Balkans: November 6, 2004


Corruption and crime undermine any political and economic advances in Albania and Serbia. It's also a huge problem in Moldova. The Moldovan government is once again complaining about Transdniester (the separatist statelet within Moldova), but the biggest problem is no longer the Russian army or munitions storage sites -- it's crime. While there is certainly a political component to Moldova's complaint (ie, politically undermining the separatists), the accusation that Transdniester has become a "haven for organized crime" has merit. Accusations of money-laundering and smuggling for Russian and Ukrainian mobs aren't new, but press sources now report that arms smuggling is a big business. It's not clear where the arms are coming from, or where the weapons are going. Moldova claims the weapons are going to rebel groups in the Caucasus Mountains (read that as Chechen guerrillas). This accusation puts Russia in an interesting bind. Russia still provides support for Transdniestrian separatists, but its battle with Chechen terrorists is a tough war Moscow intends to win. Russia still has between 1500 and 2000 soldiers in Transdniester (though they are usually referred to as "security personnel").




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