OSCE Astana Summit forgotten in Chisinau

On 1-2 December, the capital of Kazakhstan is hosting the assembly of The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), reconvened after 11 years of repose and uncertainty.
Denis CENUSA, 28 December 2010, 16:33

There will be participation by a large group of dignitaries from the 56 member states, with the presence of senior officials from 16 other partner countries.  The agenda of this event is unknown to the  general public, although regional stability and security depends on the activity of this international body, and in practice it has a crucial role in the maintenance of the fragile balance, and political calm, in "frozen conflicts".

The  commotion generated by the results of the early parliamentary elections had shortened the diplomatic enthusiasm  previously manifested in Chisinau.  The attention of Moldavian officials is concentrated on the arrangement of the post-electoral political scene.  Due to the current situation,  the discussions in Astana seem to have been abandoned because of the "political quarrels" incited by the need for the creation of comfortable and safe "alliances" for future governance. At the moment, in this urgent and unpredictable situation, political and diplomatic efforts in Chisinau are oriented towards identifying a viable solution, able to prevent new political, institutional or constitutional crises. The existing realities in Moldova, where currently the main concern is to solve internal problems, cannot stop or influence the direction of the discussions opened at OSCE forum. Therefore, while in the heart of Eurasia problems of international, regional and local significance are being decided, political forces in Chisinau are focused on the power adjustment, and the resetting of the political equations.     

Passive Chisinau, active Moscow

The official web pages of state institutions are silent, while dignitaries are deeply involved in activities exploring the political territory, and sketching different variants for political survival. Prime Minister Filat expects an occidental contribution for the establishment of a government dominated by the liberal-democrats. , The argument invoked by Mihai Ghimpu, who refused to participate at OSCE assembly, puts in a shadow over his abilities as Interim President/Speaker, whose responsibility presumably also includes  representing  the country on the international level,  defending and the promoting of the country's interest. Indeed, the leader of the Liberal Party understands that the elections diminished his authority, simultaneously weakening his legitimacy in the international sphere. Also, for Ghimpu it is more important to be in the country at the moment when the future governing structure is decided, hoping to regain an influent position for his party. 

Anyhow, the ambitions of the political parties do not fit within the possible sketches of viable alliances, and the reduction in the number of competitors does not significantly simplify the procedure of negotiations. The internal mobilization is in contrast with the external apathy regarding the event in Astana, where Russia  intends to assert itself in at least at two chapters of great importance for the Republic of Moldova - the regime controlling  conventional armament and the modernization of approaches relating  to conflict solution,   especially paying attention to "frozen conflicts".

In the pre-election phase, political forces in Chisinau insisted on the revival of "the principle related to the agreement concerning the host State" in the context of discussions about the adoption of the adjusted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. In his appeal to the Secretary General of NATO, the Interim President, Mihai Ghimpu, had forcefully solicited the observance of this principle, neglected by Russia when refusing or delaying to evacuate the arsenal of weapons from the Transnistrian region, an armoury that is under the supervision of several hundreds of Russian soldiers. The subject of the reformatting of the negotiation mechanism, through the internationalization of the peacekeeping mission, and its transformation into civilian mission under OSCE auspices, appeared on the agenda of the former government. In the political corridors of Moldova, some parties had continued to support a version of a mission managed by the European Union.

The insignificant and careless attitude of authorities in Chisinau vis-à-vis the event in Astana can be measured through the level of representation from the Moldavian side. Although Ghimpu is still the Interim President, and Filat continues to keep his position as Prime Minister, the Moldavian delegation consisted of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Popov, and the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Affairs, Victor Osipov, both of them having  been removed from the circuit of active politics. In this situation, the Moldavian delegation is in a disadvantageous position, in comparison with senior representatives from other countries participating at the forum. However, at the meeting in Astana, Osipov reaffirmed the need to respect the commitments assumed by Moscow in 1999 in requiring aid from OSCE partners.

Simultaneously, Russian diplomacy acts towards rooting its concept regarding  the control of conventional armament in Europe, and emphasizing the necessity of a unique model for conflict settlement. Russian representatives confronted these aspects on November 30, during the interim conference [1], where the stringent need for new methods of conflicts resolution to be implemented was emphasized. From Moscow's perspective, all the proposed solutions at the previous OSCE meetings had no impact on the control and supervision of conflicts. Following this idea, the solutions regarding conflict situations should not be imposed from outside rather, on the contrary, the primary responsibility should lie on the shoulders of those involved in the conflict. Also, the Russian  side insists on the inadmissibility of  non-consensual and uncooperative mechanisms in the management of conflicts. According to the Russian proposal, is crucial to review the existing tools, but with the establishment of common principles for resolving conflicts. Some elaborated formulas are already promoted in the chancelleries of OSCE states and will be fully taken into consideration after the completion of the Astana Summit. At the same time, the need for the indivisibility of security, in relations between international actors, is stressed.

In a thematic article [2], published on the eve of the Summit, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Serghei Lavrov, reiterates the issues relating to regional conflict resolution in the OSCE area, underlying the mediation capacity of this institution. The head of Russian diplomacy highlights the importance of excluding double standards in the management of conflicts, applying instead identical criteria adjusted to local realities.  With such proposal, it is Russia's intention to approach the parts involved in conflict by building trust, in order to finally find a peaceful solution.

However, Moscow's suggested formula interferes with the real situation of "Transnistrian conflict", where the Russian factor plays a crucial role. The implementation of a Russian paradigm would counteract all the perfectly justified efforts of those states that accuse Russia of involvement with, and  providing support for, separatist regimes, including   those on left bank of Nistru River.  Perhaps without being fully aware of the possible risks, the Russian position creates prerequisites of a continuing "preservation" of conflicts. Even if this approach could be accepted, it is hard to resist conducting a deeper analysis of the Russian suggestions' rationality. The proposal is difficult to implement because it would occur at period of time when Russia's share and influence outside its borders are pretty vulnerable, due to the enormous costs and constraints incurred through supporting separatist regimes. Therefore, in order to maintain regional influence, but also rationalize its foreign policy the initiative for structuring equitable principles for conflict solution is launched. This aspect, together with the "indivisibility of the security space" and the desire to build one state's security to the detriment of other member states' security,  are the key building blocks of the new security architecture presented two years ago to the international community by Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev.

From the deeper analysis presented in an article written by Lavrov, it is easy to understand that Russian's aspirations underlie its immutability treating the situation in the known conflict zones. When Russian officials recommend defending the interests of the involved parties in the conflict, they firstly wanted to advance their own objectives.  Having an argumentative base, Moscow reveals Georgian experience from 2008 and asserts that OSCE took in consideration selective principles, in this way tacitly accepting the degeneration of Georgian situation. From this point of view, Russia is critical of the initiatives referring to the increased  "flexibility" and "the speeding up" of the decision making process within the organization, actions they qualified as "non-consensual forms". On the contrary, Russia sustains the development of a higher level of transparency and the disciplinary activity of OSCE, pointing at the sluggish circulation of OSCE observers' warnings from the South Ossetian conflict zone to the organization's leadership and even within the organization on the eve of Georgian War (2008). In this way, Moscow pleads for a stronger OSCE and for the organisation to be more active  in the international arena. The subtext of these claims derive from Russia's desire to intensify its presence in the organization and to keep control over the decision making process.

Additionally, Lavrov tried to underline the destructive character of omission from calculations of conjuncture and of regional realities in the conflict settlement process. This aspect is also  a characteristic for the Transnistrean conflict. Here, due to the political uncertainty from Chisinau and the policies conducted by pro-Romanian forces as well as the deficiency and weakness of the government, the negotiation process has been diminished, in the conditions when firm steps were done to build confidence between the two banks. The same principle was used to polish the image of the Russian peacekeeping mission, which lost its actuality long time ago, but whose activity is continued in the absence of an acceptable alternative, at the insistence of the Russian side.

The indifference of Moldavian leaders, and their preoccupation  with the redevelopment of post-electoral political circumstances, had disadvantaged Moldova's presence in Astana, where already a statement has been adopted regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [3], which makes a radiography of the present situation in the mentioned above zone and proposes short and medium term objectives for the retrieval of things.

Unfortunately, the Moldavian representation in Astana, the lack of a strong official rhetoric in this regard, and the political ambiguity resulting from the elections that took place on the November reduced the chances of a deep and comprehensive approach to the Transnistrian conflict, the voice of Chisinau being reduced at the OSCE summit, where 11 years ago had been achieved important progress for re-engaging Russia in the Transnitrian conflict unravel.     



1.       Выступление главы российской делегации на закрытии Обзорной конференции ОБСЕ по рассмотрению выполнения обязательств в области человеческого измерения, Астана, 28 ноября 2010 года, http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/66C048838E57F3ACC32577E9004E9E15

2.       "Как преодолеть кризис идентичности", "Российская газета", 30 ноября 2010 года, Статья Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова, http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/B285312543C5CD15C32577EB002581CB

3.       Joint Statement by the Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries and the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, http://summit2010.osce.org/en/press_release/node/427