By the early 2000s Russia began to act increasingly self-assertive around its borders. It sought and still seeks to counteract a gradual NATO and EU advancement into the post-Soviet space by adopting its own, rather aggressive, brand of integration strategy. In this context, the conflict over Transnistria is used as an instrument to prevent the West from ad-vancing further into Russia’s “near abroad”. Moscow’s role in conflict solution and the policy on a regional level are mainly shaped by geo-political considerations which aim to keep lev-erage over Moldova’s government. In contrast, on a local level Moscow adopts a nationalist approach which accentuates ethnic ties, and it channels enormous financial resources into the breakaway region. However, with an export rate of about 30 % of Transnistria’s total exports the EU became a crucial trading partner. After the change of power at the 2011 elec-tions the Transnistrian leadership successfully seesawed between an opening towards the West and loyalty towards Moscow. A gradual improvement of economic relations could pos-sibly lead to a bottom-up Europeanization and strengthen the EU’s mediating role in the con-flict.
Keywords: Transanistrian conflict, conflict resolution, Russia’s foreign policy, EU’s foreign policy, Transnistria, Russia, Moldova
Johann Wolfschwenger is currently finishing a Joint Master’s programme in South Eastern European Studies at the Universities of Graz and Belgrade. While he completed his Bachelor’s degree (BA) in Political Science at the LMU München he studied and worked two years in Romania. His main research interests are conflicts in South Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space in the light of Europeanisation.