In the Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika, the opposition of the executive and legislative branches of power, as well as the president and the business community, is intensifying. No other contemporary conflict, including the Ukrainian and Syrian ones, threatens us with a direct clash with NATO in such an explicit form.
All the attention of the Russian political elite, the expert community and the media turned out to be focused on Ukraine and Syria. Few people paid attention to the information that Kiev and Chisinau sharply tightened the movement of goods across the borders with the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. This is partly understandable: there is not yet shooting, and the scale of the problems seems incomparable with the Ukrainian or Syrian ones.
The consequences of the blockade
Meanwhile, the aggravation of the situation in Transnistria can lead to much more serious threats to Russia's national security than Ukrainian and Syrian problems combined. Indeed, the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRV) is deployed on the territory of an unrecognized state. It consists of a separate motorized rifle battalion of peacekeepers (about 400 people), two battalions of military unit No. 13962 - 1500 people (guarding the weapons depot and military equipment), a helicopter detachment and support units. Here, in the area of the village of Kolbasna, is one of the largest weapons depots in Europe, left over from the times of the USSR. A significant part of the ammunition exported from these countries was brought here during the withdrawal of groups of Soviet troops from the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. In stock over 100 tanks, about 50 infantry fighting vehicles, more than 100 armored personnel carriers and 200 air defense systems, self-propelled anti-tank systems, Grad MLRS, a huge number of artillery guns and mortars, armored combat vehicles, nearly 35 thousand cars and automobile chassis, about 500 units of engineering equipment, 130 engineering wagons and 1300 tons engineering ammunition, 30 thousand assault rifles, machine guns and other small arms weapons. The number of ammunition (shells, bombs, mines, grenades, ammunition) exceeds 21 500 tons (430 settlement cars), more than 50 percent of them are overdue.
We cannot leave this region without our attention and guardianship if only because more than 150 thousand people from almost half a million people in Transnistria have Russian citizenship. Ensuring their security is the duty of the state, prescribed in the Constitution. If, as a result of sabotage or simply unqualified attitude to the stored ammunition, an explosion occurs, then in its consequences it will be comparable to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki and it will be Russia who will be responsible for the consequences.
Under such circumstances, Ukraine and Moldova are taking steps to drastically reduce the transit of excisable goods from Transnistria and back. Meanwhile, it no longer borders with any states and does not have access to the World Ocean. Accordingly, the actions of the Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities can be the beginning of the establishment of a blockade of the region. You can argue about the legality of such actions. One important thing: Transnistria, such a blockade threatens economic disaster. The OGRV is also isolated from Russia.
Russia does not have a maritime message with Transnistria. Railway - through Ukraine - easy to stop at any time. Air - through it - has already been terminated, automobile - in fact, too. With further tightening of the transit regime on the Transnistrian borders, Russia may face a dilemma: surrender the region, admit defeat, or “punch” communication with all available measures, including the military, if other tools do not help.
The first option will mean accelerated integration of the PPR into Moldova with the probable inclusion of the latter in NATO and the subsequent increase in military threats of the Russian Federation, a sharp decline in the compatriots' prestige of the president, the government and the entire ruling elite, creating favorable conditions for destabilizing the social and political situation in the country fraught with a social explosion .
The military operation to create a corridor from the Black Sea coast to Transnistria will take place on the territory of either Ukraine or Moldova. In both cases, at the first stage, it will be quickly and successfully completed - Kiev and Chisinau have nothing to oppose to the Russian naval landing force. The corridor will be “broken through”. However, NATO’s military intervention in this case is almost inevitable, that is, it is a direct military clash between Russia and the alliance. In a short time it is impossible to create a powerful grouping on a limited Transnistrian bridgehead; NATO forces will have absolute superiority in forces. As a result, Russia will either have to recognize a military defeat in a limited conflict with NATO, which is fraught with disastrous consequences within the country, or expand the scale of the conflict, extending it to adjacent territories. The answer is obvious: a military clash in Transnistria is likely to expand intensively, gradually turning into a full-scale Russia-NATO war. However, the military potential of the Russian Federation is incomparably less than the western one. Thus, the risk of a conflict entering the nuclear phase is quite high.
In this regard, it is worth taking a closer look at the situation in the Transdniestrian MTS itself.
According to sources from the highest echelons of the power of the unrecognized republic (which are completely trustworthy), an internal conflict is growing in Transnistria. The main line of delimitation runs between the executive branch headed by Yugene Shevchuk, President of the PMR, and the legislative branch, that is, the Supreme Soviet of the republic. Tension comes to an open confrontation in the media by the head of the republic and the business community, especially large organizations that form the majority of the Transdniestrian Moldavian budget through tax revenues and provide jobs for a significant part of the population.
Andrei Sedykh collage
According to available data, the conflict began to develop most intensively from 2012, when, against the background of the global crisis, a sharp deterioration in the socio-economic situation in the republic became apparent. Significantly exacerbated the situation of unrest in Ukraine, culminating in the coming to power of strictly pro-Western figures and civil war. The president and the government of the PMR were quick to take urgent measures to increase the budget. The tax burden has been increased by more than a quarter from 27 to 34 percent. An extremely unpopular step was the increase in 1,7 times the tariffs for gas for industrial enterprises. Since the Transnistrian industry is distinguished by high energy intensity, this led to a full or partial shutdown of the metallurgical plant in Rybnitsa, Moldavskaya GRES, Rybnitsa cement plant. The result was a reduction in tax deductions to the budget, a reduction in jobs, an almost twofold decrease in foreign exchange reserves and the loss of markets for enterprises. Against this background, the government and the president of the PMR began to develop bills aimed at introducing public administration in privately-owned enterprises in the event of a suspension of their activities. A source close to the republic’s leadership, who wished to remain anonymous, argues that the executive authorities offered to the heads of operating private companies to proceed to conclude individual secret contracts for the payment of taxes and fees, which provides for the transfer of part of the shares to the treasury in exchange for a reduced gas tariff. In general, it can be said that substantially worse economic conditions are created for non-state enterprises. Gas tariffs for private traders are almost four times higher than in Russia. Transnistrian state-owned enterprises pay significantly less. In fact, in the Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic there is a hidden nationalization of economic objects, first of all large ones. As a result, begins to leave a serious foreign business, including Russian. Thus, Alisher Usmanov left the shareholders of the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant.
The situation develops incrementally. As a result of 2014, investments in the Transnistrian economy declined by 11 percent, and by the first half of 2015, they fell by almost 40 percent.
According to the said source, the proposal to abolish statute of limitations in criminal cases, which is contrary to world practice, significantly contributed to the increase in tension in Transnistria (especially between the executive and business). This initiative was made by President Yevgeny Shevchuk. However, this bill and some others were not supported by the Supreme Council of the Transdnistrian Moldavian Republic. In turn, the president is not in a hurry to sign the laws adopted by the Supreme Court. There is evidence that today more than 50 of such laws are waiting for their time (in excess of the deadlines determined by the PMR constitution). The Transnistrian Television and Radio Company, which was established at the initiative of the President, which integrated almost all state-run electronic media, extremely restricted access to them by deputies from opposition factions of the Armed Forces.
Relations between the executive branch and the leader of the Transnistrian business community, the private holding company Sheriff, whose leadership issued an open letter, accusing the ruling elite of violating the law and deliberately strangling entrepreneurship, entered the phase of open confrontation. In response, the president in a televised address to the residents of the republic on the First Pridnestrovsky channel actually challenged the entire large business of the republic: "Some oligarchs have the audacity to actually blackmail the government:" Do not give cheap energy carriers - we will dismiss thousands of people. " If you, the so-called businessmen, continue and continue to blackmail the state, intimidate people, then you will have to deal with law enforcement agencies of the MRT. ”
Many in Russia will praise Shevchuk for putting the oligarchs in place, but the collapse of the Transnistrian economy has resulted from all these conflicts. In the first half of 2015, the PMR GDP declined by 19 percent. Moreover, the volume of external gas subsidies to the republic on the part of Russia reaches 60 percent of GDP. Industrial production as a whole declined by 16 percent, and in the main export industry - metallurgy - by more than 50 percent. Particularly affected are public sector employees and retirees, whose income fell by 30 percent. The natural reaction was a sharp increase in social tensions. After all, it is necessary to take into account that in Transnistria, about half of the population is retired, and every second employed in the economy is a public sector worker.
The intensification of contradictions in the political elite of the PMR, combined with the aggravation of the conflict between government and business, inevitably contributes to the growth of problems, and external forces will not fail to take advantage. The complex impact of these negative factors on the very fragile social and political system of the Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic may lead to a social explosion with the consequent possible destruction of the statehood of Transnistria. With such a scenario, Russia faces a whole bunch of threats and problems.
First of all, it is likely that the Moldovan authorities in case of social instability will try to do everything possible to regain control over the region. After all, for them it is a pass to NATO. And for the Russian Federation such an outcome is fraught with not just the emergence of the largest NATO bridgehead in the post-Soviet space, but also the fiery contact of the Russian OGRT with the troops of Moldova. It is unlikely that the Ukrainian authorities, or at least the militants of the Right Sector, will remain on the sidelines. Thus, the risk of the Russian-NATO military conflict is high.
But even if Chisinau does not dare to get involved in the Transnistrian conflict, the following serious threats will remain.
1. The seizure of weapons and ammunition in the warehouse at the Sausage Irregular formations, which will inevitably appear with the beginning of an open confrontation with the authorities (including on the initiative of external forces). This could lead to an armed clash of the RIA and with the subsequent accusation of Russia of interfering in the internal affairs of Moldova. Further, it is very likely that NATO will be included in the conflict.
2. To evacuate the forces of the OGRV and the weapons and ammunition depot to Russia, it is necessary from 2500 to 3000 wagons, that is, 50 – 60 calculated levels. Ukraine is unlikely to let them pass through its territory. And Moldova, probably, will not agree with the transit of Russian military cargoes to the Black Sea through its lands.
3. The inevitable humanitarian catastrophe that will arise in the PMR with the onset of the acute phase of the internal conflict will also require Russia to take immediate measures. We must not forget about the need to protect the investment of domestic commercial structures, which again is fraught with armed confrontation with the participation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
In this regard, it is advisable for our authorities to take emergency steps to stabilize the situation in Transnistria. First of all, it is necessary, with the help of mainly diplomatic and economic measures, to restore the unimpeded transit of humanitarian and economic cargo to Transdnistrian Moldavian Republic, that is, to provide conditions for its preservation even if the international situation aggravates. An equally important area could be the strengthening of inter-parliamentary ties between the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet. Finally, the most important for improving the situation in the Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic will be a set of measures to eliminate the conflict in the political and economic elite of Transnistria. Russia has a large range of unique opportunities to influence the situation in the PMR, including informal means.
Stabilization of the situation in the problem region will require certain expenses. Perhaps some economists will rate them as substantial. However, the adoption of all available measures will prevent incomparably large losses from the likely conflict between Russia and NATO, as well as the victims among our citizens.