Transnistria: Another front in the civil war? The blockade, and Saakashvili’s assignment
June 3, 2015
June 5, 2015
Translated from Russian by Tom Winter
The analyst “yurasumy” gives the background of the Transnistria War, the Blockade, and Saakashvili’s appointment.
Transnistria counts as one of the oldest conflicts in the territory of the former Soviet Union. In the 1990s “information war” and “color revolution” didn’t exist yet, but if you look at the chain of events that led Transnistria to the current state, you can see a lot of familiar features, which we have repeatedly seen in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan. The new escalation of the conflict is happening at the very moment when the struggle for Ukraine is at a critical stage.
The war in Transnistria has already become history. More than 20 years ago, this narrow area along the Dniester River was the scene of a war, in which citizens of the newly collapsed empire began to kill each other. Because of the newness it wasn’t understood yet, but all the attributes of the classic color revolutions in the former Soviet Union were there in Moldova: nationalism, the language issue, Russophobia. In like manner, the newly-formed nationalist movements tried, with promptness and even cruelty, to clear out those with differing viewpoints (June 19, 1992 in Bender)
The cleansing of the cities (19 June 1992, Bender), the elimination of militia-related families, the violent attempt Romanianize. It’s all familiar, isn’t it? On the other hand, the same “Voentorg” (then it was called the 14th Army), the Cossacks, volunteers and, and the consequent defeat of the attackers. Too familiar? There was even a “Minsk” in Transnistria, which froze the war more than 20 years. But the problem was not resolved. The bloody wound never healed, and as soon as the signal was given from the brain center for escalation the cycle of opposition began anew, dragging in new participants on its way.
In Moldova, the Communist Party was very strong, and at the end of the 1990s was able to become an influential force in the country, and even to form a government in 2001. Under communism, that is, until 2009, Moldova was calm. But in that last year, the Communist party lost its majority, and the country passed through a series of early elections, and up to 2014 was actually in a state of anarchy. And in May 2014 (a coincidence?), thanks, in particular, to the massive rigging (all too familiar) at the next elections, the nationalists came to power … and headed for confrontation.
It was in the shadow of the events in Ukraine. But for the careful observer the similarities in the way the situation developed were plain to see.
The Nationalist government of Moldova set out on a course of union with Romania, but Transnistria was the territory blocking the way. The simultaneous rise to power in Kiev of the same kind of nationalist regime gave Moldova and Romania the chance to settle the Transnistrian question once and for all, the more so since it fit very well into the plans of their master – the United States. For official Washington, squeezing Russia into the least possible boundaries – is the main task of all vectors of its European policy. And do not use the fact that Transnistria was surrounded by enemies — it would be just silly, especially since they put so much effort and spent so much money on settling the Transnistrian question.
There are two ways to achieve this goal. By convention, we will call them the way of peace and the way of war.
The peaceful way implies the creation of non-military conditions that will result in either removal, or capturing the situation in Transnistria, under “international” peacekeeping control, which will finally end in Russia’s losing control over the processes of the region. Russia clearly can not go for this option. It would mean the loss of residual influence in the Balkans and a significant weakening of its position in the Ukrainian party.
Military. Here it is necessary to elaborate.
Militarily, Moldova is quite a weak country. The armed forces (land component) consists of 6-7 thousand light-armed troops and, in sum three light armored brigades with no tank divisions. Heavy artillery is reduced to an artillery battalion of towed howitzer “Hyacinth Bs” with 3 batteries of 6 guns each. They have a some multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) “Hurricane” in storage – 2 four-unit batteries, as of 2014.
The Armed Forces of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria) consist of four mechanized infantry brigades, a tank battalion (18 T-64 tanks), a large artillery force (more than 100 guns and large-caliber MLRS), plus four special forces battalions. In total up to 15 thousand people and 10 thousand organized reserves.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are warehouses of the old Fourteenth Army in Transnistria, which held, at the time of the collapse of the USSR, 229 tanks, 305 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 328 guns, mortars and MLRS with caliber over 100 mm. A significant portion of these weapons was either transferred to the army of Transnistria during the first war (“captured”), or still there in storage.
All these are guarded by two motorized rifle battalions of the Russian Federation, plus a guards battalion. It is noteworthy that on the territory of Transnistria are up to 150 thousand Russian citizens, some of whom served in these units and are actually the reserve Armed Forces.
In all, Transnistria and its Russian units will be able to deploy up to 30,000 people who, relying on local stores of the 14th Army, are a formidable force. And driving this power out of Transnistria by military means — very difficult. And they can’t just be left there. So, it is necessary to compel these forces to act, leaving them no other choice …
This was desultory: For more than 20 years there were always “gray” schemes to supply the products needed in Transnistria. This helped half a million people live and work in the local industry. The DMR even managed to trade in arms.
But with the nationalists coming to power in Kiev clouds began to gather over the enclave. It became obvious that both Chisinau [the Moldova capital–tr] and Kiev were acting in concert, and on US plans. This was not difficult to read.
Perhaps initially it was assumed that after crushing the opposition in the Donbas, units of the Kiev regime would help “the brotherly Moldovan people” get rid of “invaders” and “separatists”,** and that it would it would be a quite feasible task for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. But Kiev’s units were twice defeated in the Donbas, and they could not assign sufficiently large combat-ready units for this operation.
Further plans, very similar, were drawn up in the autumn and winter of 2014, and with the advent of spring began to be implemented. The Ukrainian Armed Forces started building field fortifications on the Moldovan border, and in May began transferring combat-ready units to the Moldovan front.
What is the meaning of this operation? The blockade, which Ukraine is now setting out in due form, very soon may force Transnistria to action. “Do something — or die” – that is the choice the “neighbors” want to leave Transnistria. Once in such a situation, the leadership of the unrecognized republic may decide to take a desperate step – a blow in the direction of Odessa. That would cue the junta units, counting on their built-up fortifications, to intervene. And further, proclaiming the Transnistrians “aggressors and terrorists,” Kiev will help Moldovan army to deal with them.
For this, so that the blockade would be solid and so that no Odessa citizens would try playing cat and mouse with the state, the oversight of the Odessa region had to be firm, unscrupulous, and ruthless to the people. The man to do it has been found. Anyone who could embroil his own people in a suicidal war will not tremble at the prospect of doing the same thing in a foreign land.
His task is to clarify for the smugglers that they mustn’t interfere with Kiev in its dealings with the DMR. And anyone who does not get it will be stripped. To this end, there has been a decree about replacing almost all local leaders. It seems to me that they been replaced by certain individuals of the Maidan participants. Their hands don’t falter, as has been repeatedly proved. All the more since many of them are not local.
Finally, two things, (1) Saakashvili’s appointment as head of the Odessa Regional State Administration and (2), the coherence of the Moldovan and Ukrainian nationalists, confirm once again that it’s no war of liberation for the Ukrainian and Moldovan (and other) peoples. Instead there is one big civil war in the Former Soviet Union, which, like last time (1917-1921)*, is initiated from abroad, conducted with foreign money, and done for the sake of foreign interests. And, in fact, from the same playbook.
Translator’s comment: Churchill, while the White Army and the Red were fighting, was Minister for War, and wanted Bolshevism “to be strangled in its cradle.” In 1919 the Lloyd George government sent “volunteers” from all three services to help the Whites, and supplies to the value of 100,000,000 pounds sterling. They called it “The Intervention.” The US, Canada, Italy, and Japan all piled on. Plus ce change...
It’s happening. Poroshenko has pulled back the curtain. See news item here.