Lack of progress in the Transnistrian conflict settlement continues to influence the situation in the region and has an impact on the developments in the Republic of Moldova and at last in the adjacent oblasts of Ukraine. The Transnistrian conflict is also considered one of the defining elements in the perception of risks and challenges to security and stability both of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The research paper Role of Ukraine in the Transnistrian conflict settlement is an attempt to present a brief historical overview of the settlement process with the focus on the role of external factors, primarily of Ukraine in the conflict settlement.
Along the way, the Moldovan-Ukrainian relationships have experienced ups and downs depending on the political realities in Chisinau and Kiev. The bilateral agenda was always overloaded with sensitive issues, such as demarcation, border and customs co-operation, property issues, environmental protection of Nistru River, education, protection of national minorities and others – some of them very much connected with the Transnistrian conflict settlement. From this angle, the Transnistrian issue is always a dominant element on the agenda of the Moldovan-Ukrainian bilateral relations and in many cases sets the tone for the overall atmosphere of bilateral co-operation.
Ukraine has also had an influence on the Transnistrian conflict settlement, but also on the internal processes in the region from political, economic, ethnical, educational and cultural point of view. This is understandable as the Transnistrian region is a narrow strip of land between Ukraine, which is the only “neighbor” of the region and the rest of the territory of the Republic of Moldova with almost 1/3 of Ukrainian ethnic population. Moreover, until 1940 the left side bank of Nistru River was part of Soviet Ukraine. All these factors offer to Ukraine a rather high level of awareness and understanding of the situation in the region.
It is also interesting to note that in some cases Ukraine followed Russia’s stand in the region. For instance, Ukraine offered in a simplified regime the Ukrainian citizenship to a large number of inhabitants living in the region, exactly like Russia did; the Russian’s request to open a consulate in Tiraspol was followed by Ukraine that requested permission to establish a consulate in Rybnitsa.
On its turn, the Republic of Moldova has repeatedly tried to use the advantage of the existing Ukrainian potential and levers in order to stimulate the settlement process, but most often failed due to both objective and subjective reasons related to the position of Moscow and Tiraspol, but also of some interests in Chisinau and Kiev. The situation has changed quite a lot lately.
From another point of view, the Transnistrian region has also major interests in Ukraine, first of all economic ones, especially taking into account the close proximity of Odessa seaport that has become the main gate of import-export needs for the Transnistrian business community. Tiraspol has also tried to play with certain success rivalries between Ukraine and Russia, skillfully manipulating the competition of two countries to have more influence over the region.