REVIEW. Romania will deploy more missiles on its territory. What are the objectives of Bucharest in South-Eastern Europe?

Home / Reviews / REVIEW. Romania will deploy more missiles on its territory. What are the objectives of Bucharest in South-Eastern Europe?
By Sergey Isayenko Last week, NATO Headquarters hosted a summit, wherethe alliance members discussed the containment of Russia and its violation of the INF Treaty. Moscow stressed earlier that the United States had already repeatedly violated the INF Treaty, in particular by deploying Tomahawk-type missile launchplatforms in Romania.Russia also claims that the missile defence complexes deployed in Romania undermine regional stability. In turn, Bucharest considers the deployment of the missile shieldon its territory a great success. What political motives is Romania guided by when runs a high risk of involvement in the possible conflict? Since its appearance on the political map of Europe in the second half of the 19th century, Romania has consistently adhered to the tactics of manoeuvring between the interests of the great powers to achieve ownregional goals. Despite some reputational costs, such a policy as a whole was paying off. From 1878 to 1945 Bucharest greatly expanded the territory of the state, developed the concept of “Great Romania” and played a significant role in the Little Entente for a time. The political sense, honed in the conditions of centuries-old borderlands (the Danube princedoms for centuries were the interest intersection of Austria, Russia and Turkey), allowed Romania to change frequently the diplomatic vector and to join the win side in good time. The current regional policy of Bucharest is still closely tied to the interests of world and regional powers. As part of the European Union, Romania has no space for broad political manoeuvres, as it was in the old days. At the same time, as a member of NATO and an ally of the United States, Romania is forced to follow the directions of Brussels and Washington, including the development of relations with neighbouring countries. At the same time, Bucharest seeks to strengthen its importance in the regional projects promoted by the West. It is crucially importantfor Romania to resolve the issue of joining the Schengen Area and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). However, in 2017, the European Commission reported that Romania still needs to take additional steps while implementing reforms in justice, combating corruption and organized crime. The country is constantly shaken by political in-fighting related with corruption scandals. Moreover, the IMF, the World Bank, the EU and the EBRD still criticize Bucharest for the discrepancy in the growth of consumption and labour productivity. Accession to the OECD is complicated by difficult relationship with Hungary regarding theSzékely Land striving for territorial autonomy. This conflict lasts since the end of the First World War, when Transylvania was passed to Bucharest followed by assimilation of local Hungarians and the Székelys. So far, Romania has failed to resolve this issue. For example, in 2017 a serious diplomatic scandal broke out between Budapest and Bucharest since the Romanian government decided to close the Hungarian Catholic Lyceum in Transylvania. The politicians fuelled the debate when the Romanian Prime Minister, Mihai Tudose, said lastJanuary “…if the Szekler flag appears on public institutions, all people in charge will hang next to it.” Further tension in this issue is very sensitive for Bucharest, given that Romania actively expands its influence in Moldova considering it the second Romanian state. Bucharest tackles the “Bessarabian issue” through the so-called “unirea” of the two countries. This idea finds supporters on both sides of the Prut, while Romania actively contributes to its strengthening, financing the Moldovan media, which promote the concept of a “common future” and the absence of a separate Moldovan ethnicity. Every year, Romania provides scholarships to many Moldovans. Enjoying EUmembership, Bucharest expands its influence granting fast-track passports to Moldovansfor more than ten years. "Unirea" is also promoted by the Bessarabian Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which is not separated from the state and is financed from the state budget. In addition, Bucharest and Chisinau have close military cooperation. In 2012, Moldova signed a military agreement with Romania, which actually means the subordination of the Moldovan armed forces to the Romanian General Staff, and through it to the NATO command. The agreement implies control over the airspace, the possibility of joint participation in peacekeeping operations, the exchange of military information, the organization of joint exercises. In fact, this is the legal basis for the indefinite stay of the Romanian troops in Moldova. At the same time, the EU is sceptical about the idea of ​​uniting the two states, seeing it as a dangerous precedent for the multilateral territorial claims. The Republic of Moldova takes only part of Bessarabia, and Romania considers it as own historical territory.Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia are now parts of Ukraine, and boundary adjustment can provoke a territorial conflict between Kiev and Bucharest. By the way, Romania already uses diplomatic levers todayprotesting against the national policy of Ukraine in the areasinhabited by small Romanian communities. Moreover, the Transnistrian conflict remains unsettled,and in case of the Prut sides merger will lead to an open clash with Russia, which provides assistance to the unrecognized “TMR”. To this end, Bucharest assumed the role of Moldova's lawyer in the European Union following the concept of “unification within the EU” according to which the border between Moldova and Romania will disappear if Chisinau joins the European Union. Romania policy in this area contradicts the regional interests of Moscow having a negative impact on the relations between the two countries. Last year, the Romanian authorities did not allow the aircraft carrying Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozincrossing the national airspace. Two weeks ago, Romania supported the UN General Assembly resolution on the complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Bucharest uses the image of the outpost when countering Russian influence as an instrument to strengthen its geopolitical significance before the EU and the US. Bucharestreasonably believes that, later, it may bring certain foreign policy dividends. For example, the RomanianDefence Minister, Mihai Fifor, calls his country “an important element and supplier of security in the Black Sea, which brilliantly resists threats and challenges in this region,” coming from Russia, which, he says, leads “an intensive hybrid war”. After joining NATO, Romania is actively building a bilateral military partnership with the United States. At the same time, Washington has also a special interest in Romania. Back in 2005, Washington and Bucharest signed an agreement on the deployment of four US military bases in Romania. In May 2016, the US launcheda land-based component of the Aegis Ashore not only for missile defence, but also for long-range cruise missiles. In the next 2019, the US plans to deploy additional 37 missile defence systems in Romania and Poland. 1,500 Romanian soldiers still participate in NATO operations on the territory of Afghanistan under the auspices of the United States. Close interaction of special services sometimes leads to reputational costs for Romania. For example, recently the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Romania to compensate €100,000 to a prisoner tortured in a secret CIA prison in Bucharest. Earlier, Romaniadenied the existence of the CIA prisons on its territory. At the same time, Bucharest finds a way to “manoeuvre” between the US and the EU. In May, the ruling Social Democratic Party blocked a European document condemning the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President of Romania Klaus Johannis said that such actions put the country on a par with Eurosceptics and can withdraw it from the European Union.