Experts do not hold it likely war will spill over to Transnistria

Transnistria. Source: Pixabay

Ukrainian military activity reaching Transnistria is unlikely experts in Estonia believe. Rather, there is hope that Chisinau can bring the separatist area on board through diplomatic means after the Ukrainian victory.

Russian volunteer units have crossed the border into Russia with backing from Ukraine. This is forcing Russia to send more troops to the area, ostensibly making it easier for Ukraine's counteroffensive to achieve its goals. An attack against Russian troops in Transnistria would not have the same effect, suggested Indrek Kannik, director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS).

"They could not move any additional units to Transnistria as they simply lack access to the area. There is nothing more they can achieve there," Kannik remarked.

They do not have a corridor to the Black Sea nor an air link as the region is surrounded by Moldovan, Ukrainian or NATO airspace, Kalev Stoicescu, member of the Riigikogu National Defense Committee, said.

"The head of Transnistria urged Russia to increase the number of so-called peacekeepers there. Russia has not done it most likely because it is logistically quite impossible," Stoicescu suggested.

Kannik also believes that to be the reason why Ukraine will likely not intervene in Transnistria. Russia currently has a few thousand troops there, which do not pose any real threat to Ukraine. "It is not a force capable of carrying out operations independently."

Stoicescu agrees. "Otherwise, they would have taken action by now and neutralized the Russian presence there."

While Ukraine would be entirely capable of kicking the Russians out of Transnistria, it would entail several risks – there are huge warehouses full of old munitions there, meaning that military activity would likely result in major explosions. But if Ukraine wins, the troops in Transnistria could just lay down their arms at some point.

"I believe they understand that there is no way for them to win this war, and that it will likely be possible to negotiate their departure in one form or another," Kannik said.

However, the other differences between Moldova and the pro-Russian enclave still need to be resolved. "Transnistria is like a miniature Soviet Disneyland. If we think about how Moldova is making a push for the EU and probably NATO, those two things – the policy in Chisinau and Tiraspol – do not mix," Kalev Stoicescu said.

The heads of Transnistria are pragmatic in the end, Kannik suggested, giving the example of Moldova's EU association agreement. "Transnistria allows its products to be stamped with the 'Made in Moldova' label, which is requires for them to hit European markets."

But keeping the possibility of an attack on the table plays into the Ukrainians' hands. It is important for them to convince the Russians that their situations is hopeless, Kannik said. And this also applies in Transnistria.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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