158. Airgram From the Embassy in Romania to the Department of State 1



  • Romanian Foreign Policy in 1968


A review of Romanian foreign policy suggests that the Romanians will continue along well established lines, although they may make some concessions—more of a formal than a substantive nature—to Moscow.

Will Romanian foreign policy in 1968 be more cautious than in 1967? The question is valid in view of the developments of the past year.

Very recently, reliable information came to light that Moscow and other bloc countries have been exerting economic pressure on Romania (Bucharest 901).2 To the extent that these pressures include a Soviet refusal to buy Romanian oil drilling rigs, the materials published here on the 1968 Romanian-Soviet trade protocol (signed December 30, 1967) do not indicate that the pressure is off. We had long assumed that Romania was under strong pressure, but the only evidence was indirect and circumstantial: the logic of the situation (Romania’s defiance of Moscow in establishing diplomatic relations with West Germany, staying away from the conference of European Communist Parties at Karlovy Vary, and refusing to join in the bloc position on the Middle East), Romanian accusations or intimations of interference in internal affairs by unidentified parties (in particular, Ceausescu’s article in RCP Central Committee daily Scinteia of May 7), and the evident irritation of Moscow and other bloc countries toward Romania (as reflected, inter alia, in the propaganda against nationalism).

In addition, Romanian internal policy is perhaps a complicating factor for its foreign policy. The changes approved by the RCP National Conference imply a broad personnel reshuffle in the central and local Party and State apparatus. They also imply a reduction in the size of this apparatus. While some will be promoted, many will lose out in the process. The prospect of such changes presumably is a dismal one for many if not most of the Party apparatchiks. And the need to grapple with this [Page 437] problem is perhaps responsible for the evident caution of the leadership in moving ahead on the economic reform, witness the introduction of a slow schedule of implementation at the RCP National Conference, the blurring of responsibilities for economic activities at the local level, and the carte blanche enabling law passed by the Grand National Assembly. In passing, it is perhaps worth noting that none of the measures approved by the Conference are likely to stir up any compensating popular enthusiasm.

Whether Moscow and its allies can or will try to capitalize on the dissatisfaction which presumably will develop in the ranks of the Romanian Communist Party remains to be seen. (In theory they could take advantage of the vast number of contacts with Romanians which constantly take place—exchanges of Party, State, and mass organization delegations—to strengthen such dissatisfaction.) All that is said here is that, notwithstanding the show of unity toward Moscow implicit in the continued presence of the “old guard” leaders in the top Party organs, Romania will be more vulnerable to outside pressure than before.

To a degree, Romania’s foreign policy in 1968 will depend upon the foreign policy initiatives of the Soviet Union. But only to a degree. Regardless of what the Soviets do or do not do, the Romanians are busy steadily decreasing their economic and political dependence on Moscow and its allies. In the communist world, they have done their best to maintain a facade of cordial relations with Communist China and Albania and they have assiduously cultivated other countries and parties which tend to assert their independence from Moscow. Cuba is a recent case in point. A more long-standing example is Yugoslavia. The Romanians have been very active in trying to restore the excellent rapport which existed between them and the Yugoslavs before Ceausescu and Tito fell out on the Middle East question. At the same time, the Romanians have expanded their ties with the West and with the less-developed countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They have also made the most of international forums (notably the UN) and regional groupings (e.g., the Group of Nine and the Balkans). Since these activities are vital to the consolidation of their independence, the Romanians will surely continue along these lines in 1968.

The Soviet Union, for its part, seems determined to press ahead with a variety of policies the Romanians abhor: attacking “Mao and his clique“, isolating West Germany from Eastern Europe, siding with the Arab countries against Israel, promoting conferences of communist parties, and, perhaps, “strengthening” the Warsaw Pact. The presumed Soviet interest in renewing the Soviet-Romanian Treaty of Friendship, [Page 438] Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance3 and concluding a non-proliferation treaty also present difficulties for the Romanians.

Barring a substantial deterioration in East-West relations, the Romanians will not allow Moscow to impair their relations with third parties. They will not attack Communist China nor will they join in any condemnation of West Germany or Israel. (Romanian participation in the December 19–21 meeting of Eastern European foreign ministers on the Middle East does not reflect a change in the Romanian position. Evidently, the price of Romanian participation was a communiqué consistent with the line taken in Romania’s formal statements on the subject.) The Romanians could not afford to follow Moscow in these matters.

On the other questions, however, there is more room for maneuver. Unquestionably, the Romanians would prefer to stay away from the Budapest consultative conference of communist parties.4 By implication at least, the proceedings will have a pro-Moscow, anti-Peking flavor.

Since it is only a preparatory conference, however—and hence presumably will not produce “binding documents”—the Romanians may find it hard to stay away. If they attend (and the Yugoslav Embassy in Bucharest seems to think that they will), the Romanians presumably will use the occasion to reassert their well known views about the conditions under which communist conferences are desirable (along the lines of the Scinteia article of February 28, 1967).

In connection with the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union, it is not clear whether the Romanians would prefer no treaty at all, an automatic five-year renewal of the treaty, or a new treaty. Whatever their motives, they seem to have decided to negotiate a new 20-year treaty. In so doing, one can assume that they will insist on acceptable wording and that the new treaty will neither heap abuse on the West Germans nor speak of the desirability of arriving at joint positions on international problems. This could be read as a further example of the determination of the Romanians to “stick to their guns“, especially if the new treaty is not signed before the end of the first 20-year period, on February 4, 1968. The failure of the Romanians and Bulgarians to renew a similar treaty before the expiration of the first 20-year period on January 16, 1968 indicates that the Romanians are probably taking a firm position in their negotiations with Moscow.

As regards NPT, it is difficult to tell just how seriously the Romanians view their own objections to it. Although NPT presents the same type of problems for Romania as for other non-nuclear countries, it is very likely that the purpose of surfacing their objections was to show [Page 439] Moscow that Bucharest must be consulted on such matters. If so, their signature of a non-proliferation treaty would not be as much of a concession as it might appear at first glance. As a matter of fact, we would not be surprised to see them end up by signing a non-proliferation treaty, particularly if many of the other non-nuclear powers are willing to sign it.

As for the Warsaw Pact, it is not at all certain that we are in for another Soviet offensive directed toward “strengthening” the Warsaw Pact, although the latest Soviet communiqués with the East Germans and Romanians suggest that this may be the case. If so, the participation of Romania in the August 21–27 Warsaw Pact maneuvers in Bulgaria and the statement about strengthening the Warsaw Pact Organization in the joint communiqué with the Soviets would seem to imply a co-operative attitude on the part of the Romanians. On the other hand, some of their other activities seem to have the opposite implication. In 1967, the Romanian leadership emphasized the need for less reliance on traditional sources of arms supplies. The Romanians also organized a military exercise of their own on October 12–13 to which no Warsaw Pact observers were invited and sent lower-ranking delegates than those of other countries to the October 13–17 Warsaw Pact meeting in East Germany. On balance, we would judge that the Romanians would not be willing to go along with any Soviet proposal which, in substance, would increase Romanian involvement in Warsaw Pact affairs.

We doubt very much that the Romanian willingness to compromise with the Soviets would go beyond the framework discussed above. At the most, in our judgment, the Romanians might make certain concessions which are more of a formal than a substantive nature—e.g., attendance at the Budapest conference, and, if this can be considered a concession, renewal of the bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union—while continuing to defend their national interests in dealing with Moscow and steadily building up the material and political basis of their independence. The determination to continue along well established lines was reflected in the joint communiqué signed with the Soviets on December 15 and, external pressures and internal uncertainties aside, would be the logical consequence of the fact that Ceausescu and his team have emerged stronger than ever from the RCP National Conference.

Nonetheless, the extent of the Romanian willingness to compose [compromise?] with the Soviets will bear close watching. In formulating policy in the future, the Romanians will no doubt take account of the reactions of Moscow and its allies to Romania’s rather dramatic assertion of independence in 1967. Presumably, they will also consider whether far-reaching internal changes should incite them to greater prudence in international affairs. Under these circumstances, more than ever the [Page 440] Romanians will be looking for signs that the West, and particularly the United States, is willing to expand its economic and political relationship with them.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ROM. Confidential. Drafted by deMartino. Repeated to Belgrade, Berlin, Bonn, Budapest, London, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Sofia, and Warsaw.
  2. Telegram 901, December 22, 1967, reported on Soviet economic pressures on Romania. (Ibid., E 1 RUM–USSR)
  3. For text, see 48 UNTS 189.
  4. The conference was held February 26–March 5.