The Future of Romanian-Russian Relations in the Trump Era

By Gosu, Armand | Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, October 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Future of Romanian-Russian Relations in the Trump Era


Gosu, Armand, Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review


(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Donald Trump's electoral victory took the entire world by surprise. In the countries on NATO's eastern flank in particular, Baltic and Black Sea countries, Trump's election is worrisome for the public opinion. Not because of the surprising way in which the White House leader expresses himself, but rather because of his friendly statements about Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The Baltic countries, which are in the first line of fire, but also Poland and Romania, look to the United States as the guarantor of their security. At this point, however, they are faced with a president who criticizes his own country's security establishment and is laudatory when it comes to the Kremlin leader. He also sees NATO as an obsolete and inefficient organization, considers the US just as immoral as Russia is (as he said in a Fox News interview). Therefore, political and military leaders in Central Europe are wondering whether they can rely on the United States or not, and if their membership in the North Atlantic organization, and even their Strategic Partnership with the US, can still guarantee their security. President Trump not only generates confusion but also undermines the Wilsonian order that has been providing peace, security and prosperity in Europe for over half a century.

Of the eastern flank countries, Romania is geographically the closest to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Vladimir Putin, and eastern Ukraine, destabilized by Russia. It is no surprise, then, that for most Romanian experts the greatest threat to security is the eventual presence of Russia north of the Danube Delta, in the region of Odessa, as a neighbour on NATO's and EU's border. As Romania alone cannot cope with this threat, considering the signals that the US might disengage from the region, the political elites in Bucharest have few options available. The most important is identifying a new ally to guarantee Romania's security, integrity and independence, considering the shift in American foreign policy priorities. In order to gain time and reduce risks, Bucharest may try to mend relations with Budapest and Moscow. Nothing new in this, there have been several other such moments throughout history. Not even the "Budapest-Moscow" axis is something new.

However, it is by no means obvious that Romania has any alternative to NATO and the Strategic Partnership with the US. What can it do other than bank on its proverbial luck?!

Even if it invested human and intellectual resource, Romanian diplomacy would still not gain much in its relationship with Moscow in 2017. First of all because of the negative passivity of the last two decades and a half1. Add to this a difficult historical inheritance: territorial disputes involving a large part of the Republic of Moldova, as well as parts of Ukraine, which acquired the territories of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina after the 1940 annexations; the Romanian treasury which was sent for safekeeping in Moscow in 1916-1917 and never fully recovered; moral compensation through a clear condemnation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939). The territorial dispute was never fully contested by Bucharest officially, while Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova were recognized by Romania with their current borders as of 1991, the moment the USSR collapsed, thus confirming the frontiers drawn by Stalin. Only a few small, but very vocal, organizations, are still contesting today Romania's eastern frontiers, proposing a revisionist agenda. The second issue: Romania's treasury was mentioned in a letter signed jointly by the foreign ministers, when the basic political treaty was signed between the two countries, Romania and Russia, on 4 July 2003. The problem was relegated to historians and archivists, who formed a committee to discuss controversial issues in bilateral relations. The committee has met three times so far, last time in Sinaia, Romania, in March 2016. …

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