Russian Troops in Moldova Background information

Background information: Russian Troops in the Republic of Moldova

The presence of Russian military forces in Moldova. Western countries and Moldova consider the Russian military presence, including the huge amount of ammunition stockpiled in the Transnistrian region of Moldova, to be a real threat to the stability and security of the entire region, as well as a serious obstacle in the process of resolving the Transnistrian conflict.

According to Russian data, the quantity of munitions in the stocks of the Operational Group of Russian Forces (the new name for the former 14th Army) located in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova amounted to about half of the 42,000 tons that existed there in 1994. In mid-1995, approximately 4,000 to 6,000 Russian troops were present in the Transnistrian sector of Moldova and in 2006 there are approximately 1,400 troops.

Moldova tried to negotiate the withdrawal of the Russian forces on a bilateral basis. In 1994, Moldova and Russia signed a Withdrawal Agreement that was not, however, ratified by Russia. Moreover, the Russian side and the Transnistrian leadership devised a new interpretation of the Agreement, making its ratification dependent on the "synchronization" of the withdrawal with the political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, which was contrary to the letter of the Agreement. The refusal of Russia to ratify the agreement, as well as its outdated provisions and interpretations, caused Moldova to seek an international solution to this problem.

The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Tiraspol-ruled districts of Moldova became an international obligation of Russia when in November 1999, at the OSCE and CFE Summits, Russia undertook two international obligations regarding the withdrawal of its forces. Through cross- references in both OSCE and CFE Summit documents, Russia undertakes the responsibility for a complete withdrawal of all its forces from Moldova, including non-CFE personnel. The ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty that is in Russia’s interest becomes dependent on its withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia. According to these documents, Russia undertook an obligation to withdraw its forces from Moldova1 by the end of 2001. In 2003, Russia failed to meet its second one-year extension from the original withdrawal date. The U.S. and its allies should further condition the ratification of the 1999 Adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe upon completion of Russia’s international obligations regarding Georgia and Moldova.

The formation and present state of the peacekeeping forces in Moldova. Although officially neutral, the Russian 14th Army (stationed in the Transnistrian area of Moldova) played a vital role in the conflict between the government of Moldova and its breakaway region of Transnistria. From 1990 to1992, the 14th Army’s commanders permitted the transfer of personnel from their base and weapons from their stockpiles in Moldova to the Transnistrian militia and volunteered services of Cossack forces that entered the region once fighting broke out (there were approximately 1,000 Cossack troops in the Nistru east-bank region of Moldova in 19942 who came from Russia and Ukraine). Furthermore, strong indications suggested that elements of the 14th Army actively intervened on the side of the separatists during the fighting in 1992, using their heavy weapons to turn the tide in the fighting3 against the poorly armed and newly formed Moldovan army.

1 As well as from Georgia.
2 Helen Fedor. Belarus and Moldova: country studies. Washington, D.C., Library of Congress, 1995.
3 Ruling of the legal case “Ilascu and others versus Russia and Moldova.” The European Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg. 2004.

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The July 1992 bilateral cease-fire agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova4, under the auspices of Moldovan President Mircea Snegur and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, established a tripartite peacekeeping force comprised of Russian, Moldovan, and Transnistrian units.5 This force is stationed within the security zone, a buffer zone along the Nistru River, which separates the areas governed by the Republic of Moldova from the Transnistrian regime-controlled region, except for isolated pockets of territory (see the attached map). By fall of 1994, Russia had a 650-strong contingent within the three-party peacekeeping force6. In addition to this, on August 3, 1992, a group of 30 military observers was created (10 from each party involved in conflict –Russia, Moldova and the breakaway Transnistrian region) In November 1998, 10 Ukrainian observers joined the group7.

Russian-enforced peacekeeping differs considerably from classical UN (international) peacekeeping. Not only does it lack the mandate of an international organization, but also none of the three peacekeeping parties are impartial, since all were participants in the conflict. Indeed, the arrangement in Moldova reflects Russia’s interest of controlling the countries of the former Soviet Union under false claims of a "special role and responsibility" to maintain "stability" on that territory8.

In March 2003, the EU began to look at Moldova to test its emergent peace-support capabilities, as part of the European Security and Defense Policy. The Paris-based Institute for Security Studies offered an ambitious plan for direct EU-Russia cooperation on European security affairs9. The proposal envisioned that Moldova could become a test ground for EU-Russia cooperation on peacekeeping. Some elements of this plan were viewed by experts as indicative of EU interest in bypassing the U.S. Despite mutual U.S. and EU engagement in the Transnistrian settlement talks in 2005, the proposal was not formally put forward by the EU.

In the last two to three years, the government of Moldova repeatedly asked for the “internationalization” of the peacekeeping force in Moldova, being unsatisfied with the current peacekeeping format. The Moldovan government sees the current format as an impotent structure, at least, and, in conjunction with the troops of the former 14th Russian Army, as a shield for the leadership of the self-styled Moldavian Transnistrian Republic to consolidate its authoritarian regime and a de-facto independence of the region, and preserve its status quo, at most.

4 Convention regarding the principles of a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova. July 21, 1992.
5 Initially, Russia and Moldova decided to form peacekeeping forces from units from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova. However, this did not materialize due to Belarus’s and Ukraine’s refusal to participate. The new Russian proposal called for the introduction of combined "interested" peacekeeping forces (5 Russian, 3 Moldovan and 2 Transnistrian battalions).

6 Michael Yermolaev. Russia's International Peacekeeping and Conflict Management in the Post-Soviet Environment. Center for International Security and Conflict Management Studies (CISCMS), Moscow, Russia. Published in Monograph No 44: Boundaries of Peace Support Operations, February 2000.
7 Mihai Gribincea. The Russian Policy on Military Bases: Georgia And Moldova. 2001. Pp. 198-217.

8 The Strange Case of Russian Peacekeeping Operations in the Near Abroad 1992-1994. MAJ Raymond C. Finch, III, U.S. Army, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS. July 1996.
9 Dov Lynch. Russia Faces Europe. ISS, May 2003.

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