The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

96 MARCH 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL William H. Hill is a global fellow at the Wilson Center. A retired Foreign Service officer, he is an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union, East-West relations and European multilateral diplomacy. He served two terms—January 2003-July 2006 and June 1999-November 2001—as head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, where he was charged with negotiation of a political settlement to the Transdniestrian conflict and facilitation of the withdrawal of Russian forces, arms and ammunition from Moldova. W hen the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union col- lapsed in the early 1990s, large numbers of Soviet troops and vast stores of arms and ammunition were left scattered around central and eastern Europe. Over the next decade and a half, the United States and many European allies cooperated with Russia and post-Soviet states to withdraw former Soviet forces back to Russia and eliminate large portions of the military stockpiles. The results of this effort reduced the conventional military confrontation on the European continent to a level that had not been seen, arguably, for a couple of centuries. Since it was the outbreak of war in Europe that involved the U.S. in the two global conflicts of the 20th century, and the competition with the USSR over Europe that drew America intomore than 40 years of global cold war, this deep reduction in the danger of military clashes in Europe was a major plus for U.S. security. Much of the USSR’s arms and ammu- nition needed to fight a southwestern front in a third world war was stored in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which after the dissolution of the Soviet Diplomacy and Arms Reduction: A Personal Story BY WI L L I AM H . H I L L Union became the independent Republic of Moldova. A brief war in 1992 divided Moldova, with a de facto separatist entity on the left (east) bank of the Dniestr River, better known as Transdniestria. The bulk of the former Soviet military assets was located there, guarded by a small contingent of Russian troops, some of whom also served as peacekeepers. From the outset, the Republic of Mol- dova demanded the Russian troops be withdrawn, but the presence of the enor- mous stocks of arms (well over 500 tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery) and ammunition (some 42,000 metric tons) complicated the situation. The international body charged with negotiating a political settlement to the Transdniestrian conflict—the Organi- zation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE—was also mandated to assist with the withdrawal of Russian troops, arms and ammunition. The Rus- sians agreed in principle, and by 1999 decent progress had been made in troop withdrawals, but relatively less in reduc- ing the stocks of arms and ammunition. s I arrived inMoldova as head of the OSCE mission, lent to the organization by the U.S. Department of State, a fewmonths before the November 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit gave a major boost to efforts to get the Russian soldiers and arms out of Mol- dova. In signing a new deal on conven- tional arms control throughout Europe, Russia agreed to withdraw its military from Moldova by the end of 2002. This marked one of the high points of post–ColdWar U.S.-Russia cooperation. There may have been a high-level agreement on Russian withdrawal from Moldova, but plenty of practical issues needed to be worked out to make it hap- pen. I developed close working relations with the Russian commander in Transdni- estria and senior Russian defense officials in Moscow, but the withdrawal was going to cost plenty, and Russia was very short on funds after the economic crash of 1998. My American counterpart at OSCE headquarters in Vienna helped establish a voluntary fund to which governments could contribute to assist in the Russian withdrawal. The United States made a In roughly six months more than 20,000 metric tons of ammunition were removed to Russia and fully verified under the procedures negotiated in 2000. REFLECTIONS