Staunton, October 22 – Many Ukrainian commentators have focused on Transdniestria as an example of the way in which Moscow uses a frozen conflict to influence a former Soviet republic, but they might learn more from considering the case of Gagauzia, an autonomy that was reintegrated into Moldova but remains a tool for Russian leverage there.
If Transdniestria demonstrates the ways in which Moscow can use a part of Moldova that remains de facto outside of Moldova’s legal space, Gagauzia, a Christian Turkic republic of some 200,000 people southeast of Chisinau, shows how Moscow can and does use an autonomy it has long supported that de jure is fully part of Moldova.
A few Ukrainian analysts, Sergey llchenko most prominently, have considered the Gagauz precedent (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/07/what-moscow-appears-to-have-done-in.html), but even they have failed to consider how extensively Moscow has intervened there or made use of its power (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/07/russia-and-gagauz-expanding-ties-at.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/03/moscow-overplayed-its-hand-in-gagauz.html).
Whenever something is going on in or with Moldova that Moscow disapproves of, Russia has orchestrated Gagauz opposition, be it to rapprochement with Romania and Europe (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/01/to-oppose-moldovas-rapprochement-with.html), the subordination of Moldvan Orthodox (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/10/fight-over-subordination-of-orthodox.html), language (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/12/language-issue-seen-making-gagauzia.html) or Transdiestria (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/09/moscow-mulls-mobilizing-transdniestria.html).
And what is still worse or at least far more at variance with international and Moldovan law, Russian “diplomats” in Chisinau have even gone so far as to recruit Gagauz residents to fight in Moscow’s imperial war in Ukraine (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/06/russian-diplomats-chisinau-expelled.html).
Now that there appears t be movement regarding Transdniestria, Mscw is again playing the Gagauz card, with apparent success in Chisinau (ondsk.ru/news/2019/10/23/gagauzia-trebuet-u-kishineva-realnyu-avtonomiu-49299.html and ru.sputnik.md/politics/20191023/27958970/pravitelstvo-vneslo-izmeneniya-v-sostav-komissii-po-reintegratsii.html).
And in yet another twist, the Russian authorities appear to be making use of their expanded cooperation with Turkey, which also has played a role in Gagauzia, to ensure that Ankara helps Moscow make use of that autonomy against Chisinau in exactly the ways the Kremlin wants (ng.ru/cis/2019-10-24/5_7711_alignment.html).
That is another and disturbing result of the cozier relationship between Moscow and Ankara because until recently, Turkish involvement in Gagauzia was something anti-Moscow Gagauz and Moldovans more generally counted no to limit Moscow’s influence. Now that appears to be gone or at least much reduced.