Thursday, January 6, 2011

On cooperation and friendship

To a western mind, co-operation entails working closely together towards a common goal in a win-win relationship.
In the post-soviet space, however, co-operation can mean something very different, i.e. an unwitting, almost un-noticeable transfer of resources from one party to another.  The resource doesn't have to be money, it could be property, brands, image or a negotiating position.  Whatever, one party normally ends up being done over by the other.

In some respects, it's the same with the 2001 "Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Moldova", which should be a win-win but is actually one-way traffic.  This treaty is up for renewal in 2011, and both Marian Lupu and Igor Botan have stated that it should be automatically renewed as is (we don't want to upset you-know-who, do we?).

At first glance the Treaty s a very innocuous affair, full of high-minded appeals to protection of human rights and promotion of democracy etc., making reference to various international bodies and treaties.  Most of the clauses are of the nature "The parties will collaborate in domain X in accordance with a subsequent treaty Y to be agreed between the parties".

Point by Point

A deeper read of the treaty reveals some areas of wording which are clearly to Moldova's detriment, however:

  1. Russia is categorised as a 'mediator & guarantor' with respect to the Transnistrian conflict.  Russia is neither of these things; she is a participant in the conflict and the sooner that is recognised, the sooner the conflict will be resolved.  Furthermore, use of the term 'guarantor' implies that Russia has the right to intervene militarily if she deems that the combatant parties have breached peace accords.  As we have seen in 2008, that's a very dangerous right to be giving a polity such as Russia.
  2. Article 1 mentions the 'right of peoples to self-determination', without providing any context.  Who has the right to self determination?  Moldovan citizens as a whole?  The Gagauz or the people of Transnistria?  Everyone whose name begins with P?  The Lungu family in apartment 12?  Unless clear bounds are provided, it is very dangerous to include such a 'right' in the Treaty.
  3. Similarly, Article 10 provides for direct contact between Russian and Moldovan local governments.  This is seemingly harmless, but isn't.  Moscow City and other local administrations have provided substantial support to Transnistrian and Gagauz separatists over the years, undercutting Moldova's attempts to restore constitutional authority.  This clause should be adapted such that all contacts are channelled through the central institutions in Chisinau.
  4. Article 12 requires the parties to support each other's attempts to enter international economic and financial groupings.  This is silly.  Why should Moldova support Russia's entry into the WTO, for example, when Russia persists with its intermittent trade embargoes and gas wars?
  5. Article 20 is the the most sensitive, as it refers to the language issue.  It gives citizens of both countries living on each other's territories the right to use of their maternal language, and to choice of the language they use education, study & creativity, in accordance with 'international standards'.  It imposes on Moldova an obligation to offer schooling in Russian in the Moldovan public education system, while imposing on Russia the far weaker obligation to allow schooling in Moldovan (but not in the Russian public system).  Let's be straight here:  In the interests of national unity, all primary and secondary schooling should take place in the national language, with other languages being simply subjects taught. The fact that, 20 years after independence, a substantial fraction of Moldova's children are schooled 100% in a foreign language is a national disgrace.  Article 20 should make reference only to the Copenhagen convention on minority rights.  Si punctum.
  6. Article 27 is also problematic, as it requires the sides to deepen their participation in the Commonwealth of Independent States.  Due to its constitutional neutrality, Moldova's participation is as deep as it can be.  Furthermore, as Moldova gets closer to the EU, it will necessarily have to weaken its role within the CIS (and may have to withdraw altogether within the 10-year term of the treaty).  This article should be deleted.

Aside from the wording issues mentioned above, the main problem with the treaty is that Russia simply doesn't observe its provisions.  Let me give you some examples:
  1. Article 1 commits the two sides to respecting inviolability of borders, territorial integrity and to non-interference in each other's internal affairs.  That presumably is why the 14th Army is parked illegally in Transnistria, why Russia carved off bits of Georgia and why Nariskin came to Chisinau in the hopes of forcing a coalition convenient to Moscow.
  2. Article 5 goes further "The sides condemn separatism in all its forms and commit to not supporting separatist movements".  Which is why Russia pays pensions to residents of Transnistria and supports the regime militarily through the presence of the 14th Army and other means.
  3. In Article 8 we read "The sides will not take discriminatory measures in their economic relations".   Except for Onisenco's periodic bans on Moldovan wines, vegetables, meat...
Other Points
  1. Some parts of the Treaty can be a little bit one sided simply by virtue of the relative sizes of the two nations.  For example, Article 19 commits each nation to holding cultural events relating to the other's language and culture.  The problem here is that, because of the Moldova's small size, the program of Russian cultural events to be run has a very high impact on the local population.  The equivalent Moldovan cultural events run in Russia each year pass by almost unnoticed.  A degree of asymmetry needs to be introduced such that the relative impact on each country is similar.
  2. While I believe it is a good thing for Moldova to have healthy relations with Russia in a number of domains, the Treaty is so comprehensive that it imposes an almost suffocating relationship.  It is not healthy for a small, fragile democracy such as Moldova to be in a bear hug with a large, imperialistic and authoritarian state such as Russia.  Consideration should be given to reducing the scope of the Treaty to make the relationship manageable. 
  1. Russia and Moldova should seek to renew the treaty, but in a different form
  2. Wording detrimental to Moldova should be amended, as should wording that produces asymmetrical impacts on the two countries.
  3. Some weaker and less useful articles should be removed, to reduce the overbearing intensity of the relationship
  4. The treaty should be signed for one-year only, and renewed annually only if the parties are in full observance of its provisions
PS:  In case you missed it, point four means that Russia should get out of Transnistria!

1 comment:

  1. Russia should take its sorry ass home!!! (i.e.- within its own REAL borders, NOT what they ,say' are they're borders!)