Tag Archives: foreign policy

“Obsession of Russians still blocks relations between Romania and Moldova” believes American historian Larry L. Watts

American historian Larry L. Watts  has opened an entirely new chapter in Romanian historiography. His two books (published in Romania and the United States) radically change the well-appropriated perspectives on relations between the Eastern Communist Bloc and the Socialist Republic of Romania. It significantly revises parts of Cold War history. The recently released second book “The first shall be last”, set as a continuation of the volume “With friend like these…The Soviet Bloc`s clandestine war against Romania” [“God, keep me away from friends”] (both published by RAO Publishing House) is a necessary approach to elucidate the recent history of Romania as an international actor. A charismatic speaker, historian Larry Watts kindly answered to the queries raised by the editors of Power & Politics World.

Versiunea în limba română poate fi accesată aici.

In the previous book, With friends like these…” you analyse the discrepancy (*in the last decade before the collapse of communism)  between restrictive domestic politics and foreign liberal policy of Romania. Is not this kind of discrepancy the one that has generated and continues to generate such an mistrust and misperception of external partners (even if we admit the fact that the domestic politics has not decisively influence foreign policy)?

– I consider this the main cause that generates bad influence, further leading to a interviu_Larry Wattsmisperception from foreign partners. Moreover, in the above mentioned book, I emphasize that this is something abnormal. It is already known that, inspite of the differences in the human communities’ behavior all over the world, there are still some general expectations, regarding a particular/certain type of reaction, (admitting that at least one or more conditions may be unknown in a country policy). Here things have been totally different, meaning that Romania was part of an alliance which, in fact, was more hostile to itself than NATO. Dealing with such abnormal situations, it is very difficult to understand which are the reasons of a state policy. Any further explanation of experts which could provide clues in this respect, will bring more credibility to the state.

– Today, does Romania still have its own instruments of power projection, if we run out the membership in the Euro-Atlantic Club?

– Yes. When I say this, I refer to all those actions planned in very concrete meetings certified by historians, when Romania expressed its opinion from the first position. It can be compared to the difference between a nationalist and a patriot. The difference lies in the fact that when there is a common, regional, global interest, a patriot admits a compromise with all the non-supporters of his way of thinking, while for a nationalist – this approach seems unimportant, as long as he has a kind guidance which concerns only the people who live there with him.  I think there were many difficult moments in your country’s history when people came off victorious from impossible situations. They knew how to realize those alliances and those necessary compromises among themselves, in order to reach a certain goal, this way  proving that they were very powerful. They are much more stronger than they seem at first sight. They are very skillful in always choosing the third way….  this is what my brother-in-law concluded  in a discussion.

– Let’s hope it is not the third way of Mr. Dugin …

– Oh, no … (he’s laughing)

– Do you think that the world history would have looked different if the Warsaw Pact had been reformed after 1980?

– Yes, I think so. At least for the time-line. “Gorbachev era” would have materialized much quicker due to the democratization, and it would have blocked the tensions generated by Kremlin in its efforts to gain total power and  Eastern Alliance control. Although there were Romania’s merits at first, I assume that things would have looked different, meaning that the attitude of other members would have changed – and I refer to those who waited to see how things are going. The events would have performed in a different manner, most likely, on fast-forward.

– Has anything changed in approaching “Objective 24” after the collapse of the USSR? In fact, Russia is inheritor of the Soviet bloc. But, behold, we live in a century when strategic maps are written and rewritten with a different dynamic compared to the 70s and 80s. Or in other words: is still Romania “strategic nightmare” of Russia?

– It would be for me to have a certain opinion in such a case. Actually, I haven’t seen recent documents but, performing a short analysis of the events after ’89, I can consider that this obsession of  Russians still blocks the relations between Romania and Moldova. We witnessed that the impact of Moldova‘s accommodation between Europe, Russia and Germany  proved difficult to manage by the OSCE. We must try to solve this blockage, but it is not an easy target, if we take into account the perspective of international organizations.

– The titles of your books (in Romanian version, of course) use some proverbs pretty well rooted in the collective mentality of Romanians, as such, they are able to provoke some kind of reaction-reflex. Was it your option or the publisher’s?

– First, the title in English was my option (in fact also title – “With Friends Like These …” refers to a proverb, from American culture), but that through English translation would be  lost some of substance. Or maybe it had not been exciting enough. So, the Romanian editor thought of some alternative, much more suitable to the spiritual heritage of your country.
To be honest, comparing with editions published in the United States, the Romanian language titles are more nuanced and more appropriate to what I wanted to express in books.

– Speaking about reactions, your first book was intensely appreciated on the one hand, but aggressively criticized, on the other.  It seems that the second one will witness the same treatment. Are Romanian intellectuals divided between affiliation East / West? Or are they still just confused ?

– There is a part of things here related to the collective perception:  many prefer to consider things in a negative way, others lay on the principle that Romanians are not able to be independent. Some believe that Romanians did nothing worthy in history, others think they were not allowed to do it, or they stood in front of the interests of the important states. There are numerous causes and reasons. In the academic environment, this dilemma was treated in huge volumes, placing its representatives in very difficult positions. There are some aggressive reactions that can be understood, one of those being Mr. Tismăneanu’s. In my book there are no references to my past, my friends, but I accept you may find philosophic tendencies and less rigorous approaches. I understand and I respect many of history researchers. I know it is difficult to accept an interpretation that does not fit in your own vision. In this respect, my book is a “brick stone” with hundreds of pages. It is necessary that these writings should be literally explained and argumented with documents which can be easily verified.

– Can we believe that excessive feed-back of some of your fellow historians comes from the fear of not being perceived suspiciously, and then they compensate in reactive Chapter ?

– It is difficult for me to answer what exactly determines such reactions. When a historian enrolls in such research projects, I consider that he should possess a certain degree of humanity (maturity and honesty) and when is facing with a different approach that is more powerful than commonly accepted interpretations, he needs to understand that if common opinion can be contradicted, then his thesis also can be contradicted, sometimes even more humiliating. I provide evidences that the Romania was considered by the Soviets not only a rebellious state. Romanians were considered the main enemy in the Eastern Bloc. But I can to accept a contrary view if it is supported by evidence and arguments. I did not mention it yet, but Romania’s transfer from the Department of relations with fraternal services to NATO countries group (the transfer was realized by KGB in the late ’70s), was mainly due to foreign and security policy of Romania. If the blockage caused by ideological differences hadn’t been produced, Romania would certainly have had other opportunities. In fact, Ceausescu has created opportunities, but he was not able to exploit them in the relationship with the West.

interview made by G. Ionita&D. Moldoveanu

The Russian Federation, an old heritage of the new times (I)

First part of interview with Marius Lefter from Geopolitics.ro. The first part of the interview relates on the foreign policies and the future challenges of this state.

  • Varianta în limba română poate fi citită aici.

Marius Lefter (M.L.): – What is Moscow’s position regarding the Policy of Neighbourhood of UE?

 Gabriela Ionita (G.I.): – According to the European Commission of Economic and Financial Affairs, European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – launched in 2003 , this matter provides for the gradual development of trade relations and for traditional cooperation, thus achieving a higher degree of integration between EU and neighbourhood countries. In fact, economically ENP  offers to these states preferential trade relations, participation in the EU internal market, a better relation with the EU ( for the example on transport, telecommunication and energy sector ), none the less the benefit to participate in certain EU programs and some substantial financial support and technical assistance. Although Russia does not fit in this equation, we can easily see that many of the objectives set out in the action plans of partner countries are found in the draft between Russia and EU – Strategic Partnership for Modernization of the Russian Federation and European Union. Moreover, Russia had demonstrated that it has sufficient leverage to influence other countries from its neighbourhood, and the existence in its area of influence of countries that share fundamental values and objectives of EU, countries that have a profound cooperation with member countries, assuming a high level of economic and political integration, which would be a benefit for the Russian economy. Unfortunately, the same levers of power , have demolished neighbourhood states like Belarus and Ukraine. The president of the Russian state , Medvedev recalled that Russian needs the EU technology, economic diversification and new standards to be competitive on a common market. In theory, self-regulation market based on supply and demand. When in the reality is more collared. If we’re speaking of a common economic space between Russia and Europe, we believe that the Russian state will be forced to modernize, if they are looking to be competitive. Normally this should work upon the new markets in the new area. Ukraine and Belarus are not the best references regarding foreign policies for their own interest. About Romania’s role as EU’s border country , the relation with Moldova but also with states like Ukraine or Georgia, and how we could benefit from this context is yet already another story.

ML: – Because you mentioned about Moscow’s leverage on their own interests … how would be seen in this context the problematic of the missile shield and what would be the evolution in this direction ?

 G.I.: – Although no one officially admitted, the security strategy promoted by the President Medvedev seems to have been a failure ( and the return of Vladimir Putin’s to Kremlin, would replace the soft speech of the current president, with a tough and pragmatic discourse famous to the international opinion)  The failure hasn’t come from the wrong strategy, but rather from the perpetuation of mistrust and reluctance between EU chancelleries to Russia, when it comes to security and strategic alliances. In addition,we must not overlook that so controversial, yet only on a theoretical level reformed , blamed for the U.S. influence, Nato brings together top of EU countries. Countries that are trying to get out of the economic crisis since 2008, so limited to security policy proposals that would require even more than do the facts that are already involved. On the other hand,  the restart in the Rusia and U.S. relations has continued to be hunted by the ghosts of the Cold War, in spite of the officials declarations. The refusal of US officials to accept the sectoral responsibility of the anti-rocket shield as it was seen by Moscow, the official issue to put the shield in Romania ( without the discussion with the Russian partners of Nato’s Council ) . The strategic alliance between Romania and U.S. has eroded what was restart. Soon after the election that took place in the Russian Federation , Obama was invited in Kremlin. Many specialists asked themselves, what would both presidents say about the shield issue, one of them is finishing his mandate – Medvedev and another does not knows if he will obtain the second mandate – Obama. Nobody seems to know. All the more Obama, seems busy with the internal situation than the foreign policy. But we must remember that president Medvedev warn regarding the failure of the shield negotiations and the termination of the Second Start Treaty – main objective during the mandates of both presidents. One thing is sure – during the summit that will take place in 2012 in Chicago, the meeting it will be between Obama and the new installed leader of Kremlin – Vladimir Putin.

M.L. : What is the difference between Eurasiatic Union and the Community of Independent States ?

G.I.: The announcement that it will be established a Eurasiatic Union , was received by the occidental media as a headline news, is spite that Kremlin worked very much for the crystallization of it. In this case we face a difference not a vision that has subordinated medium and long-term objectives, theoretically. The reality, the case is not optimistic for the constitution of the Euroasiatic Union, being considered by the Russian economists as a subject for election campaign. Recent, in a interview realized by main television channel in Russia, Vladimir Putin said the reunion of the five economies will create a pole so strong that will be a bridge between European Union and the regional dynamics that all the spotlights of this decade are – Asia. In response, the economist Vladislav Inozemtsev asked rhetorically in a article published by Washington Post, what kind of bridge can be build with the exceeded infrastructure of Russia.  (Full text can be read here)