That’s not my phrase, it comes from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He used it in a minatory fashion, to describe the behavior which would tend to evoke a response from Russia resembling recent actions against the Georgians in South Ossetia.
He was addressing the nation of Moldova, which is in the midst of a long-term crisis with its own breakaway region, Transdniestria. The Russians consider themselves to be the protectors of Transdniestria; hence Mr. Medvedev’s warning to the Moldovans.
Transdniestria or Transnistria is a narrow sliver of territory lying north of the Dniester but within the boundaries of Moldova. It is somewhat ethnically distinct — roughly a third of the population is ethnically Russian, another third Ukrainian, and the remaining third Moldovan, i.e. Romanian.
Even during the Soviet period, strong tensions existed between Transdniestria and the rest of Moldova (then called the Moldavian S.S.R.). Late in 1991, while the U.S.S.R. was still nominally extant, a war broke out between the central government in Chisinau and the separatists across the Dniester. Russian and Ukrainian volunteers arrived in Transdniestria to help the would-be nation, but it never achieved official international recognition after the Soviet Union disintegrated. It has gained extensive autonomy, but remains legally a part of the nation of Moldova.
Flush with their success in Georgia, the Russians are now flexing their Slavic muscles towards Moldova. According to Reuters.
Russia Warns Moldova Against “Georgian Mistake”
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned ex-Soviet Moldova on Monday against repeating Georgia’s mistake of trying to use force to seize back control of a breakaway region.
Russia sent peacekeepers to Moldova in the early 1990s to end a conflict between Chisinau and its breakaway Transdniestria region and is trying to mediate a deal between the two sides.
Transdniestria, one of a number of “frozen conflicts” on the territory of the former Soviet Union, mirrored the standoff between Georgia and its rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia until they erupted in war earlier this month.
Russia sent troops to Georgia to crush Tbilisi’s military push into South Ossetia and Moscow says Georgia has now lost the chance of ever re-integrating the breakaway provinces.
“After the Georgian leadership lost their marbles, as they say, all the problems got worse and a military conflict erupted,” Medvedev told Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin.
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“This is a serious warning, a warning to all,” he added. “And I believe we should handle other existing conflicts in this context.”
As the two leaders spoke in Medvedev’s Black Sea residence in Sochi, Russian lawmakers were voting non-binding resolutions urging the Kremlin to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Before Slavophile readers get all dreamy-eyed about the freedom-fighters of the Dniester, you might want to consider the coat of arms and flag of Transdniestria:
The Russian Republic may have transcended its Soviet past, but Transdniestria appears to be wallowing in nostalgia for the days of the commissars.
Russia’s claim to Transdniestria is tenuous at best. In recent years it has followed the Ossetian playbook in the region, issuing Russian passports in generous numbers to Transdniestrians so that it may act to “protect” them when the moment is right.
Russia doesn’t share a border with Transdniestria (or Moldova): Ukraine lies in between. Not everyone considers this an obstacle; there are many Russians who consider Ukraine to be a rightful Russian province which just happens to be in a state of rebellion, and has been for the last seventeen years.
But Ukrainians don’t agree. If you do not consider those Transdniestrian Ukrainians to be Russians, then Russia has at best a third of a voting share in the affairs of Transdniestria.
The situation in Moldova will bear watching over the next few months while the world is preoccupied with the
advent of the Messiah election season in the USA.
Hat tip: Abu Elvis.