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Will WWIII Be Triggered by a Dispute over Transnistria ?


June 7, 2015
Joshua Kucera / Eurasianet & Sputnik News & BBC News

Alarms about the threat of war in Transnistria, the breakaway territory of Moldova, have been repeatedly sounded in recent days by government officials and media in Transnistria, as well as the de facto state's main sponsor, Russia. Two weeks ago, Ukraine canceled the agreement that allowed Russia to supply its roughly 1,500 troops stationed in Transnistria through Ukrainian territory. Simultaneously, Moldova tightened the rules of transit for Russian troops traveling via Chisinau airport.

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/73726

Could US, Ukraine and Russia Come to Blows over Transnistria?

The NATO Partnership and Cooperative Security Committee made what an alliance official called a "historic and unique visit" to Kishinev, where US military are stationed, on 2-3 June.

"We are here to demonstrate our commitment to Moldova and to our partnership. This is a historic and unique visit. We came here because circumstances are unique," said James Appathurai, NATO deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs.

"In today's geopolitical circumstances, with an assertive Russia exerting pressure on countries in the region, only cooperation makes us stronger and only together we can address security challenges."
-- Eurasianet News Service



With Ukrainian "Blockade," Drums Of War Sounding In Transnistria
Joshua Kucera / Eurasianet

(June 4, 2015) -- Alarms about the threat of war in Transnistria, the breakaway territory of Moldova, have been repeatedly sounded in recent days by government officials and media in Transnistria, as well as the de facto state's main sponsor, Russia.

Two weeks ago, Ukraine canceled the agreement that allowed Russia to supply its roughly 1,500 troops stationed in Transnistria through Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian route was the only way by which Russian forces in Transnistria could be reached by land; the territory's only other land border is with Moldova, which also has been restricting what limited access it was giving Russian forces to Transnistria.

While Ukraine insists that its move solely affected the agreement to supply the Russian military, many Russian and Transnistrian sources claim that Transnistria is now the subject of a full "blockade" and that Ukraine and Moldova, backed by the United States, are preparing a military assault.

Transnistria's de facto foreign minister, Nina Shtanski, said on June 1 that Ukrainian troops were massing at the border with Transnistria. "It's clear to everyone what is on the Transnistrian border: they are building tent camps, deploying soldiers. Imagine what panic this is causing among Transnistrians and especially people who live on the border with Ukraine," she said.

"On the border with Ukraine they are digging a trench, as a symbol of the separation of the neighboring people, armed Ukrainian border guards have been deployed to checkpoints, Odessa is flooded with people in uniform, and the deployment of S-300 [air defense] batteries also has caused alarm," wrote a coalition of Transnistrian activist groups in an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to defend the territory.

The recent appointment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Odessa has been seen, in this scenario, as a crucial step in uniting the Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Western powers against Transnistria.

"Does the Kiev-Kishinev alliance have a chance of success under the leadership of Saakashvili? If Russia continues to pretend that nothing unusual is happening around Transnistria, and limits itself to foreign ministry statements, then yes," wrote the newspaper Pridnestrovaya Pravda.

"Ukrainian armed forces 'Grad' rocket fire is capable of completely destroying the city of Tiraspol, founded by Alexander Suvorov, and then the cutthroats of the Aydar, Azov and other such battalions will raise above the ruins the flag of the European Union. The appointment of Saakashvili as governor of Odessa isn't just a signal to Russia. It's an alarm bell, a siren, a thunder. It's practically a declaration of war."

The claims have been repeated in the Russian press, as well. "The events of the last few months suggest that the governments of Ukraine and Moldova with, of course, support from the United States, are preparing something bad for Transnistria and Novorossiya," wrote journalist Aleksandr Chalenko in the Russian newspaper Izvestia. "In addition, there is information that in Kishinev several weeks ago about 300 Americans reportedly arrived, deploying to a television broadcasting center. The pieces are coming together in an alarming way...."

And the head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Research, Leonid Reshetnikov, wrote: "We need to defend Transnistria. There are Russian people in Transnistria, but I call all of them Russian -- no matter if by origin they are Moldovans, Ukrainians, Bulgarians or Russians.

"With a struggle, with blood they won their independence. And we need to take decisive steps. First, to recognize the independence of Transnistria; second, to sign an agreement on mutual aid and cooperation in case of attack on Transnistria. There is no other option."

Meanwhile, as if on cue, the NATO Partnership and Cooperative Security Committee made what an alliance official called a "historic and unique visit" to Kishinev on June 2-3. "We are here to demonstrate our commitment to Moldova and to our partnership. This is a historic and unique visit. We came here because circumstances are unique," said James Appathurai, deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs.

"In today's geopolitical circumstances, with an assertive Russia exerting pressure on countries in the region, only cooperation makes us stronger and only together we can address security challenges."

So what is all this about? Ukraine obviously already has more on its plate than it can handle, so the prospect of it invading Transnistria is nil. Most likely, this is an attempt to heighten the sense of panic in the Russia-sympathetic world for internal purposes. But the tenor and volume of the rhetoric is hard to ignore.


Kiev’s Blockade of Transnistria Fraught With New War
Sputnik News

(March 6, 2015) -- On May 21 the Ukrainian parliament voted to suspend all military cooperation with Russia. The new law effectively terminated the 1998 agreement on the transit of Russian military units to Transnistria through the territory of Ukraine.

Simultaneously, Moldova tightened the rules of transit for Russian military personnel traveling via Chisinau airport.

Chisinau had periodically blocked and deported Russian soldiers who were not clearly identified as international peacekeepers or who had failed to give sufficient advance notice.

Even though much cooperation was of course already suspended, throughout the current crisis Russia had been able to use Ukrainian territory to supply its peacekeepers in Transnistria, a narrow strip of land on Ukraine's western border. No longer.

Russia’s response was quick and stern.

"The Ministry of Defense is left with no other option than to supply Russian forces with all the necessities by air bridge, with military-transport aircraft," Yuri Yakubov, a senior Russian MoD official, said after the Ukrainian vote.

"The Russian contingent will be supplied under any circumstances," he added.

Adding to Russia’s worries, the Moldovan authorities have reportedly been arresting and deporting Russian soldiers who try to fly into Moldova en route to Transnistria.

Moldova hasn't stopped all Russian soldiers from traveling through its territory — only those not in the Moldova-supported peacekeeping mission, and only those who don't give a month's notice that they will be traveling to Moldova.

Of the roughly 1,500 Russian troops stationed in Moldova, about 1,000 are in the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova, which Moldova does not support; the rest are peacekeepers regulated by the Joint Control Commission, which includes representatives of Moldova, Transnistria, and Russia.

Though small, the Russian peacekeeping contingent is a potent deterrent guaranteeing the security of the Transnistrian republic, because any outside attack on it will be interpreted as an attack on Russia itself.

Still, the Moldovan transit ban means that the Russian contingent will shrink and may eventually cease to exist.

This, in turn, could encourage Moldova to try to bring the breakaway region back into its fold by force.

Kiev’s suspension of defense cooperation agreements with Russia and the Moldovan ban on the transit of Russian soldiers to Transnistria comes as NATO continues beefing up its military presence in neighboring Romania.

The tensions mounting around Transnistria could easily spin of control and just how far the sides are ready to go in this standoff remains anybody’s guess…



Ukraine's Poroshenko Warns of 'Full-scale' Russia Invasion
BBC News

(June 4, 2015) -- President Petro Poroshenko has told MPs the military must prepare to defend against a possible "full-scale invasion" from Russia, amid a surge of violence in eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied that its military is involved in Ukraine, but Mr. Poroshenko said 9,000 of its troops were deployed.

Clashes involving tanks took place in two areas west of Donetsk on Wednesday. There was a "colossal threat" that large-scale fighting would resume, the president told parliament in Kiev.

The outbreak of violence, in the government-held towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, was among the worst in eastern Ukraine since a ceasefire was signed in Minsk in February.

International monitors from the OSCE said that in the hours before and during the fighting around Maryinka a large amount of heavy weapons was spotted moving towards the contact line in rebel-controlled areas. Government troops fired shells at rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Donetsk.

Ukraine said it had lost five soldiers in the past 24 hours, while the rebels said 15 people including civilians had been killed. The separatists denied Ukrainian claims that they launched a major offensive in violation of a truce.

The OSCE said that for more than an hour on Wednesday they had tried to contact separatist leaders to halt the fighting, but they were either "unavailable or did not wish" to speak to the monitors.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, accused the authorities in Kiev of jeopardising the Minsk agreement, by placing it "under the constant threat of disruption" and by refusing to engage in direct dialogue with separatist leaders.

The Kremlin has consistently denied sending serving soldiers across the border, although it has acknowledged that "volunteers" have joined the rebels.

If there is a spike in fighting, like the battle in the town of Maryinka on Wednesday, then both sides know they cannot be seen as the aggressor, because they lose credibility and damage the negotiating position of their allies in either Moscow, or in European capitals.

Neither side wants to be seen as responsible for breaking the highly publicised, but so far unsuccessful, Minsk peace agreement.

And bargaining power for either side will become ever more crucial because in three weeks the European Union will decide whether to renew sanctions against Russia.

'Russian Bayonets'
In his annual address to parliament, Mr. Poroshenko warned of a "colossal threat" from the rising violence. "Ukraine's military should be ready for a new offensive by the enemy, as well as a full-scale invasion along the entire border with the Russian Federation," he said. "We must be really prepared for this."

More than 6,400 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began in April 2014 when rebels seized large parts of the two eastern regions, following Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula.

Mr. Poroshenko said Ukraine had 50,000 troops in the east who were able to defend the country. What he described as the Kremlin's "plan to sow separatism in south-eastern Ukraine" had failed, he added, and only persisted in areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions because of "Russian bayonets".

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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