Romania's war on Hitler's side was not popular with the masses, and not even with the bulk of the rightist politicians and officers. Although anti- Communist and anti-Soviet feelings were running high in Romania in the interwar years, mainly after the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina ( 1940), Antonescu's war effort lacked mass-support, and following the recovery of the Soviet-occupied territories, public opinion favoured Romania leaving the war. Peace feelers on the part of the underground, or semi-legal, opposition, led by I. Maniu, the leader of the National Peasants' Party, and by C. Bratianu, the Liberal leader, were put out by the middle of 1943. Mihai Antonescu, deputy to Ion Antonescu, tried to contact the Allies at about the same time. Marshal Antonescu himself favoured a separate peace agreement with the Allies, at least with the Western Powers, up to the beginning of 1944. Stockholm, Lisbon, Ankara and Istanbul were among the places where emissaries of both Mihai Antonescu and the democratic opposition paved the way for Romania's volte-face. The main architects of the subtle and complex structure of diplomatic and military plans aiming at extricating Romania from the war were Maniu and a group of young politicians and diplomats in his and in King Michael's entourage. They were assisted by a number of influential officers and a few older political figures, as for example Prince Barbu Stirbey. No Communist or Social Democratic leader appeared on this scene prior to the spring of 1944, when Lucretiu Patrascanu, the eminent Communist intellectual, and Titel Petrescu, the Social Democratic leader, were involved in the later phases of the preparations for Romania's extrication from the war.
In the spring of 1944, the contacts between the Romanian democratic leaders and the Allies entered a decisive phase with the despatching to Cairo of Prince Stirbey, Maniu's emissary. A major obstacle jeopardised the negotiations with British and American representatives: the unrealistic endeavour to rely exclusively on the Western Allies and to avoid a Soviet occupation of the country.
The Western representatives made it clear from the beginning that negotiations could only be carried out on a tripartite basis, and hinted at the predominant role which the Soviets were to play in the area. Although contacts with the Soviets were established in Cairo through the Western