a
small probability that it will play a great role because among all these
players who deal with the Transnistrian conflict, Ukraine has a good set of
keys to solve the conflict because it’s on its border, because it’s control
many, many elements of the conflict.
And if Ukraine fully cooperates and is fully committed for this resolution of
the conflict, I think we have a chance to move forward. But looking back, what
happened during the last two or three years comparative to what happened in
2004-2005, I think the probability is not so large.
Regarding all your other good ideas, it underlines that all these ideas should
be put in a strategy or a roadmap and this strategy and roadmap should be
initiated first of all by the Moldovans, by the Moldovan government. For the
time being, Moldovan government for 19, 20 years didn’t have any strategy how
to deal with the Transnistrian conflict.
And to incorporate into all these ideas from the West, from the Moldovan
experts in 2004 among the speakers three of us participated in co-authoring the
treaty strategy that was mentioned. During the Communist Party leadership in
Moldova, we were able to convince the opposition to the Communists in the West
to be engaged in a new strategy.
Today there is none. Why? These are big questions for the current Moldovan
government. And the second, why in the budget of Moldova of this year, of next
year, of last year there is no put enough money to implement programs on
confidence building measures, maybe because it’s not a strategy. Maybe it’s
their things involved. These two things that Moldovans need to do if they are
serious about resolution of the Transnistrian conflict. Thank you.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you. Lyndon?
MR. ALLIN: Thanks. The question about corruption, of course I understand your
skepticism. I just – the point that I would make is that there are bilateral
gov-gov contacts on these issues. Regulators do talk to regulators.
There’s no reason for it not to be raised. Perhaps it’s another suitable topic
for the five-plus-two, you know, as another format where it might be raised. I
would also mention that there has been Russian public outcry, at least in the
press and on the Internet, about the much larger sums of aid money but really
funds probably pre-designated for embezzlement that were sent to South Ossetia
in the past couple of years.
So there is the potential. I’m just proposing that there’s a potential to get
Russian civil society and, you know, you get somebody like – (inaudible) – to
take up this issue and all of a sudden people will say, hey yeah why are we
sending all this money to that place. And then it becomes something that’s a
little bit harder for the Russian government to sweep under the rug. So that’s
my only point about that.
Regarding your question about Moldova’s unfortunate status as the poorest
country and apparently hardest drinking country in Europe, I think a large part
of my written testimony was intended to address specifically that question.
I do believe that the conflict has had a large impact on the economic
well-being of the country and of its citizens. I would note however that it’s a
poor country where one sees a lot of very nice automobiles in the capital city.
I saw a Bentley the last time I was in Chisinau.
So the elites, both in Chisinau and Tiraspol, seem to be doing OK, which of
course is part of the problem with getting this – with getting some progress on
Regarding the WHO alcohol consumption study, I confess that my first thought
when I saw it was to wonder whether the methodology somehow involved imports or
something that could have – where the anomaly could have resulted from somebody
gaming customs stickers simply because that behavior is so common really on
both sides of the Dniester. Thanks.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you, Lyndon. Kyle mentioned in his question dogs that
don’t bark. I think he was referring to the famous Sherlock Holmes line about
the strange thing the dog did in the night. Watson, the dog did nothing in the
nighttime. That was the strange thing.
We have a lot of un-barked dogs here I think. In about 12 minutes – I don’t
think we’ve really mentioned Romania very much which is a striking thing. So I
throw that out to you to take up or maybe you have some other dogs that you’d
like to pursue here.
We have a microphone on the right and anybody in the audience who’d like to ask
a question is welcome to come to the microphone. I guess turn it on right now.
I see the light. Introduce yourself and ask a question of our panelists.
Q: Hi. I’m Richard Sola from Radio Free Europe. My question is directed to
Ambassador Munteanu primarily. We’ve spoken about Russia quite extensively
during this hearing. But I wanted to hear from you if you feel that – or you
get the sense that the United States is raising the issue of Transnistria at a
high enough level in the so-called reset that the Obama administration has made
such a high goal of its foreign policy.
And even just kind of some basic information, how much contact do you have
between kind of the architects of the reset and your own office on this issue –
you know , how much is it being discussed with you and with the Russians as far
as you know, and how do you feel about the level, you know?
AMB. MUNTEANU: Thank you very much for your excellent question. Of course, we
feel the arm of support from the United States in many areas, in particular to
the negotiation format.
Just not to leave a wrong impression that Moldovan government is doing nothing,
I would point out the fact that we have presented by the end of April a
non-paper on the principles of the conflict settlement and this concept has
been circulated towards all the interested parts – of course to the united
States as well which commended the value and clarity of scope and principles
which were proposed by the Moldovan government.
In addition to that, of course we have made great efforts to combine forces and
to have a chain of friends behind us in setting up the target for this conflict
settlement. And I think that this is quite an important advantage if we
compare with five years ago when we were still under the consequences of the
failed Kazakh memorandum.
Today, our friends in Europe do not question the legitimacy and the main
principles which we see as major for the conflict settlement – indivisibility
of the country, sovereignty and unitary state. We feel that this hand of
support may do more work and the policy of reset create special gateways and
windows for discussing strategic issues with the Russian Federation.
We mentioned several times the Russian Federation because it did not fulfill
its commitments from 1999 and from Istanbul Summit declaration, and it also
failed to commit itself with the reduction of arms. And I think that there are
many doors to be opened in this strategic dialogue with Russians.
But I truly share the concerns that the human rights violations create
frustration among the population of the region, which feel itself alienated
from the political process in Moldova and from the benefits that our proximity
with the European Union extends to the whole society of the Republic of
I remain positive and my colleagues in the Moldovan government remain positive
that more things have to be achieved this year in 2011 irrespective of the name
of the chairman of the OSCE and irrespective to the bumps in the road which we
know there are many. Thank you.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you, Ambassador. Do we have any more questions? Mr. Spenu?
MR. SPENU: Yeah, I want to add on the reset issue – I hope that the reset
setting is a good frame for the opportunity to solve the Transnistrian conflict
at the level of the Russia-U.S. relationship and it’s not an impediment, not a
distraction from this. Thank you.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you. Any more questions? OK, well I think it will be
extremely difficult for me to summarize what was said today.
I did see two themes that the optimism that we’ve heard recently about the push
on the part of the EU and the U.S. government for settlement in Transnistria
has been challenged today and yet we’ve heard a lot of comments about the
necessity of pushing forward with this.
I would like to thank Winsome Packer for organizing this briefing, Josh Shapiro
for administratively organizing it. And thanks to all of you for coming today.
With that, we’re adjourned. (Applause.)