For the past decade Moldova has been seeking a political solution with separatists in the "Transdniestrian Republic" --a self-declared "state" within Moldova. Many ethnic Russians live in Transdniestr and around 1500 Russian security troops remain in the area. Moldova is once again exploring an autonomy agreement with Transdniestr, but an agreement that would remove the Russian troops. Moldova reached an autonomy agreement with its Gagauz minority and the Moldovan government is trying to get the Transdniestrians to accept a similar deal. The Gagauz are a predominantly Orthodox Christian Central Asian Turkic ethnic minority found in Moldova and Romania. Approximately 160,000 Gagauz live in Moldova. In 1990, as the USSR was falling apart, the Gagauz declared an independent Gagauz state. In 1994, the Modovan parliament passed the "Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauzia" which guaranteed the region's right to make independent political decisions regarding economic and cultural issues. (The region is officially named "Gagauz-Yeri.") The Gagauz have been very satisfied with the deal. However, the differences between Gagauz and Transdniestr are substantial--- as substantial as Russia. Russia is committed to protecting the interests of ethnic Russians in the "diaspora" of former Soviet republics. Russia also the regional military and economic power to support isolated Russian communities. The Gagauz had no big brother. Transdniestr has become a smuggling node for organized crime and several countries have complained that Transdniestr is a major player in the transfer of weapons to guerrilla groups throughout the Caucasus. Ending the activities of Transdniestrian criminal gangs is a major aim of the Moldovan government. It isn't cultural autonomy the Transdniestiran crooks want--- it's control of the police.