August 8, 2012: This past July 21st, Russian peacekeepers celebrated their 20th anniversary in Transdniester (or Transnistria), which is a separatist segment of Moldova. With a population of only half a million, Transdniester independence from Moldova was instigated by the Russian minority and aided by the Russian government. There is no ethnic majority in the area and the Russians were the most aggressive as they used to run the region. But after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, they found themselves in Moldova, itself a breakaway state.
Moldova is a tiny (population 4 million) country, created in the 1990s, along the Ukraine-Romanian border. Moldova is divided between pro-Romanian and pro-Russian factions. Given that Moldova bordered the anti-Russian Ukraine, the Russian minority split away a sliver of the eastern part of the country to form pro-Russian Transdniester. Many Moldovans want union with Romania, while Russia wants to keep Moldova independent and pro-Russian. Transdniester has become a lawless sanctuary for all manner of gangsters.
The Russian peacekeepers keep Moldavian, Romanian, and Ukraine security forces out, thus giving the local Russian minority hope that they might again be part of Russia. That would involve Ukraine again rejoining Russia. That is not popular in Ukraine, except among the Russian minority (17 percent of the population, concentrated in the east). Russia has been pressuring Ukraine to establish closer economic and political relations with Russia, which took control of Ukraine in the 18th century. The Ukrainians spent the next two centuries trying to change that. Now that they have, they find Russian peacekeepers, businessmen, and diplomats working hard to take away independence and once more make Ukraine part of Russia.