'Nato's most senior military commander ( General Philip Breedlove ) has said that Russia had amassed a large military force on Ukraine's eastern border, and warned that Moldova's separatist Trans-Dniester region could be the Kremlin's next target'Trans-Dniester has been autonomous since the civil war between it an Moldova ended in 1992. If it is a part of NATO thinking that Putin intends to use it as a springboard for rolling troops into what was once called 'New Russia' ( especially Odessa ), then strategists are getting slightly paranoid.
The next historical fact is that Trans-Dniester has never been part of an independent Moldova but only Stalin's Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. One reason was to try to 'Russify' Moldova and detach it from the Greater Romanian designs that had been attempted by fascist dictator Antonescu.
Trans-Dniester acts as a sort of 'para state' ( in that sense it is not so dissimilar to Kosovo, a land of large military installations, money laundering and mafia activity- see Misha Glenny's McMafia ). Even so, most in Trans-Dniester are Russophone and do not want union with Moldova.
The capital Tiraspol was founded by Catherine the Great in 1792 as a fortress town against the Ottoman Empire as part of the plan to create a Novorossiya stretching around the Black Sea and Odessa. The real fear is if secessionist demands start to emerge in that Black Sea port.
The danger in 2014 is that dormant nationalist passions could be stoked up by those in the US and EU who had been quite content to recognise the break up of Yugoslavia into smaler states in accordance with national self determination but fanatical about the idea tha Trans Dniester could follow Crimea.
Trapped between Moldova, and a far more anti-Russian government in Chisinau than before the 'Twitter Revolution' of 2008 in which the plodding Vladimir Volonin was ousted, and an increasingly insecure interim government in Kiev to the east, the capacity for conflict being sparked off cannot be discounted.
Conflict could be intensified if Ukraine attempts to cut off economic supplies to Trans Dniester or attempt sealing off the 600,000 people by Ukraine and Moldova in aiming to ramp up tensions the better to draw in decisive western support to crush its seperatist status and contain Russian power.
Throughout the 2000's EU and US officials and other international worthies continually ignored the recurrent elections in Trans Dniester. One reason for that is that no matter the request for national self determination. Trans Dniester as a state does not fit in with tthe strategy of controlling the Black Sea region.
Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia have populations who have willingly adopted dual citizenship with the Russian Federation. It was always possible after the Kosovo intervention and recognition of Kosovo as a state in 2008 that Russian would seek to exploit Western double standards
Any conflict breaking out between Moldovans and Transdinistrians would be bound to draw in Putin's Russia as theie 'protector' of ethnic Russians. There seems to be be one standard for Russian Slavonic populations and those in lands such as Kosovo whose paramilitary elites were far more aggressive.
The actions of pro-Russian militias in Crimea have been limited and contained compared to the Kosovan Liberation militias who ethnically cleansed some 2000,000 from Kosovo, including Serbs and sinti, and then went into the business of the flesh trade, drugs and organ trafficking.
Trans Dniester has been independent for 22 years since the Soviet Union dissolved. It has problems with crime. But union with neighbouring Moldova offers nothing, not least since the neoliberal shock therapy apparachniks have been at work. If it votes to join with Russia, that is it's business.