“An Unequal Alliance”. How Romania Was Denied the Right to Security

Home / Analytics / “An Unequal Alliance”. How Romania Was Denied the Right to Security
Christian RUSSU
Bucharest’s ignominious fail with the nomination of Klaus Iohannis as Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance and the supply of the Patriot system to Ukraine has once again shown how “equal” Romania’s partnership with its EU and NATO allies is. It also gives an additional reason to reflect on the place of Moldova in these organizations in the event of a hypothetical accession      
No sooner had the emotions of Romanians on both banks of the Prut subsided following the national team’s confident victory over Ukraine at Euro 2024 than it was soon time for everyone to hide their sense of pride in the country and its achievements. Two cases that claimed to be “success stories” in the modern state mythology of Bucharest saw their ignominious finale yesterday. The first was that Romanian politicians can hold leadership positions in alliances of which they are members. The second suggested that these are equal alliances and Romania can defend its own interests within them. Both myths busted after the Supreme Security Council meeting. It turned out that as early as last week, President Klaus Iohannis had notified NATO allies that he was withdrawing from the race for the post of Secretary General of the alliance in favor of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Iohannis only communicated this decision to Romanian Security Council, although formally requesting the approval of Rutte’s candidacy. I don’t think that ordinary citizens care much about the future of the president completing his second mandate. For many people, he has never become a real Romanian president, but only an outsider, a confirmation of dependence and mistrust of Western capitals. However, even with German roots, Klaus Iohannis as NATO Secretary General would represent the Romanian establishment and be a sign of obvious respect for him from the Allies. Moreover, critics may say that during ten years of his presidency Iohannis has not plunged the country into internal political crises, as his predecessor Traian Basescu, a true Romanian with chauvinist tendencies. And at the same time he was principled in guarding the national interests. Apparently, he had to pay the price for this, failing to outperform Mircea Geoana in the NATO hierarchy. One might recall his public disapproval of handing over one of Romania’s Patriot systems to Ukraine in view of the increased security risks for Bucharest and incidents involving unidentified drones and missiles in the country’s airspace. A month ago, the Romanian leader assured the public that under no circumstances would Romania agree to be left without missile and air defense, and if the country gives something away, it should get something else. Otherwise it will not give up anything. Romania’s Patriot systems are certainly a point of pride for the Romanian military. They cost Bucharest dearly, both in terms of delivery time and price. While the first two units were delivered in 2020 and put on duty only a year later, the last two started operating only last May. Iohannis was not alone in his objections to passing the “Romanian property” to Kyiv. The Romanian army itself opposed this request which was actively pushed by the allies. Global demand for these air defence systems has increased dramatically, while supply is severely limited. Therefore, Kyiv’s request to “share” Romania’s air defense systems without any compensation was met with complete rejection by the Romanian military. And Iohannis politically voiced this position, postponing the final decision by all means. However, allies put the screws, as they call it, on Romanian politicians and military officers. Both continental allies and partners across the ocean made public appeals to meet Kyiv’s needs. The latter even had to summon the Romanian leader to Washington. As it turned out, such a gratuitous gift to Ukraine was offset not by praise and compensation in the form of the post of Secretary General, but by a demonstrative whipping for stubbornness and reluctance. A slap in the face for the entire political elite of Romania. And this was not the first time when senior NATO and EU allies took Romania down a peg. Once again, partners’ arguments about how to “protect” Romanian interests prevail over their own, and their contribution to allied projects and costs are greater than those of many other neighbors. What does this example mean for Chisinau? Our brothers across the Prut often tell us that Moldova’s main problem is the security one. They say that we are in constant turbulence, unlike Romania, which, although shaken by internal political scandals, is in the zone of predictability. Of course, in this case they are referring to the NATO area of responsibility. However, we can clearly see how “equal” such an alliance is for Bucharest, which ensures its claimed stability and security. The stories of agonizing Schengen expansion or unjustified concessions to Austrian business, offensive to Romanians, can hardly be good examples of equal alliance. In the thick of the election campaign, some Moldovan politicians are already signaling to the authorities the damage to national interests caused by the implementation of Brussels’ requirements for the candidacy program. Domestic entrepreneurs realize clearly that the business climate at home is not improving, and their EU colleagues are interested in this. We are imposed rigid rules of the game, in which we, as newcomers, are easily beaten. Importers and exporters, even small businesses, are being saddled with new taxes, forced to pay either for a bank guarantee or for importing packaged goods. Farmers appear uncompetitive on the EU market, with only memories of the previous supply rates to the CIS countries. At that, the level support and subsidies received by our neighbors is unattainable for us. Thanks to the efforts of politicians, a request for the fast-track accession to the EU have ostensibly been formed in the public space. However, the process can be accelerated, with political support from Brussels, only through concessions on all the future accession chapters. After all, each EU member can veto any package at any time if its interests are not taken into account. A similar format was used to negotiate the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area a decade ago. Our delegation then was instructed to shift into the highest gear instead of progressively upholding every clause of the agreement in the interests of its farmers and industrialists. By the way, our negotiators preferred to gloss over the existence of certain sectors of the Moldovan economy at that time, so as not to slow down the progress of negotiations. It is obvious that the desired union with the European Union will not be equal for Moldova. The example of Romania is rather vivid in this respect. They benefit from our sales market and build the necessary logistics to that end. However, Moldova faces not only the way to the EU, but also the necessity indicated by Romanian partners to be in the “zone of stability”, which with our current geopolitical choice is provided only by NATO. It is hard to imagine what military concessions the generals in the North Atlantic Alliance would demand in our hypothetical joining the alliance. However, I think that our brothers across the Prut will be a bit “more equal” in such a scenario. They certainly won’t be as frustrated as they are now as the most junior partners.