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The Brusilov offensive, in addition to the terrible toll of casualties it inflicted on the victorious Russian army, had another pernicious effect by bringing a dubious ally to the side of the Entente. Brusilov’s success convinced the Romanian government, which had carefully calculated its own best advantage since 1914, to join the Entente in what it believed to be the imminent partition of Austria-Hungary. While both the Allies and the Central Powers had worked to bring Romania to their side, mesmerized by its 600,000 soldiers, Romania proved to be a disastrous addition to the Russian war effort. Far from adding mass and badly needed manpower, the new Romanian front drew in three dozen Russian infantry divisions and extended Russian lines by hundreds of miles. Prior to 1914, Romanian foreign policy had been split by cultural affinities with France and concrete political interests in common with Germany. While Romanian elites were Francophile and thus sympathized with the Entente, King Carol was German and thus inclined toward cooperation with the Central Powers. Romania had good reason for hostility to both Russia and Austria. Russia had absorbed Bessarabia, largely populated by Romanian speakers, at the end of the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War, but the Hungarian half of Austria-Hungary had pushed an aggressive policy of assimilation on the Romanian peasantry in Transylvania. The Romanian government and monarchy had ignored popular antipathy to Austria-Hungary and secretly aligned Romania with the Triple Alliance. On the eve of war, though, both France and Russia worked to shift Romanian sympathies with 11 The Romanian Distraction, 1916 258 Stone_The Russian Army in the Great War 5/19/15 9:44 AM Page 258 THE ROMANIAN DISTRACTION, 1916 259 the active cooperation of Prime Minister Ion Brătianu. When war broke out, their efforts were successful enough to keep Romania from joining Germany and Austria-Hungary, as the Romanian government remained neutral. From 1914, Romania carried out a careful balancing act that threatened at times to produce a terrible fall. Fundamentally, though, Romania’s most important goal was acquiring the Romanian-populated region of Transylvania , ruled by Austria-Hungary, and this tilted Romania increasingly toward the Allies. On King Carol’s death in October 1914, the throne passed to his nephew Ferdinand, a weaker personality dominated by his British wife. This combined with Russian victories in Galicia and the seemingly imminent defeat of Austria-Hungary to provide additional political space for Romanian politicians to push for intervention on the side of the Entente. Austria -Hungary’s defeats in Galicia and inept showing in Serbia made it seem like an especially tempting target. The intensely pragmatic and cautious Prime Minister Brătianu, however, had no intent of joining a war without clear, concrete benefits. By 1915, Brătianu had convinced the Entente to accept massive territorial gains for Romania at Austrian expense should Romania join the war, though no formal agreement had been signed.1 By summer 1916, the success of Brusilov’s offensive made the opportunity for Romania’s government all the more compelling. Germany’s manpower resources were stretched thin, leaving Austria to fight alone in Italy and Ukraine. If Austria disintegrated, as it seemed on the verge of doing, Romania’s place at the peace table depended on joining the war while the outcome was still in question. Transylvania, the natural target of any Romanian offensive, was stripped bare of troops by Austria’s commitments elsewhere, leaving only a few divisions of territorial militia. After months of hard bargaining over Romanian territorial gains and the degree and nature of Allied assistance, the Romanian government finally resolved to join the Entente. With assurances of a diversionary offensive by the Allies out of Thessaloniki to prevent any Bulgarian strike from the south, Brătianu finally signed a military convention on 17 August, stipulating а Russian commitment to an expeditionary force of 50,000 men in Dobruja and an Anglo-French offensive from Thessaloniki.2 On 27 August 1916, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary and sent its troops into Transylvania, precipitating a crisis for Germany and AustriaHungary and providing grounds for a halt to the already-failed German offensive against Verdun on the Western Front. Romania’s intervention Stone_The Russian Army in the Great War 5/19/15 9:44 AM Page 259 260 CHAPTER ELEVEN seemed a portent of disaster for the Central Powers: 600,000 additional men on the side of the Entente, and Austria’s southern flank extended by hundreds of miles...


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