Senator: Washington must pressure Russia on Moldova
The United States should step up efforts to assist the pro-Western government in Moldova by pressuring Russia to resolve a separatist movement in the former Soviet state, according to a Senate report released Monday.
Senator Richard Lugar, the highest-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee of the Democratic-controlled Senate, tasked his staff to research and write the report.
It recommends that President Barack Obama's administration build on French and German efforts to prioritize Transdniestr, a narrow strip of land controlled by Russian-backed separatists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Decades of experience suggest that US leadership on issues of European security remains indispensable," the report states.
Lugar's report calls for "high-level diplomatic attention" to persuade Russia that "its assistance in brokering a settlement in Transdniestr, and other conflict regions in Eurasia, would serve as an illustration that developments in NATO-Russia relations can tangibly advance Eastern European security."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year raised Transdniestr security questions with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
"The United States should strongly support European efforts to resolve the conflict and thereby assist Moldova in advancing its Euro-Atlantic aspirations," Lugar wrote in the introduction.
"A resolute US commitment to this cause will ensure that we do not cede influence in a region of paramount importance to US foreign policy," Lugan added.
The report said Russia has failed to fulfill its 1999 pledge to remove its military equipment from Transdniestr, where polls show that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the most popular politician among the half-million inhabitants.
Several hundred Russian troops remain there and serve with Moldovan and Transdniestrian troops as peacekeepers.
Transdniestr has remained peaceful since the end of a war between separatists and Moldova in 1992, but the region is a hotbed of criminal activity including trafficking of people and weapons.
Moldova's government is "saddled by the unresolved status of Transdniestr," the report said.
Europe's poorest country, Moldova remains mired in a political crisis after elections last November failed to overcome a stalemate in parliament between pro-Western liberals and the pro-Moscow Communists.
In January, Moldova's parliament approved the composition of a new government. Of the 19-member cabinet comprised of members of the country's ruling coalition of pro-European parties, 13 kept their posts, including Prime Minister Vlad Filat.
The United States is providing $262 million in development aid to Moldova, in a compact that requires democratic reforms. The US also provides military training to Moldovan officers.
© 2011 AFP