viernes, 14 de noviembre de 2008

No Clear Goals for Transdniestria

// The price of the question (Kommersant, 14/11/2008)

The history of relations between Moscow and Chisinau and all of Russian policy toward a Transdniestrian settlement has been checkered. In 2001, Communist Vladimir Voronin became president of Moldova thanks in large part to his position in favor of closer ties with Russia. By the time he was reelected in 2005, he had made a complete turnabout, rejecting the famous “Kozak memorandum” and advancing a platform on the country’s future in Europe. In recent months, Russia’s influence on both banks of the Dniester seems to have grown, leading to a variety of expectations.

The simplified view is that Russia should sell them a solution to the problem that is acceptable to it – with a guarantee of Moldova’s neutrality and a confederative government, with Transdniestria having the right to secede should the rest of Moldova unite with Romania. It should promise Chisinau massive economic aid, pressure Tiraspol, interests the politicians personally in the outcome and, in short, engage in classical diplomacy as practiced by a major regional power with weaker neighbors.

But for some reason, that is not happening. Three reasons can be proposed. First, the habit remains of looking at Moldova as a post-Soviet country in its 17th year of independence. If it is seen as a historical part of the Balkans region, everything looks different. The Balkans are part of the European integrative areal. Small and poor Moldova has a different future in that context. After Romania entered the European Union in 2007, that prospect became more real for Moldova at the individual level, if not at the institutional. Evidence of that are the stubbornly, or not so stubbornly, denied rumors of Moldovan residents’ mass receipt of Romanian citizenship. No matter how skeptical one looks at the EU’s initiatives for “Eastern partnership” and “Black Sea synergy,” they have a positive resonance in small countries.

Second, Russia has no common border with Moldova. When Ukraine’s interest in the region was limited to the preservation of various corrupt systems linked to Transdniestria, that fact was not particularly meaningful. But since Orange Kiev has completely gone over to Brussels’ side, it is very important for measuring Russia’s potential.

Finally, Russia’s real strategic, and even tactical, interest is still not clear. That makes the parties involved wary and makes them look for support elsewhere. What does Russia need a settlement in Transdniestria for? Only to show that Moscow can act more wisely than the West did in Kosovo? It still will not make up for the loss of image from the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So no one should be surprised it this phase of Moscow’s policy in the region has a checkered end as well.

Arkady Moshes, director of the Russian program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Comments: Transdniestria is a breakaway territory of Moldova. It’s a rogue state with its own flag, currency, armed forces, authorities, newspapers and so, but it has not been recognized by any other state –not even Russia-. Because of this status, Transdniestria is a legal “black-hole” for drug, weapons and ammo smugglers.

It’s easy to understand that the interest of the government of Tiraspol is to keep at all costs the actual status quo, comfortable situation which allows him to follow its commercial activities of sales of weapon and narcotic across the world with complete impunity. In effect, international law is not applied in this zone of frozen conflict.

martes, 11 de noviembre de 2008

Anew My Lai: Loe Sam, Pakistan

"President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan a top priority. The Bajaur campaign serves as a cautionary tale of the formidable challenge that even a full-scale military effort faces in flushing the Taliban and Al Qaeda from rugged northern Pakistan."


"A Heap of Rubble (NYT, 11/11/2008)

To save Loe Sam, the army has destroyed it.

The shops and homes of the 7,000 people who lived here are a heap of gray rubble, blown to bits by the army. Scraps of bedding and broken electric fans lie strewn in the dirt.

As Pakistani Army helicopters and artillery fired at militants’ strongholds in the region, about 200,000 people fled to tent camps for the displaced in Pakistan, to relatives’ homes or across the border into Afghanistan.

The aerial bombardment was necessary, Pakistani military officials say, to root out a well-armed Taliban force.

The Pakistani Army and the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force responsible for security in the tribal areas, say 83 of their soldiers have died and 300 have been wounded since early August. That compares with 61 dead among forces of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan in the first four months of 2008.


Yes, he knew the people who had lived here were now bereft. “I know many have suffered because of our actions,” Major Saeed said. “But the government is going to take care of them."

Pakistan is (and was) ruled by a couple of Washington puppets: Zia 'ul Haq, then Pervez Musharraf, and now took office Asif Ali Zardari (widower of Benazir Bhutto) aka "Mr. 10%". That guy is taking care of them. Right from a heap of rubble.