WILL RUSSIA LOSE ITS INFLUENCE IN TRANSDNIESTRIA?
MOSCOW, March 22. (RIA Novosti)-A fortnight after the elections in Moldova, it is still uncertain whether pro-western or pro-Russian forces have won, as both the incumbent authorities and opposition are claiming victory. The role of the breakaway Transdniestria is crucial in this environment not only for a settlement inside Moldova, but also for Russia's future authority in the former Soviet republics, writes a weekly magazine, Kommersant-Vlast.
The balance of forces in the region shifted after the "orange revolution" in Ukraine. If the previous Ukrainian leadership supported Russia and, accordingly, tacitly sponsored Tiraspol, the capital of Transdniestria (because Ukrainians, like Russians, form a significant part of Transdniestria's population), the new Ukrainian government apparently supports Chisinau.
Wedged between the two clearly unfriendly states, the breakaway republic's leaders are seeking a way out and are trying to build bridges with the new Ukrainian government and the West. Igor Smirnov, the president of the unrecognized republic, even described a settlement with Chisinau as a top priority.
Neither the West nor Ukraine seems willing to compromise, though. This probably means the former is hoping to reenact the successful Georgian and Ukrainian scenarios to replace Smirnov with a more palatable figure.
The Russian executive power has so far refrained from making any tough statements. However, if Moscow agreed to let Transdniestria be resolved on Chisinau-friendly terms promoted by the West, it would mean that Russia is letting yet another CIS state slip out of its zone of influence.
President Vladimir Voronin has announced that Moldova's European integration strategy may see it (probably including Transdniestria) joining NATO, which is not an option for Moscow. If this becomes a reality, Russia will have to withdraw its military forces from Transdniestria. Moscow is also worried that Chisinau, if it takes control of Tiraspol, will try to force Russian business out of the breakaway region.
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