Moldova, Relations with

Moldova, Relations with
   The present-day territory of the Republic of Moldova, historically known as Bessarabia, was incorporated into the Russian Empire at the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812). After World War I (1914–1918), much of the region was granted to Romania, though the lands east of the Dnestr River were an autonomous region within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) occupied Romanian Bessarabia and created a new union republic, which was reconstituted after World War II and lasted until 1991.
   Under glasnost, a strong nationalist movement emerged among the republic’s titular majority, ethnic Romanians also known as Moldovans. Fearful of Romanianization and/or reunification of the republic with Romania, the country’s Slavs—who dominated the Transnistria region—declared independence in September 1990. Fighting soon broke out between republican authorities and the separatists; a cease-fire was brokered in July 1992, several months after the Republic of Moldova gained its independence from the Soviet Union.
   Dispatched to the region in the summer, Aleksandr Lebed loudly denounced the Romanian “fascists” and Transnistrian “bandits,” making a name for himself politically while ending the violence. Acting as a peacekeeping force, the Russian 14th Army, known as the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova after 1995, has remained in Transnistria since that time.
   Relations between the two states reached their nadir during the first Yeltsin administration in the midst of a Russian-imposed trade embargo. After Moldova joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Moscow committed to a withdrawal; however, opposition in the State Duma made such an outcome impossible as protection of Russian “compatriots,” that is, Russophones in Moldova, had emerged as a key domestic policy issue in the Russian Federation. During the late 1990s, the Transnistrian conflict became frozen, with the breakaway republic governing itself as a wholly sovereign entity. In 2004, a proposal to make the Russian military presence permanent sparked outrage across Moldova proper; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has condemned Russia for not living up to its 1999 commitment to remove its troops from the region. Ukraine, Romania, the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have all sought to resolve the situation, without success.
   Moldova is committed to neutrality and has not participated in any of the CIS’s military structures; likewise, although it is a member of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the country is not party to any common defense initiatives within the group. As Europe’s poorest country, Moldova has sought to attenuate its disputes with Moscow since the economic successes of the Putin administration have become apparent. President Vladimir Voronin (2001–present), a vocal supporter of the CIS, head of the country’s Communist Party, and a Transnistrian by birth, has declared that his country is on good terms with Russia, with the only issue dividing Chişinău and Moscow being the status of Transnistria. Relations have improved markedly since 2006: annual trade exceeds $1 billion, Russian foreign investment in the country is on the rise, and Moscow is allowing increasing numbers of Moldovan agricultural products to enter the country, including wine, which was barred until 2007. In the spring of 2009, violent pro-Western, youth-led demonstrations against the Communist government complicated the country’s international situation as it became clear that Moscow had little influence over the country vis-à-vis the EU.
   See also Foreign relations.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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