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Rape of Moldova

Rape of Moldova

// Vladimir Voronin preferred meeting with Vladimir Putin to GUAM summitThe Organization for Democracy and Economic Development GUAM (uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) opened the summit of its member states in Baku on Monday. Gathered under the U.S. aegis, the presidents of these post-Soviet republics will discuss plans for further counteracting Russia’s influence. However, Moscow managed to strike a pre-emptive blow against its opponents. Moldova’s President Vladimir Voronin did not come to the summit. Instead, he will arrive to Moscow on Friday to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.All without one

The current GUAM summit in Baku became the stateliest one in the entire history of the organization. Beside the leaders of the four member states, Azerbaijan’s capital also welcomed presidents of Poland Lekh Kachinsky, of Romania Trajan Basesku, and of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus. Delegates from 30 countries and international organizations from all over the world, including China, Japan, and even Turkmenistan, were invited to attend the summit. They all gathered in Baku so as to plan the cooperation between the member states in 2007-2008 in economy, energy policy, transport, and military partnership, in the presence of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer (The U.S. is an observer state in GUAM). The military cooperation means creating GUAM’s own peacekeeping forces, to eventually replace Russian peacekeepers in the conflict regions of Transdniestria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Several days before the summit, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev spoke very optimistically about GUAM’s future. “GUAM is undergoing its second important stage of development, and is turning into an important international organization,” proclaimed Aliev. “GUAM member states are very close to each other, and are working together on energy and transports programs, as well as programs of political dialogue.”

Meanwhile, the summit’s beginning was darkened by the unexpected news from Chisinau. Moldavian president’s press secretary Natalia Vishanu said that her boss Vladimir Voronin will not take part in the talks of the GUAM quartet.

“The GUAM summit coincides in time with the president’s visit to Luxembourg and Brussels, where he will take part in the session of the EU-Moldova Cooperation Council, and meet with high-ranked EU commissars,” explained Vishanu the reason of Moldavian president’s absence. “This visit was planned early in 2007, so it was too late to reschedule it.”

Thus, Vladimir Voronin became the only of GUAM presidents not to take part in the session of the four leaders planned for Tuesday. Instead of him, Moldavian Prime Minister Vasily Tarlev will sit at the table with Mikhail Saakashvili, Viktor Yushchenko, and Ilham Aliev. By the way, Moldavian Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan followed the president’s suit, and sent Deputy Foreign Minister Valeriu Ostalep to the summit in Baku, instead of himself.

One on one

Before, Voronin was not only the GUAM summits’ most punctual visitor, but he also enjoyed receiving the quartet’s leaders in his residence in Chisinau. The coincidence of dates of Voronin’s current visit to Europe and of the GUAM summit is not the only reason why Moldavian president will miss the event in Baku. In fact, a much more important event is scheduled for Voronin for Friday: on June 22, he is to visit Moscow and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Apparently, the Russian and Moldavian leaders arranged it during the informal CIS summit in St. Petersburg last week.

Voronin strived for one-on-one talks with Putin since long ago. Ever since Moscow-Chisinau relations spoiled drastically in 2003, when Moldova refused to sign the memorandum on Transdniestria settlement, developed by then Deputy Head of Russian President’s Staff Dmitry Kozak. After it, Russia declared boycott to all Moldavian agricultural products, including the especially important product for Moldova, wine. Moreover, Moscow began openly providing political and financial support to Transdniestria, so as to spite Chisinau. Tiraspol leaders were overtly received in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the doors to the Kremlin were closed for Voronin, and he had to be content with just passing meetings with Putin at the CIS summits.

Everything changed in August 2006, after the Moldavian president met with Putin and offered a plan to normalize relations, which included Moldova’s completely giving up any moves towards joining NATO. The Kremlin accepted the plan, concluding that Chisinau has not yet completely left Russia’s orbit of influence. To nail down the success, Moscow made it clear that it is ready to lift the ban on Moldavian wine, and Voronin signed last week the decree on immediately resuming wine supplies to Russia.

At the same time, the Russian authorities resumed mediatory activities for settling the conflict in Transdniestria. The issue is supervised by Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Yuri Zubakov, who has been visiting Chisinau several times per month in the last six months. Thanks to Zubakov’s to-and-fro diplomacy, Moldova and Russia became much closer. Zubakov brought Russia’s suggestions for solving the Transdniestria conflict to the Moldavian authorities. Moscow intends to settle it by organizing a meeting between Voronin and Transdniestria leader Igor Smirnov in Putin’s presence. Thus, Chisinau became very optimistic about the chances to reunite the split country soon. There even were stipulations that the document on reconciliation might be signed at the CIS summit in St. Petersburg. However, it did not happen, but the Transdniestria issue will dominate the Putin-Voronin talks in Moscow on Friday.

“The presidents will discuss the entire range of bilateral issues, including Transdniestria, which is in fact a serious problem in our relations,” said a high-placed source in the Kremlin. “The two leaders have certain ideas for solving it. Russia is determined to solve it, as well as Voronin. So, we support his optimism.”

By oneself

Judging by what the source said, the Russian and Moldavian presidents might announce reaching specific agreements on Transdniestria on June 22. So, it is not surprising that Voronin chose to ignore the GUAM summit in Baku. The quartet’s leaders, in 2005 in Chisinau and in Kiev last year, strongly criticized Russia’s policy, condemning the uselessness of the CIS it protects, and Russia’s military presence in Moldova and Georgia. Thus, at the GUAM summit in Kiev in May 2006, Voronin personally reprobated Moscow for imperialistic ambitions: “We cannot get rid of the Soviet Empire syndrome. We, Moldavians, are a peace-loving nation; but even we cannot put up with ‘elder brother—younger brother’ relations.” This time, however, when not only Moldova’s future is at stake, but also his own political prospects, Voronin has apparently decided to stay away from the company of Russia’s enemies.

It is not the first time that Moscow sows discord within enemy GUAM. Russia’s most successful operation here was making Uzbekistan leave the organization, taking away one U letter out of its name. By the way, Tashkent’s leaving of GUAM also began with Islam Karimov’s not visiting the summit in Chisinau in April 2005. Already in December, the Uzbek leader unilaterally denounced the package of documents signed within GUUAM, refusing to fulfill his obligations to the pro-West alliance. Karimov left it after the bloodshed in Andijan in May 2005, when the Uzbek authorities cruelly suppressed the riots in that city, shooting dead nearly 1,500 civilians, according to independent estimations. The U.S. and the EU condemned Tashkent’s actions. Left in isolation, Karimov ousted the U.S. military base from Uzbekistan, and joined Russia-patronized EurAsEC and CSTO.

Meanwhile, unlike his Uzbek counterpart, Voronin is not seen by the West as an odious leader. From time to time, he is received in European capitals, obtaining support for Moldova’s Europe-integration aspirations. Therefore, now before meeting with Putin, Voronin considered it more useful for himself to visit Brussels instead of Baku. There he is consulting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Thus, Voronin has once again displayed flexibility in foreign policy issues. Restoring economic relations with Russia and trying to solve the Transdniestria issue, he is trying to put it so as not to incur the West’s anger.

Source: Kommersant, Russia


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