Staunton, May 12 – The fate of the territorial integrity of Moldova is in Chisinau’s hands, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin says. If Moldova continues to pursue an EU association agreement and thus moves toward NATO membership, “the Transdniestria wagon could be unhitched from the Chisinau wagon.”
Chisinau officials have been warned on this point, Rogozin says in a Kommersant interview published today, and “if they were patriots, they would first conduct elections which would become a kind of referendum because some parties in Moldova are for EU association but others are categorically against”.
Rogozin said that Moscow has “not changed” its position on the territorial integrity of Moldova “and does not intend to do so.” Thus, at present, there is no analogy between Crimea where he said there was “a real threat to the life and security of residents” and Transdniestria where “the situation now is stable.”
In his view, “the main challenge for Russia is not the physical defense of compatriots and Russian Federation citizens in Transdniestria but the security of their civil, economic and political rights,” a clear indication that Moscow intends to continue to push Chisinau to concede more power to Tiraspol and federalize the country.
Rogozin said that Moscow had not “ignored” appeals from Transdniestria about recognition or annexation but rather had not given “an answer.” However, he continued, “we see the situation as being dynamic,” and given the events in Odessa, “the Russian Federation cannot give any answers or send greetings to anyone.”
The Russian deputy prime minister who is Moscow’s special representative for Transdniestria said that the future of Transdniestria and its relations with Russia depend not on itself but on Chisinau which is “calling the music.” If Chisinau turns to the West by joining the EU and then NATO, the situation would change dramatically from Moscow’s point of view.
According to Rogozin, “an association with the European Union would be a betrayal of the neutral status of Moldova [because] there is a definite rule [that] in order to join the European Union, it is necessary to join NATO. This rule won’t change for the Moldova.” If it signs a EU accord, it will be moving toward the Western alliance.
At a minimum, he said he would “insist on a review of economic relations with Moldova,” adding that a visa regime could be introduced as well, given that a Moldova integrated in Europe would be something other than “the close, fraternal” country it has been up to now.
On the one hand, Rogozin’s words suggest that Moscow continues to view Transdnestria very differently than it did Crimea and that any effort to draw an analogy between the two regions by Tiraspol is at least up to now something Russia is not going to accept, a view many in the West are likely to see as a voice of moderation.
But on the other hand, Rogozin’s suggestion that Transdniestria could be “unhitched” from Moldova if Chisinau signs an association agreement with the EU and even more his statement that joining the EU will inevitably involve joining NATO constitutes a direct threat to the Moldovan government.