Canada-Moldova ties in the Russian zone of influence

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Canada takes its stand on Transnistria to avoid the repetition of the Georgian or the Ukrainian scenarios

Bilateral relations between Canada and Moldova have recently visibly intensified touching among other things Russian interests and policy in Transnistria.

June of 2018 seems to be a remarkable month for Canada-Moldova cooperation. A start for a broader partnership was laid by Tudor Ulianovschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, who visited Canada in the middle of June. A series of meetings that he held in the country successfully finalized five years of negotiations between the two countries. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was signed together with the joint declaration regarding progressive and inclusive trade and investment on June 12, 2018. The agreement is meant to secure Canadian investors considering investments opportunities in Moldova. Two days later, Ms. Ala Beleavschi, the Republic of Moldova’s Ambassador to Canada, appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and briefed senators primarily on Transnistria and Russian involvement in the region. As a result, the Committee issued the Interim Report on Russia’s Interference in Moldova echoing Moldavian concerns that “Russia might escalate the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine by opening up a second front in Western Ukraine from Transnistria.” At the same time, the story with urging Russia to withdraw its operational troops from Moldova received a continuation on the international arena. The UN General Assembly draft resolution on Complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, introduced by Moldova but co-sponsored by Canada and some other European states, was adopted by a vote of 64 in favour to 15 against, with 83 abstentions, on June 22.

Meanwhile, the Russian representative to the UN GA had proposed to delay voting to further work on the draft which had not been accepted. After the vote, he just expressed regrets about the outcome and politicization of the problem. In turn, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation extensively criticized the draft’s adoption pointing out that there was no unity on the document neither in Moldova nor among the UN member states, taking into consideration the total amount of votes against and abstentions. The entire initiative was called a “blatant propaganda… inciting anti-Russian sentiment ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections” [in Moldova]. Canada was not mentioned in the Ministry’s comment.

Transnistria is a self-proclaimed but not internationally recognized state with more than 500 thousand people considered by the UN to be part of Moldova. Tensions between Moldova and Transnistria began on the eve of the collapse of the USSR and finally lead to a full-scale military conflict in 1992. A ceasefire was reached in the same year and the Operational Group of Russian Forces operating in the area in a capacity of peacekeepers was created out of the former Soviet 14th Guards Army which had taken part in that war. According to Moldova, Russian troops in Transnistria consist of approximately 1,400 soldiers. But what concerns Moldova even more is that the de facto independence of Transnistria from Moldova is only possible due to the Russian backup. Russia was granting its citizenship to Transnistrian residents at some point. Moreover, back in 2006, Transnistrian government conducted a referendum resulting in favour of the region’s independence from Moldova and further free association with Russia. In 2016, the referendum results were restated by the president of the unrecognized republic.

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