Acknowledging that Russia would not meet its end-of- 2002 deadline to withdraw all of its military equipment and troops from Moldova, the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) took note December 8 of a Russian pledge to finish the task within the coming year.
Russia committed in November 1999 to withdraw all of its heavy weaponry limited by the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty from Moldova by the end of 2001 and to remove the rest of its military forces from the country by the close of 2002. Moscow completed the first part of its withdrawal on time, but implementation of the second has barely been started. (See ACT, September 2002.)
By the end of 2002, Russia had shipped a total of eight trainloads of weapons and equipment out of Moldova. Approximately another 100 trainloads of weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment remain. Equipment to help destroy some of the more than 40,000 tons of stockpiled ammunition is still sitting at a local airport after arriving in Moldova last April and June.
Moscow contends that it is not to blame for the lagging withdrawal. Russian military forces in Moldova are located in the Transdniestria region, which is an enclave of ethnic Russian separatists. The Kremlin claims that the separatists are blocking their withdrawal and demanding that Russia compensate them for removal of the weaponry and equipment, in part by writing off a $100 million gas debt owed by the region to Russia.
Russia’s failure to withdraw its forces from Moldova, as well as its lingering dispute with Georgia over how long Russia has to abandon two bases in that country, are holding up entry into force of a 1999 revision of the CFE Treaty. NATO countries insist that Russia fulfill its withdrawal commitments in Moldova and Georgia before the 19 members of the alliance ratify the updated treaty, which requires ratification by all 30 CFE states-parties for it to become legally binding.
The adapted CFE Treaty is designed to limit the amount of heavy conventional weaponry allowed on each of its states-parties’ territory rather than balancing the arsenals of NATO and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact, as did the original treaty, which was signed in 1990.