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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.1 (2004) 8-16

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Perspectives of a Prospective NATO Member

Ioan Mircea Pascu

Every time major change occurs in the world, we wonder whether that change marks the introduction of the anticipated new world order. We expected such a trend after the end of the Cold War, only to discover that more elements persisted from the past than we had anticipated, while new elements that developed could not be consolidated sufficiently to become permanent. However, we were certain of one thing: the postwar bipolar world had passed into history, and Europe stood on the verge of reunification after a half century of division.

Then 11 September 2001 occurred. Almost immediately, we believed that this event truly heralded the beginning of a new world. International terrorism had been substituted for communism as the arch enemy. Asymmetric threats were now imposed as the rule of the game. And the globalization of security had replaced the old bipolar world. With Iraq, we discover that the solid institutional foundation of the world we grew up with has been strongly shaken to the point that new dividing lines seem apparent in both transatlantic and European relations. This presents difficulties for a medium-sized country like Romania, which is still trying to manage its internal transformation after dictatorship. It needs to reorient itself and find its proper place in an extremely fluid world or risk marginalization for the next thirty to fifty years.

Romanian Security Prior to 1989

To understand where Romania is heading, one needs to review history to see where it's come from. Once one looks at the details and minutia, the specificities [End Page 8] of the case emerge more clearly. Although Romania avoided military defeat on the battleground when it left the Axis in 1944, it was considered, both legally and politically, a defeated country at the end of the Second World War. Consequently, Soviet troops were stationed on its territory, remaining there from 1944 until 1958. The departure of Soviet occupation forces created the conditions for Romania's so-called declaration of independence of April 1964, when, in spite of its Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (COMECON) and Warsaw Pact memberships, Romania proclaimed its independent path from the Soviet Union in foreign and economic policy. In many respects, that "independence" was extremely limited—during the 1980s, for example, Romania was in the unenviable position of increased economic dependence on the same superpower from which it was trying to distance itself.

Inevitably, Romania's autonomy within the Warsaw Pact had both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, Romania enjoyed broader and better relations with the West, especially for its defense industry, and developed a real capability for independent thinking in planning its own security. On the negative side, Romania became increasingly isolated and was cut off from modernization processes in the rest of the Warsaw Pact. Most significantly, it gradually became obsessed with the dangers of encirclement and became imprisoned by its exclusively territorial, defense- oriented security thinking.

The Post-Cold War Security Challenge

Romania was situated in the eye of the cyclone during the major European crises and changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Still shaken by the reverberations emanating from the violence of its own revolution, Romania further experienced shockwaves of disintegration in its region, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. Romania was compelled to meet the challenge of striking a dynamic balance between internal and external change without itself becoming a security problem. If it failed in this then the only separation from the conflict areas of the former Yugoslavia and former Soviet Union would have disappeared. Along with probably devastating consequences for Romania itself, such a failure would have [End Page 9] created a much larger and hence more dangerous area of instability in Europe.

Given these circumstances, Romania was an early and ardent supporter of the only proper solution to the security problem of the continent—projection of stability and prosperity toward the East through the enlargement of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union...


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