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Romania and the Warsaw Pact

Ironically, at the very time that the Soviet Union gave the Warsaw Pact more substance and modernized its force structure, resentment of Soviet political, organizational, and military domination of the Warsaw Pact and the NSWP armies increased. There was considerable East European dissatisfaction with a Warsaw Pact hierarchy that placed a subordinate of the Soviet minister of defense over the East European defense ministers. The Soviets considered the national ministers of defense, with the rank of colonel general, equivalent only to Soviet military district commanders. The strongest objections to the subordinate status of the NSWP countries inside the Warsaw Pact came from the Communist Party of Romanian (Partial Communist Roman) and military leadership under Nicolae Ceausescu.

The first indications of an independent Romanian course appeared while the Soviet Union was shoring up its hold on Eastern Europe through formal status-of-forces agreements with its allies. In 1958 Romania moved in the opposite direction by demanding the withdrawal from its territory of all Soviet troops, advisers, and the Soviet resident representative. To cover Soviet embarrassment, Khrushchev called this a unilateral troop reduction contributing to greater European security. Reducing its participation in Warsaw Pact activities considerably, Romania also refused to allow Soviet or NSWP forces, which could serve as Warsaw Pact intervention forces, to cross or conduct exercises on its territory.

In the 1960s Romania demanded basic changes in the Warsaw Pact structure to give the East European member states a greater role in alliance decision making. At several PCC meetings, Romania proposed that the leading Warsaw Pact command positions, including its commander in chief, rotate among the top military leaders of each country. In response, the Soviet Union tried again to mollify its allies and deemphasize its control of the alliance by moving the Warsaw Pact military organization out of the Soviet General Staff and making it a distinct entity, albeit still within the Soviet Ministry of Defense. The Soviet Union also placed some joint exercises held on NSWP territory under the nominal command of the host country's minister of defense. However, Soviet Army commanders still conducted almost two-thirds of all Warsaw Pact maneuvers, and these concessions proved too little and too late.

With the aim of ending Soviet domination and guarding against Soviet encroachments, Romania reasserted full national control over its armed forces and military policies in 1963 when, following the lead of Yugoslavia and Albania, it adopted a territorial defense strategy called "War of the Entire People." This nation-in-arms strategy entailed compulsory participation in civilian defense organizations, militias, and reserve and paramilitary forces, as well as rapid mobilization. The goal of Romania's strategy was to make any Soviet intervention prohibitively protracted and costly.

Romania rejected any integration of Warsaw Pact forces that could undercut its ability to resist a Soviet invasion. For example, it ended its participation in Warsaw Pact joint exercises because multinational maneuvers required the Romanian Army to assign its forces to a non-Romanian command authority. Romania stopped sending its army officers to Soviet military schools for higher education. When the Romanian military establishment and its educational institutions assumed these functions, training focused strictly on Romania's independent military strategy. Romania also terminated its regular exchange of intelligence with the Soviet Union and directed counterintelligence efforts against possible Soviet penetration of the Romanian Army. These steps combined to make it a truly national military establishment responsive only to domestic political authorities and ensured that it would defend the country's sovereignty.

Romania's independent national defense policy helped to underwrite its assertion of greater policy autonomy. In the only Warsaw Pact body in which it continued to participate actively, the PCC, Romania found a forum to make its disagreements with the Soviet Union public, to frustrate Soviet plans, and to work to protect its new autonomy. The Soviet Union could not maintain the illusion of Warsaw Pact harmony when Romanian recalcitrance forced the PCC to adopt "coordinated" rather than unanimous decisions. Romania even held up PCC approval for several weeks of the appointment of Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Iakubovskii as Warsaw Pact commander in chief. However, Romania did not enjoy the relative geographical isolation from the Soviet Union that made Yugoslav and Albanian independence possible, and the Soviet Union would not tolerate another outright withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact.

The Romanian leader, Ceausescu, after refusing to contribute troops to the Soviet intervention force as the other East European countries had done, denounced the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia as a violation of international law and the Warsaw Pact's cardinal principle of mutual noninterference in internal affairs. Ceausescu insisted that collective self-defense against external aggression was the only valid mission of the Warsaw Pact. Albania also objected to the Soviet invasion and indicated its disapproval by withdrawing formally from the Warsaw Pact after six years of inactive membership.

The Problem of Romania in the 1970s and 1980s

The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was, tangentially, a warning to Romania about its attempts to pursue genuine national independence. But Ceausescu, in addition to refusing to contribute Romanian troops to the Warsaw Pact invasion force, openly declared that Romania would resist any similar Soviet intervention on its territory. Romania pronounced that henceforth the Soviet Union represented its most likely national security threat. After 1968 the Romanian Army accelerated its efforts to make its independent defense strategy a credible deterrent to a possible Soviet invasion of the country. In the 1970s Romania also established stronger ties to the West, China, and the Third World. These diplomatic, economic, and military relations were intended to increase Romania's independence from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, while guaranteeing broad international support for Romania in the event of a Soviet invasion.

Throughout the 1970s, Romania continued to reject military integration within the Warsaw Pact framework and military intervention against other member states, while insisting on the right of the East European countries to resolve their internal problems without Soviet interference. Romanian objections to the Soviet line within the Warsaw Pact forced the Soviet Union to acknowledge the "possibility of differences arising in the views of the ruling communist parties on the assessment of some international developments." To obtain Romanian assent on several questions, the Soviet Union also had to substitute the milder formulation "international solidarity" for "socialist internationalism" -- the code phrase for the subordination of East European national interests to Soviet interests-- in PCC declarations.

Pursuing a policy opposed to close alliance integration, Romania resisted Soviet domination of Warsaw Pact weapons production as a threat to its autonomy and refused to participate in the work of the Military Scientific-Technical Council and Technical Committee. Nevertheless, the Soviets insisted that a Romanian Army officer held a position on the Technical Committee; his rank, however, was not appropriate to that level of responsibility. The Soviet claims were probably intended to obscure the fact that Romania does not actually engage in joint Warsaw Pact weapons production efforts.

Despite continued Romanian defiance of Soviet policies in the Warsaw Pact during the 1980s, the Soviet Union successfully exploited Romania's severe economic problems and bribed Romania with energy supplies on several occasions to gain its assent, or at least silence, in the Warsaw Pact. Although Romania raised the price the Soviet Union had to pay to bring it into line, Romanian dependence on Soviet economic support may foreshadow Romania's transformation into a more cooperative Warsaw Pact ally. Moreover, in 1985 Ceausescu dismissed Minister of Foreign Affairs Stefan Andrei and Minister of Defense Constantin Olteanu, who helped establish the country's independent policies and would have opposed closer Romanian involvement with the Warsaw Pact.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:05:26 ZULU