Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: The Honorable Christopher H. Smith
Co-Chairman - The Helsinki Commission


Ladies and gentleman, distinguished guests, and Members of the Commission, on behalf of Chairman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, welcome to this hearing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on developments in Moldova, with a specific focus on the Transdniestria region and the projected withdrawal of Russian military forces and equipment from Moldova. The mandate of the Commission is to monitor and encourage compliance with the provisions of the Helsinki Accords and successive documents of the OSCE.

President Bush has called upon us to return to our normal lives. This is difficult. Many of us here in Washington, in New York, New Jersey, and throughout the nation are grieving the loss of loved ones and friends.

Against the backdrop of the deadly struggle between civilized society and barbarity, and in keeping with the Commission’s mandate, we can benefit by devoting a little time to those nations and international organizations that seek to resolve contentious issues through negotiations and rejection of violence.

One such situation that may be moving from violent confrontation to peaceful resolution concerns the Republic of Moldova, which has faced both a secession crisis for almost 10 years and the presence of foreign troops upon its soil. A former Soviet “republic,” Moldova became independent in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. However, while Moldova was establishing its own independence, it faced a secessionist movement by the old-line, pro-Soviet leadership of “Transdniestria,” a small section of Moldovan territory between the Dniestr River and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, remnants of the Soviet 14th Army remained stationed in Transdniestria. Some elements of this army reportedly helped the Transdniestrian secession movement solidify its position during a bloody confrontation with Moldovan forces in the summer of 1992. At present, there are still about 2,500 Russian troops in Transdniestria, down from an earlier strength of around 15,000, as well as significant caches of armaments and ammunition.

Within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the question of the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova and the Transdniestria conflict have been long-term concerns. Since 1993, an OSCE diplomatic mission has been working in Moldova with the aim of securing a lasting political settlement to the

Transdniestria conflict and, among other things, to “encourage the implementation of an agreement on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.”

The communiques of both the 1994 Budapest OSCE Summit and the 1996 Lisbon OSCE Ministerial Meeting called for an “early, orderly, and complete withdrawal of the Russian troops.” Furthermore, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has on several occasions called for the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Moldova.

Last year our colleagues in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly initiated a Moldova Working Group to address the Transdniestria conflict. At the past two annual meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, resolutions were passed calling for a settlement of the Transdniestria conflict. However, the issue of Transdniestria’s political status within Moldova continues to be a very contentious one.

Meanwhile, as part of the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit Document, the Russian Government agreed to withdraw its armed forces from Moldova by the end of 2002, and under the 1999 provisions of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the military armaments and equipment is supposed to be removed or destroyed by the end of this year. As last reported, considerable progress has been made, and we certainly hope that the Russian Government will meet the December 31 deadline for destruction or removal of its combat weaponry.

Incidentally, the authorities of the Transdniestria region have vociferously protested the implementation of these agreements. Nevertheless, the planned destruction of Russian tanks and armored vehicles is continuing. I would note also that several members of the OSCE, including the United States, are contributing financially to an OSCE Voluntary Fund to assist the process of weapon destruction or withdrawal.

In short, it appears that while there is positive movement on the withdrawal of the Russian military, the status of Transdniestria within the sovereign nation of Moldova is still very unclear.

Our guests today are uniquely qualified to provide the latest information regarding these matters.

Ambassador Steven Pifer is a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the European and Eurasian Bureau of the U.S. Department of State. Prior to this assignment, Ambassador Pifer served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. He has also served at our embassies in Moscow, Warsaw, and London, and was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia at the National Security Council from 1994-1997.

Our next guest is His Excellency Ceslav Ciobanu, Ambassador of the Moldovan Republic to the United States. Ambassador Ciobanu is an academic with a speciality in the field of economics who, prior to his posting here in Washington, was Minister of Privatization and State Property for the Moldovan Government and First Deputy Foreign Minister.

It is a pleasure to see again our colleague from the Finnish Parliament, Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen. Dr. Kiljunen is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament, with a deep involvement in international organizations. As head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Working Group on Moldova, Dr. Kiljunen has been a dynamic leader of in working for a solution to the Transdniestria dispute that would be mutually acceptable to all sides. I would also note that he was recently in Belarus, where he headed the OSCE PA delegation of election observers.

Our next witness is the OSCE’s “man on the spot” in Moldova, Ambassador William Hill. A Career Foreign Service officer with long experience in Central and Eastern Europe and OSCE negotiations, Ambassador Hill has been head of the OSCE mission in Moldova since June 1999. From 1997 to 1998, he was Senior Advisor and Country Director of the Office for Russia, Ukraine & Eurasia at the Department of Defense.

Our final witness is a distinguished scholar on Moldova and Southeastern Europe, Dr. Charles King. Dr. King is an assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government at Georgetown University, where he also holds the university’s Ion Ratiu Chair of Romanian Studies. His articles have been published in numerous widely-read journals, and he has contributed opinion pieces to major newspapers.

I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today, and our Members will have questions following their presentations.