Romania is a well-endowed country and a blessed land, but its geopolitical location is a curse. Currently, the country is again a pawn between NATO and the United States on the one hand and Russia on the other. At the same time, the European Union is advancing an internationalist policy that ignores the national interests of the member countries. And this time Romania is led by political leaders that put personal interests before the needs of the country. Where is Romania going? This article focuses on the national priorities of Romania, which is caught again between competing powers and interests.
Romania este o tara binecuvantata asezata insa in calea furtunilor la o raspantie de necazuri. In prezent, tara se afla din nou la confluenta dintre interesele Occintetului, pe de o parte, si ale noii Federatii Ruse, pe de alta. In timp ce America si Occidentul promoveaza globalizarea economica, Rusia isi continua politica traditional/agresiva si incearca sa-si extinda sfera de influenta. Interesele celor doiua sisteme politice, economice si geopolitice se confrunta din nou in Ucraina si Republca Moldova, fosta Basarabie romaneasca. Moscova nu va ceda Ucraina, dar ar putea negocia soarta teritoriului dintre Prut si Nistru. La ora actuala, Romania face parte din NATO si din Uniunea Europeana. Apartenenta la NATO o apara, dar o si expune. Uniunea Europeana promoveaza si ea o politica internationalista care deseori ignora aspiratiile nationale ale tarilor membre. Care sunt prioritatile si interesele Romaniei si cum sunt promovate acestea de guvernul Roman?Articolul de fata incearca sa elucideze unele din aceste probleme.
Key words: Romania, America (U.S.), Russia, The European Union (EU), NATO
Throughout history, the Romanian lands have been crossed, invaded, divided and ravaged by migratory peoples and expansionist powers. With its position at a cross-road of expanding powers, it was impossible for Romania to fully develop its resources, and for the people to fully enjoy the fruits their labor.
During the 20th Century, most of the Romanian-inhabited areas were reunited under one country. Yet, in 1939 Germany and Russia plotted and divided Romania again. The dismemberment of the Soviet Union in 1991 relit for a while the aspiration of Romanians to reunite the country. However, the post-communist governments missed the opportunity and instead decided to play second fiddle to various foreign interests. In fact, to secure their newly-found socio-political positions and to keep their ill-gotten wealth, the new Romanian leaders sold out the national interests of the country.
The geopolitical order of the 21st Century finds Romania as a pawn between the East (Russia) and the West (EU, NATO and the US). Given the traditional fear of Russia, Romania chose the West, but it ignored her former lands located across the Prut River. It is chiefly Moscow’s manipulation of Bessarabia that made Bucharest join NATO and seek America’s help. And yet, this former Romanian province has been virtually forgotten by Bucharest. The Romanian leaders have not raised this issue when America asked for a new concession.
The United States asked Romania to contribute with military manpower in Afghanistan. Romania obliged! The U.S. asked Romania to support the Western sanctions against Russia for having annexed Crimea. Bucharest obeyed without saying a word about the Romanian lands held by Ukraine. The U.S. asked for military bases. Bucharest agreed! Actually, the Deveselu military base was just inaugurated. Very Well! But what did Romania get so far in return?
While attending an international conference in Bucharest a number of years ago, I met several ethnic Romanians living in Moscow. One of them, a university professor, stated: “You Romanians are blinded by your fear of Russia. You should appeal to us, ethnic Romanians living among the Russians, to show you how to cope with them.” And, as an American citizen for over 40 years but a Romanian at heart, I am pondering: Why the Bucharest authorities do not appeal to us for advice on how to cope with America? The new Romanian authorities decided instead to behave as servants. And what did Romania get? Legitimacy for an illegitimate political class! In my university courses of International Communication, I always underline that in any relation dignity is the most important personal trait and responsibility is the most important national trait. Even your worst enemy would respect you if you show dignity, honesty and responsibility!
NATO and America
Robert Kaplan, a reputed analyst with a dual American and Israeli citizenship, published recently In Europe’s Shadow, a book which is mostly about Romania. The author has a good understanding of the world and a keen interest in East Europe. In his new book he emphasizes the geopolitical importance of Romania for the U.S. He also addresses many issues from historical questions to contemporary geopolitics. He admires Romania’s inheritance and wonders at the survival of the Latin roots of the people. Romania, he writes, “constitutes one of those indigestible ethnic nations... that have miraculously survived the millennia despite being oppressed, overrun, and vanquished...”
Kaplan also observed what the Romanians have known for centuries: Geography has been a nightmare and history a tragedy! Nonetheless, he stresses that Romania is central to understanding East Europe and is of renewed importance in the present confrontation between East and West. Together with Poland, he writes, Romania is the pivot of America’s policy against the new Russian aggressiveness. Question is: What is the national interest of Romania in this new conflict between East and West?
The simple truth is that geopolitically, Romania’s goal is to regain Bessarabia; the country has no interests beyond the Nistru River! On its turn, Russia knows this, but it is unable or unwilling to address it. As for now, Russia is fighting tooth and nail to keep Ukraine under its paw and the Republic of Moldova under its control. Thus, Ukraine represents the primary battle ground between NATO and Russia while Moldova is at the periphery of Moscow’s claims. Russia is not giving up Ukraine, but it might negotiate the fate of Moldova. I have treated this subject in the book A Brief Study of Globalization, the chapter Russia between Old Geopolitics and New Economic Realities.
Good as it is, Kaplan’s analysis is static because it does not account for changing international scenarios and because it ignores the past events. In 1940 Bessarabia and Bukovina were arbitrarily invaded and annexed by Stalin, which made Romania join Germany one year later and attack the Soviet Union. Yet, in 1945 at Yalta and then again in 1989 in Malta the United States legalized Stalin’s annexation of the Romanian provinces. Why Washington did not read what Malborne Graham, an American diplomat, wrote in October 1944? He published an article in the American Journal of International Law titled ‘The Legal Status of the Bukovina and Bessarabia.’ In his view, this area represented “the most critical territorial problem bequeathed to the present generation as a direct legacy of the age-old Eastern Question.” The issue was ignored in 1945 and is still ignored these days when Washington needs Romania. But, what if in the future America changes its priorities in Europe, or what if Russia changes its attitude toward Romania? A change of geopolitical interests and even a change of heart may not be ruled out even in Moscow. History is a long chain of unending changes.
The current murky state of affairs of the area between Romania, Ukraine and Russia started with the new partition of Europe decided by the U.S. and USSR in 1989. For reasons not shared with the public Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova were left in limbo as a buffer zone between Russia and Europe. Nonetheless, this region could trigger a real war and the recent conflict in Ukraine proves the point.
As for the current situation, most analysts admit that not everything is well in the new East Europe. However, they do not analyze fully the danger for the future if the current trends continue. In Romania, for example, the old industry was completely destroyed, the agriculture was ruined, the national military was practically disbanded, and over three million young men and women have left the country to work in the West. Many of them will never return. The situation is similar throughout the entire East Europe. To be sure, there is freedom now, but there is also poverty, desperation, split families and abandoned children. And there is unemployment, prostitution, pornography, moral decay, and other social ills, most of them imported from the West. The result is that many Romanians have been deprived again of their dignity, and their leaders have abandoned their national responsibilities. And Moscow is exploiting this indignity to its advantage while America remains morally ambivalent to say the least.
America is promoting the globalization of the world the same way the former Soviet Union promoted global communism in the past. And each one of them, Moscow in the past and Washington now, would foster its own set of values. During the 20th Century the former USSR promoted an equalitarian, utopian and God-less society based on collective property and total state control. Marxism promised a happy future that never materialized. In fact, the system never worked except temporarily through the application of brute force. Currently, America promotes the process of globalization, and the international circles behind this effort also promise a better future for everybody. But, will it work? The people have already been duped once!
The process of globalization comes with a set of new values and norms of conduct which are against Christian values. This process has triggered a collision of values that are especially visible in East Europe. In my book Cross Cultural Communication I emphasized that in any society there should be harmony between what people do for a living, their attitude and behavior, and their moral values and spiritual beliefs. From this point of view, a society is like a step pyramid where everything must fall into place. Behavior, values and beliefs must exist in a balanced form. Disrespect this balance as an individual and you become an outcast. Neglect it as a society and you destabilize the country! Riots, disturbances and chaos may follow.
Currently, America and the West are promoting globalization for a new world economic order and human rights as a new universal religion. However, human rights are just norms of conduct without any spiritual aim. But people want more than freedom and material goods; they want spiritual meaning. Material goods, money and wealth should be only means to climb up the cultural pyramid and to achieve both, material needs and spiritual balance. This is very much a personal pursuit, but it is blinded by the current race for profit at any price. I have addressed this problem in the book The Purpose of Life. Economic globalization and human rights are just means, not goals. Furthermore, are LGBT rights, strongly promoted by some in America, part of human rights? In this case Russia has plenty of ammunition to oppose the West...
And there is another thorny point in many current western analyses of East Europe. Kaplan, for example, condemns ethnic patriotism and nationalism and even any form of order and discipline that could lead to extremist attitudes and eventually to anti-Semitism. But, where would the world be without order and discipline? He should have researched the roots of extremism to make sure that this scourge would not haunt us again in the future. Instead of nationalism, he advocates internationalism and globalism. Yet, he recognizes the potential attraction of extremist movements when masses of people do not reach the fruits of globalization. Yes, extremism is a danger in Europe and Moscow is already manipulating it!
Does globalization bring the promised fruits to the average citizen? Or does it bring advantages mostly to a small elitist group? How are we to reconcile Western internationalism with Eastern nationalism in an era of increasing inequity and polarization? It should be recalled that the West won the cold war with the sacrifices of many Eastern nationalists. But in the new East Europe those patriots were prevented from sharing the fruits of their sacrifices. In the present conflict, the West may win the economic battles, but it may lose the hearts and minds of the people. Unless America and the West change their policies, it is possible that in another confrontation between the two camps the East European nationalists may not let themselves be used, abused, and abandoned again. And Romania is no exception!
The European Union
The evolution of the European Union and its attitude toward East Europe is another thorny issue. For more than forty years the Eastern European people lived under Soviet repression. During those years they dreamt of becoming free to rejoin the rest of Europe. At long last, the Eastern countries regained their independence. Yet, the same countries are now questioning Western policies. Why is East Europe turning against the European Union?
The change in attitude toward the West has been caused by the unrealistic expectations of the Eastern countries and by the cynical attitude of the West. Politically, the West has accepted the new Eastern governments although those governments were still under the control of the former communists. This recognition led to duplicity and hypocrisy in both regions – Eastern and Western Europe. Economically, the West demanded the privatization of state enterprises, but the process triggered chaos, corruption and huge unemployment. And the process of globalization undermined the newly gained independence of the Eastern countries and threatened the very existence of their nationhood.
The reaction to the EU policies has been slow, but steady and mostly negative. And the recent refugee crisis and the decision to impose refugee quotas for each EU country have made some leaders take a strong stand against Brussels. In fact, the European Union is now challenged both in the East and in the West and from both sides -- the right side and the left side of the political spectrum. Actually, according to a poll done by the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of respondents across 10 EU countries have unfavorable views of the Union. Furthermore, the poll showed that skepticism was on the rise just before the British referendum on EU membership. And the dissatisfaction is deeper in the countries affected by economic and political ills.
Greece, for example, is led by a leftist government, but is deeply displeased with EU policies. At the right side of the political spectrum, the recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium have given a boost to the right-wing movements that also question Brussels’ policies. Something is rotten with the EU and many people are up in arms. The former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky actually wrote that the EU’s bureaucracy works as the former Politburo of the USSR. This bureaucracy is not accountable to anyone except itself! And, he sounded an alarm regarding the future of individual EU countries.
Opposition to the EU is currently strong in Hungary and Poland, but it is also boiling in Romania and elsewhere. Poland was the first to oppose the idea of taking orders from outside and of accepting refugee quotas. However, it was Hungary that denounced the EU directly. Prime Minister Viktor Orban compared the EU with the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Soviet Union and stated that those two empires were sick and destined to dismember. He declared: Today in Europe it is forbidden to speak the truth; to say that those arriving people are not refugees;… to point out that masses arriving from other civilizations endanger our way of life, our culture, and our Christian traditions;… to say that Brussels is now stealthily devouring our national sovereignty. And he continued: “Today the enemies of freedom are cut from different cloth than those who ran the Soviet system; they use a different set of tools to force us into submission…” Orban expressed his country worries, which are virtually common all over East Europe, but he ended up his speech on a hopeful note: “The task which awaits the Hungarian people, the nations of Central Europe and the other European nations which have not yet lost all common sense is to defeat, rewrite and transform the fate intended for us…”
Each East European country has its own problems and the closer they are to Russia, the more threatened they feel. Given its location, Romania does not dare to officially criticize the EU. However, its cultural leaders are increasingly critical of Brussels. Gabriel Liiceanu, for example, accused the EU of “lack of leadership and determination”. According to Romanian media, he stated: “it is regrettable that beyond a few ridiculous and ritualistic statements, Europe was unable to come up with any plan to address the current refugee crisis.” And further he stressed that “many of the current refugees are incapable of respecting Europe’s values while Europe’s leaders are incapable of saving Europe.”
Ana Blandiana, another leading personality, compared the current European crisis with the end of the Roman Empire…“What is going on presently in Europe is beyond any logic,” … “We are in the middle of a clash of civilizations and Europe has lost its faith and has denied its Christian roots....” Then, she stressed the traditional importance of the nation and of family values and criticized the “politically correct trend” imposed by the EU. She said that Brussels is trying to impose ‘new kind of families which are unable to produce children…” Obviously she referred to LGBTs, but in the new political climate the Romanian poet did not dare mention them by name. And, at the end of her speech given at Cluj-Napoca University, she compared the EU with “a pod of whales swimming toward an unknown shore only to commit suicide...”
There are many people in East Europe unhappy with the EU’s policies. They complain of many issues from stressful consequences of globalization to negative effects of micro-management. They fear a new form of socialism that could be in the end as poisonous as the old Soviet brand. And many people are revolted against their own governments for accepting policies that are against the interests and aspirations of their own nations. Some people even question the choice of the West over Russia. Recently, I was personally asked during a TV interview in Bucharest if it would not have been better for Romania to remain in the Russian sphere of influence. I answered with a question of my own: Knowing the attitude of Russia toward Romania throughout the entire history, would you trust Moscow?
The New Russian Federation
It is shocking and it is sad! The former West European communists of the nineteen fifties and sixties are posing as socialists these days and are largely in charge of the EU. The former communists of East Europe have changed their names and now pose as socialists. Together they act as comrades in arms and appear prone to build another pseudo-Marxist society. What the Soviet Union did not achieve through sheer brutality is being achieved now with kid gloves by the new authorities in Brussels. As of now no East European country has decided to leave the union, but the seeds of discontent have been sown. Will the EU change its policies and keep the union together, or will Brussels stick to its gun and risk breaking up the union?
These days there are new social, political and moral trends in Russia as well. While the West began to abandon religion and traditions, Russia is returning to old values and began to exploit the dissatisfaction of the East. Most East Europeans reject Russia’s new advances, but this time Moscow has new ammunitions. This past May, for example, Vladimir Putin visited a Russian Orthodox Monastery of Mount Athos in Greece where he had cordial discussions with the Greek leaders. The Russian President also praised the moral guidance provided by the Orthodox monastic communities while the Greek officials praised him for his attitude and for standing up to Western moral ambiguity…
To be sure, on one hand Russia feels isolated, left out and threatened by NATO, but on the other hand it did not renounce its traditional policies. Unable to compete with the West, Moscow continues its expansionist agenda. To this aim, it uses brutal military force as it did in Georgia and Ukraine, economic means and incentives as it does in Western Europe, as well as psychological warfare and subtle diversions. In this vein, a number of articles published recently in several European countries have made some analysts conclude that they were edited by the new Russian secret police.
A good example is the conference held recently at Sinaia in Romania with the participation of several European nationalists. The most prominent personality that attended the event was Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front. The conference was well organized and the main topic of the discussions was anti-European. In her speech, Marine Le Pen described the EU as “a drifting ship without a compass,” and “a total failure.” She questioned the EU’s future, called it “a threat to its inhabitants “and instead proposed a Union “from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains; a Europe that would also include Russia. The conference itself and this statement in particular, suits Putin’s Russia very well. In fact, these days Russia is making inroads in both West and East Europe, and this time many of its arguments are hard to combat.
A case in point is the American missile base built recently in Romania. The just opened base at Deveselu was hailed by the American and Romanian officials and by most of the media. As expected, Moscow was enraged and resorted to threats of reprisals. However, there were also Romanian dissenting voices and some of them sounded honest and logical. Thus, it is hard o say whether such voices speak from their heart, or they echo Moscow’s hidden agenda.
According to Active News of May 9, reserve Colonel Marin Neacsu claimed that the Romanian military would be used as cannon fodder for U.S. interests. And he accused Washington of using Romania’s aspiration of reacquiring Moldova (Bessarabia) just to challenge Russia without helping the Romanian national cause. By doing this, he continued, Romania would expose (the republic of) Moldova to increasing Russian threats without obtaining anything in return.
Another dissenting point of view was posted on the Internet and this one startles the reader even more. It is named: Is there a plan to disband Romania? (Se Pregateste Pulverizarea Romaniei?). The analysis focuses on the last 25 years of transition that has ruined the old economy without replacing it with a new one and that has ravaged Romania’s socio-demographic fabric. Unfortunately, almost all the arguments used in the analysis are real. Yet, the analysis may have very well been concocted in Moscow to disorient the Romanians. The analysis is not signed, but retired Colonel Vasile Zarnescu provides some pertinent comments. He considers the analysis to be a correct mirror of the “last 25 years of criminal transition.” In his view, some international circles “have impoverished the people on purpose” and “have compelled the youth to leave the country...” His conclusion is that all these are part of the effort of certain international circles that promote globalization with the purpose of manipulating and controlling the world.
If the analysis was edited in Moscow, it is indeed a good piece of disinformation. The arguments, however, are solid and America should be on alert. The West promoted God-less internationalists in East Europe and did everything to marginalize the God-fearing patriots. Russia is now trying to turn the table and attract those people who feel abandoned by the West. The current Russian influence is already strong and growing in Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and even beyond. Nationalism is also strong in Greece, Austria and Poland and is also growing in other West European countries. The next war may not be simply between countries, but between globalists and those who still love their nations. An older friend of mine who has since departed once wrote me: During the next war everyone will fight against everyone else and the front line will cut straight through our own hearts… There was a time when America was a God-loving and God-fearing country and fought against God-less Soviet Union and communism. Those times have past. Where do we stand now..? God save us!
Former American President Harry Truman is credited to have said that if you want to have a friend in Washington, buy yourself a dog. And former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once stated that England has neither permanent friends, nor enemies, but only permanent interests. Both statements are cynical, but realistic, and they apply perfectly to today’s world. It should be stressed that for the foreseeable future the nation-states will remain the cornerstones for the political and geopolitical organization of the world. Accordingly, the duty of any government is to promote and defend the nation and the national interests.
As any country, Romania has economic, politic, and geopolitical interests and priorities. The first priority of the government should be to manage successfully the national economy. To do that, the country needs a competent, responsible, and moral elite. It will take courageous and dedicated leaders to succeed, but it could be done. Geopolitically, Romania will have to recover its lands across the Prut River, to secure once and for all the stability of Transylvania, and to help the ethnic Romanian minorities that live beyond the Nistru, Danube and Tisa Rivers.
As for Transylvania, in 1996 the reputed American professor Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. In his book he placed the border that separates Eastern Europe form Western Europe through Transylvania. That means a potential fissure in the middle of Romania! What is Bucharest doing to secure the integrity of the country?
The governments that have mismanaged the country since 1989 have made many Romanians leave their motherland. Andrei Plesiu, a leading intellectual, wrote an essay recently titled My Country? In this essay (Adevarul Blog) he deplores in very clear terms the current state of Romania: ... “I live in a place that I can no longer consider to be mine, to be my country. My country has no longer any connection with me. It is the country of others: of a clique of individuals who have ascended to the top through illicit party maneuvers, through nepotism and through gang interests. I am now not only a stranger in this country; I feel threatened!”If this is the current situation, where is Romania going to be over the next several decades? What are the plans for defending and rebuilding the country during the next years of extremely turbulent events?
Robert D. Kaplan, In Europe’s Shadow (NY: Random House, 2016)
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996)
David Rothkopf, Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World they are Building (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
Nicholas Dima, A Brief Study of Globalization (Bloomington: Xlibris, 2013). The book is also available in Romanian (Bucuresti: Editura Viga, 2015)
Nicholas Dima, Cross Cultural Communication (Washington, DC: The Institute for the Study of Man, 1990)
Nicholas Dima, The Purpose of Life (Bloomington: Xlibris, 2014). Also available in Romanian (Bucuresti: Editura Viga, 2015)