13.06.2015 Author: Seth Ferris

Transdnistria: Why Washington Hates Russian Peacekeepers?

76543224111Before Mikheil Saakashvili became a Ukrainian and was made Governor of Odessa it was reported that he was being sent to Moldova to conduct an “anti-corruption campaign”. Moldovans have long objected to the endemic corruption in that country and recent street protests against it have made Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici scared, so bringing in an external advisor who the EU likes was intended to show the world he was addressing this issue.

Doubtless Gaburici would like Saakashvili’s way of dealing with corruption – use the campaign to sack and jail every opponent on unsustainable charges and turn pervasive petty corruption into large-scale, state-sponsored corruption which benefits the ruling elite and no one else. It is this sort of behaviour which got Saakashvili looking for new jobs in new countries in the first place, as Georgia is trying to bring him to justice for this and many even worse crimes, and will arrest him if he returns, even though he has now renounced Georgian citizenship.

But why was it assumed that Moldova might take him or how son will he be taken down? Already and the country and its PM are sitting ducks for the next target in the Western war machine. Scared that the US will pour all its money into propping up Poroshenko’s chocolate soldiers it is prepared to do absolutely anything to play along. If that means slaughtering its own people, in exchange for “assistance” which is supposed to help those people, so be it.

Why do we know this is what Moldova intends? Look at the latest news. The Ukrainian government has just renounced all its defence agreements with Russia. If it wants to put all its eggs in the Western basket, this would seem a logical move. But one of those agreements concerns the transfer of Russian peacekeepers through Ukrainian territory to Transdnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway province.

And as recent as Friday, Chiril Gaburici, 38, announced his resignation after he was questioned by state prosecutors about his high school and university degrees late on Thursday. Nobody is questioning the degrees of Saakashvili who audited a few classes in the US and added them to his CV as degrees.

“I regret that questions about my studies have become an instrument of political games,” said Gaburici, the news agency AP quoted him as saying. He made no comments about the substance of the allegations of his academic qualifications. “I am not a politician, I am a manager. The country needs to change the political system,” he added, being only a short time in power.

The Nexus

It is this, rather than anything to do with Ukraine, which has provoked these latest ploys. The West hasn’t promised to step in and replace the content of these defence agreements, so Ukraine gains nothing but Western brownie points from it. But it will have a pronounced effect in Transdnistria, which still has a significant Russian population.

The peacekeeping contingent is dwindling by the day as Russian troops complete their tours of duty and go home. Now it cannot be restocked, unless new troops are flown in over someone else’s airspace, a very unlikely scenario. The peacekeepers are there because there is a frozen conflict between Transdnistria and Moldova. So by definition, if you take them away without any agreement to end the conflict you are expecting it, indeed encouraging it, to start again.

Why does Moldova want this? Like Saakashvili, Gaburici has been seduced by the notion of either reuniting the country or being martyred for that cause. He also knows, however, that the West wants conflict for its own reasons. He is happy to go along, in violation of his oath of office, if it keeps him at the head of the gravy train.

Frozen conflict and sleeping shame

Most Westerners have never heard of Transdnistria, and those who have couldn’t care less. Here is another region which demanded self-determination in a way the West didn’t like – it wanted to stay with Russia after Soviet Union fell, not be part of a new state it didn’t trust. But it doesn’t get into the news much because the conflict there is frozen, so policymakers just have to go through the motions of Russia-bashing without having to bother about the place.

The region’s greatest strength from a Western viewpoint, the fact that it wasn’t causing trouble, has now become its greatest weakness. The West knows it can’t claim victory there because the conflict still exists, even if frozen, and no positive development there can be ascribed to Western intervention. This is why the West doesn’t report on Transdnistria: it doesn’t have enough propaganda tools to portray the place in a light favourable to itself.

The phrase “Russian peacekeepers” has the same connotations for Westerners as phrases such as the rugby term “Maori sidestep”, which means running straight into somebody at full force. It is assumed that there is no such thing as a Russian peacekeeper, because Russia is an interested party in any conflict it sends armed peacekeepers to.

But no one raises an eyebrow when Western troops are sent thousands of miles from home on “peacekeeping missions” designed to calm conflicts the West often created to begin with, to fulfil its own ambitions. But as time goes on, they are judged on their results. If a Western peacekeeping mission is deemed to have worked, by applying various criteria, the West eventually has to acknowledge that Russian ones might also work according to the same criteria – and therefore, that there really are such things as Russian peacekeepers.

The Russian peacekeeping operation in Transdnistria has worked remarkably well since 1992, more so than Western ones in Bosnia, Iraq or any number of other places. There has been very little conflict or threat to the local population. If there had been, the West would have heard about it in gory detail, as it would have been used to smear the Russian peacekeepers.

The problem from the West’s point of view is that not only has Russia kept the peace it has shown that its own solutions work. In effect, Moldova is now two independent states: the official Moldova based in Chisinau and an independent Transdnistria where Chisinau’s writ does not run. This is a solution to local conflict which Russia has supported in a number of places, including Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbas and Lugansk.

The West doesn’t agree. It prefers another approach, and not without reason or legal backing. But the Western approach hasn’t delivered for many conflict regions, and the Russian one has.

Residents of Abkhazia are impressed by the higher professional standards of Russian troops and the security they generally provide. Transdnistria has done very well out of its peacekeepers, for over twenty years, and has no reason to return to Moldova whether or not it seeks ultimate integration with Russia. The Russians have not only kept the peace, they have made the locals relatively content.

The West can’t allow this to go on when separatists in other parts of the region are pressing for their own states. People can look at Transdnistria and say that, for all its problems, it has gained more from the Russian approach than it thinks it will from the Western one. The West doesn’t care what happens to the countries it is interested in, as the state it leaves them in testifies. But it cares about its own reputation, and Transdnistria is not only a defeat in itself, it will lead to many more unless it can be quickly destabilised.

Same old two faces

The point of peacekeepers isn’t to separate conflict sides but to maintain peace where it exists. They are there to prevent conflict breaking out, not to stop it when it has started. Therefore they are alert to anyone who might be causing trouble which will lead to a further outbreak of violence.

With no peacekeepers in Transdnistria it will not be difficult to find people prepared to provoke conflict for the sake of it. Any frozen conflict leaves both sides with genuine grievances which they have had to suppress for the sake of the peace. When the landscape changes, everyone will try and get their own pert grievance to the head of the queue. The West calls this “Balkanisation”, but it happens everywhere under different names.

The original Maidan Square protestors had genuine grievances, some against Viktor Yanukovych but others of much longer standing. As we all saw, these were soon hijacked by agitators who had entirely different aims in mind. No matter how many times Ukrainians on both sides of the argument told the West that the protests were NOT about rejecting an EU Association Agreement the West insisted that had to be the cause because it could then do what it wanted in response. It did, and the world sees the consequences.

Mikheil Saakashvili is still walking around because he knows everything the West did in the country he was president of, and how well he himself did out of it. The reason Georgian prosecutors can’t find out where he actually lives is because he is usually on a luxury yacht, sailing between different jurisdictions, with a succession of other people’s wives and a secure cocaine supply. That won’t stop if he spills the beans about what he did to get it, and the West knows it.

The US has long had a mobile terrorist unit in Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, whose members are sent round to every trouble spot, including Maidan Square, to serve US interests and then moved on to the next flashpoint. Saakashvili and his gang’s unprecented infiltration of Ukraine demonstrates that they are part of an administrative equivalent, there to spread conflict wherever the US has an interest in doing so. This keeps the prospective songbirds sweet.

When the Prime Minister of Moldova states publicly that he wants to bring Saakashvili, of all people, into the country to conduct an “anti-corruption campaign”, doubtless at a price, that makes Moldova the next candidate for Western disruption. Now Ukraine has ensured that the Russian peacekeepers will not be able to access Transdnistria it has given the West the means to achieve this.

So Gaburici is happy to restart a conflict he is unlikely to win, and kill what he regards as his own citizens in the process, because the West can’t face another propaganda defeat. The strategic calculation that this will quell separatism elsewhere will soon be proved wrong by such an approach. Unless, of course, the West gets rid of its nuclear stockpile by blasting Transdnistria off the face of the earth – just what no one believed it would dare do in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in fact.

Too good to be allowed to be true

If you asked most Transdnistrians whether they wanted to live there or in the West they would say the West, as it offers greater opportunity and prosperity. But that is also why many people from all over the former Soviet space, whether from pro-Western, neutral or pro-Russian parts of it, live and work in Russia. It does not mean that those who want to go west agree with everything the West says and does, or want all the Russians, including native-born ones, out of their country.

The peacekeeping operation in Transdnistria, which happens to be a Russian one, has worked. But it has created an effective solution to conflict which the West can’t accept, simply because it shows Russia can be right. The West has imposed its own two-state solutions in Sudan, Palestine, India and many other places, so it doesn’t object to the principle. It objects to it actually working, if it makes the other side look good.

The West is using the usual methods, and culprits, to get the frozen Moldova-Transdnistria conflict going again. Then it will say that the Russian peacekeeping mission failed. How we got to this point will be forgotten, just as it was in Yugoslavia. This will give the West the temporary propaganda victory it craves.

But at what cost?

No one wants to fight over Transdnistria now, Russia included. But all the US allies will, when something kicks off. The first volley is with the unexpected resignation of the Moldovan Prime Minister Gaburici. Remembering the Western public hostility to the Iraq war, we wait to see how long they will think it is worth it—this grand game in Ukraine and what it will cost in dollars and human pain for the people of this strategic region—we are already seeing the increased body count in Ukraine and Moldova is next in the tally.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.