|NATO`s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaking in a press conference at NATO`s summit in Brussels, July 10, 2018. Photo credit: NATO`s official website.|
NATO member states meeting in Brussels have called on Russia to respect the internationally recognized borders of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia and to withdraw its soldiers from all three countries – meaning Transnistria, Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“In accordance with its international commitments, we call on Russia to withdraw the forces it has stationed in all three countries without their consent,” the final declaration of the NATO summit held in Brussels on July 11-12 said.
NATO also said it condemned “Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise.”
Igor Munteanu, director of the IDIS Viitorul think tank in Moldova, said non-member Moldova would welcome the declaration.
He told BIRN that the remarks on Moldova in the final declaration were further recognition of the integrity and sovereignty of the country.
Moldova has had Russian troops on its soil in the breakaway region of Transnistria since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
However, not all Moldovans seek NATO’s support in this issue. The country’s pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, along with the pro-Russian political parties in Moldova, have condemned moves by the country’s pro-Western government to get closer to the EU and NATO.
NATO’s position against Russian troops on Moldovan soil comes after a recent draft resolution of the UN General Assembly proposed by Moldova and adopted on June 22.
Russia, however, dismissed the UN General Assembly draft resolution as provocative, arguing that it was “because of the timely intervention of Russian troops that the bloodshed in Transnistria was stopped.”
The Transnistrian conflict in 1991-1992 left about 1,000 people dead and over 1,500 wounded.
Russia maintains about 1,500 troops of the 14th Soviet Army, now called the Operative Group of Russian Troops, OGRT, in the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic, widely known as Transnistria.
Moscow also has 400 peacekeepers in Transnistria, ostensibly there to ensure an uneasy 26-year-old ceasefire that ended a bloody conflict between Moldova and its separatist region.
However, another around 1,100 soldiers are deployed illegally in Moldova. Chisinau has been lobbying intensively since last year to get the issue of Russian troops more onto the international agenda of the UN, NATO and the EU.
Moldova has long argued that Russia encouraged rather than prevented the fighting in the 1990s, and says both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and mercenaries fought on Transnistria’s side against Moldova.
An ex-vice premier of Russia, Dmitri Rogozin reiterated this in his book “Vrag Naroda” [“Enemy of the People”], writing that in 1992, he gathered volunteers in Moscow and travelled to fight against the Moldovan military in the Transnistrian war.