Author: Oleksandr Sushko


     In the middle of 2004 the relations between Ukraine and Moldova reached the highest unprecedented tension. Due to the worsened situation around the separatist Transnistrian Moldovian Republic, Ukraine appeared to be dragged again into this ‘frozen conflict’ which over a decade has been causing instability in this part of Europe. Ukraine defines its position in within this conflict as well as the ways to sort it out by a number of multi-directional factors. In this regard the Kyiv’s position stands to be both controversial and fragile. Among the main genetic problems of Ukrainian-Moldovian relations are those political methods inherited from the Soviet times including one on the bilateral level. For the period of autumn 2004, the ongoing result of the conflict is further worsening of the relations between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

      Similarity and difference between international situation of Ukraine and Moldova are defined by all the historical, geographical, social-political factors, economical situation and the interacting flow with the main region’s players – the European Union, NATO, Russian Federation.



     Ukraine and Moldova are the natural allies with the common interests and strategic goals. This objective unity, nevertheless, is not implemented by the sides as fundamental in order to build up mature partner’s relations. The quality of the Ukrainian-Moldovian relations could not be considered as satisfactory. The mutual relations history after gaining the independence is more of missed opportunities case than a positive sample for cooperation of the countries having common goals.
     Within the last year, indeed, there has been only a negative experience of relations between Kyiv and Chisinau. The countries failed to create atmosphere of constructive dialogue on the issues of major importance. The political distance between Kyiv and Chisinau has been continuously increasing. The conclusion seems to not impress – neither of the countries has come close to the benefits in sorting out the major issues. The lack of faith from the both sides as well as complaints became an obstacle to call on the dialogue even in those issues finding consensus previously. Both sides communication sounds more like a deaf and offended dialogue.
     An example to it can be the recant public complaints from the President Kuchma addressed to the Prime-Minister of Moldova Tarlyev during the CIS summit in Astana on the 15th September regarding the Moldovian authorities not acting upon following the Russian plan on regulating the Transnistrian problem introduced in a so-called memoranda of Kozak. It was during this summit when the position of the Ukrainian president prevented from the issue of Transnistria to be included in the official CIS summit agenda. The attempts to bring up an issue for changing the discussion format in respect to Transnistria (Moldova considers the existing format of the group of four countries – Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, OSCE to be ineffective and disposed one) call upon sharp critics from the side of the President Kuchma again.
     Presently Kyiv and Chisinau are both facing a necessity to reconsider not just the context of the dialogue but also its main keys.

Ukraine's main policy problems with regards to Moldova

  1. Over-patient attitude towards Tiraspol regime which can be considered as quasi-recognition of the Transnistrian regime legitimacy.
  2. Ukraine’s policy is following a lead of the Russian course. Support of all the Russian initiatives without an in-depth analysis.
  3. Lack of independent initiatives based upon international law principles.
  4. Lack of the European style leadership.

Moldova's main policy problems with regards to Ukraine

  1. Impulsive and inconsequence reactions.
  2. Incapacity to encourage Ukraine to promote pro-Moldovian policy instead of pro-Tiraspol or pro-Russian.
  3. Incapacity to format pro-Moldovian lobby in Kyiv more effective than pro-Tiraspol one.
  4. Obvious or latent support of Romania in all Ukrainian-Romanian discussions, apparently in respect to Danube mouth or shelf of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island.
  5. Inefficiency in a use of multi-side formats like CIS or GUUAM.

Ukraine and Moldova in the 'Post –Soviet' format
     Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova are among the founders of Commonwealth of the Independent States taking part in all state CIS activities on a common basis. In a same time both countries are quite picky in selecting initiatives and projects within the CIS framework. In this regard, neither Ukraine nor Moldova are the participants of Treaty for Common Security (Tashkent Pact) tending to be a NATO antagonist within post-Soviet space. Ukraine and Moldova did not participate in initiating the Customs Union (1997) that has later been transformed into the Eurasian Economical Commonwealth (EurAsEC). Since May 2002 both countries became and still remain to be the only observers in the EurAsEC).
     The major differences in approaching the issue of cooperation within post-Soviet structures have outlined since 2001 when Ukraine, leaded by the President Kuchma, expressively turned towards Russia looking for supporting its project of authoritarian-corporate state then communist Moldova disappointed with the politics of Russia for the problem of Transnistria launched a policy of situational approaching the European Union. Moldova has not joined the project of Single Economic Space signed by presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan in September 2003.
     Communist party led by Vladimir Voronin took power in Moldova in 2000 has made several attempts to place the CIS among the foreign policy priorities, as been promised by Voronin during the election campaign, but failed to do so due to lack of place for maneuver which Moldova could expect from CIS. A well-skilled game of the Transnistrian authorities managed to create powerful pro-Tiraspol lobby in both key CIS centers, Kyiv and Moscow – interested in maintaining a status-quo with an indefinite prospect. The Smirnov’s emissaries managed to convince Kyiv as well as Moscow in necessity to fix at least quazi-independence of Tiraspol through federalization which means really con-federalization of Moldova. Elite of Moscow and Kyiv supporting a regular dialogue with Smirnov, unlike the other countries, received a clear signal regarding the confederation to be the only possible format of political settlement. ‘Memoranda of Kozak’ from November 2003 appeared to be a kind of attempt to implement such a scenario. Voronin’s Moldova intending to play a contra-game brought no success. As a result, it became clear for Chisinau that both Moscow and Kyiv consciously play for the benefit of Tiraspol regime, ensuring guarantees of the situation on the hand of Smirnov.
     Due to the all stated above, Moldova demonstrates significant raise of anti-Russian and anti-Ukrainian spirits. Russia as well as Ukraine are both perceived, especially by the opposition, as carriers of imperial, unfriendly roots tending to the type of post-Soviet, non-European foreign policy.
     Therefore, Ukraine’s and Moldova’s participation in the post-Soviet formats has not led to neither solving the conflict of Transnistria nor sorting out remaining mutual problems.

     Relations of Ukraine and Moldova have to be transferred into broader European context. Mutual cooperation must be stemmed to the strong reliable common strategic priority – integration to the European Union.
     Problem of Transnistria can be effectively resolved only through a frame of special program of integration to the EU similar to those implemented in the West Balkans. European integration alternative to the separatism ought to replace ideological fundamentals of the Tiraspol regime in the political conscience.
     The common project of the EU and Ukraine for solving the Transnistrian problem could most effectively express common political intention in terms of the European integration. The project would assure the Moldova’s suzerainty at its entire territory and provide the complex of rights and freedoms of all the ethnic groups living in Transnistria.
     Ukraine and Moldova can offer Poland and Romania to act on the four-side initiative for recognizing an EU membership perspective for Ukraine and Moldova. Poland and Romania should be declaring their intention to fully support the process of persistent integration to the European Union (to act as guarantors). Ukraine and Moldova, meanwhile, should adopt symmetrical action program for mutual cooperation with a purpose of optimizing those countries’ European policies.