194. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

RP M 78–10144


  • Ceausescu’s Romania: A Situation Report

1. As head of state and Secretary General of the ruling communist party, President Ceausescu is very obviously the supreme national leader of Romania today and we are not aware of any individual or faction within the leadership that could challenge his position. The personality cult that enshrines him is rivaled only by that of North Korea’s Kim Il-song.2

2. Ceausescu keeps leading party and government functionaries under control and off balance by means of a periodic rotation of top personnel, which can affect even his closest associates. Although these arbitrary shifts, as well as the elevation of his wife, Elena, to high party posts, have caused resentment within the hierarchy, the grumbling is likely to remain within bounds.

3. In contrast to its outward-looking and independent foreign policies, the regime maintains perhaps the most authoritarian domestic controls among Warsaw Pact states. Bucharest’s tactics in dealing with the small manifestation of dissidence that formed around author Paul Goma last year was to isolate individual dissidents and allow them to emigrate. The movement has since collapsed.3

4. Instances of workers’ unrest, including a slowdown in a major coal mining region in August, represented a potentially more serious [Page 589] challenge to Ceausescu’s authority.4 Early this year there were also reports of restlessness among Romania’s approximately two million Magyars. This minority is disturbed over alleged cultural and educational discrimination and what the Magyars perceive as a systematic Romanian effort to gradually assimilate all national minorities.5

5. Ceausescu has reacted to these symptoms of popular discontent with an extensive reorganization of the state security apparatus. He personally assumed the security portfolio on the party secretariat. This, together with other high-level personnel changes in the Interior Ministry suggest that he wants to avoid a repetition of future instances of unrest.

6. The main problems currently facing Romania continue to be in the economic domain. The long-term goal, of course, is to turn the country into a modern industrialized communist state. Ceausescu hopes to achieve this objective within an integrated, centrally oriented framework.

7. In 1977, the economy experienced almost unprecedented difficulties mainly as a result of energy, labor and hard currency shortages. Natural causes—including a devastating earthquake and a drought that adversely affected agricultural output—compounded the difficulties. As a result, economic growth was the lowest in years.

8. Earlier this year Ceausescu announced a program aimed at redressing the country’s economic problems. While retaining the full mechanism of centralized planning, the scheme hinted at greater self-reliance for enterprises in order to promote efficiency and productivity. [Page 590] The program threatened to make government assistance dependent on an enterprise’s ability to show a profit. We believe that the policy of “self-financing,” as announced by Ceausescu, if implemented, would place enterprise managers in a precarious position. The central authorities demand increased productivity, even though the workers’ capability of providing it is already strained. There are indications, however, that when it is implemented, the program may turn out to be less drastic than originally presented.

9. Workers’ unrest last year was caused by the requirement to perform overtime work without pay, a reduction in retirement benefits and experiments with the unpopular productivity-wage linkage. Under the new program, underfulfillment of production targets by enterprises would result in wage cuts for workers. Despite the regime’s hopes to the contrary, this could again foment instances of unrest.

10. In an effort to facilitate the program, Ceausescu undertook a major reshuffle of the hierarchy last month. The shifts involved mainly the top officials of the planning, foreign trade, finance and industrial construction sectors. The scope of the transfers, which included some of Ceausescu’s closest associates, suggests that he is making an all-out attempt to put the economy on a better footing.

11. Ceausescu’s principal foreign policy objective is to retain as much independence from Moscow as possible, given geopolitical realities. In line with this goal, Ceausescu has been trying to build a “special relationship” with Washington as he believes that closer political and economic ties will help Romania fend off pressures from the Soviets for closer integration with the Warsaw Pact and CEMA. At the same time, Ceausescu seeks to keep balanced relations with all of the major powers, and his visit here next week is expected to be followed by a trip to China later this spring. He probably also plans to go to Moscow this year although apparently no date has been set.

12. Ceausescu recently named Stefan Andrei his new foreign minister, replacing the ailing George Macovescu. The appointment is not likely to alter basic Romanian foreign policies. Andrei has been Ceausescu’s personal foreign policy advisor for some years, and he is expected to accompany him to Washington.

13. Ceausescu is anxious to retain his country’s active participation in world affairs, but Romania’s recent foreign policy performance has been unspectacular. Bucharest has been unsuccessful in making an imprint on the CSCE proceedings and its suggestions were not reflected in the final document. The Romanians probably would like to play a leading role in the non-aligned movement, but are finding it difficult even to put a foot in the door.

14. Ceausescu has a deserved reputation as a behind-the-scenes arbitrator of international disputes and did help arrange the Sadat-[Page 591]Begin meeting last winter. Although the recent Israeli action in Lebanon was an embarrassing setback for Ceausescu’s efforts, he is apparently continuing his conciliatory attempts in the Middle East. Ceausescu has hinted that he will deliver a North Korean message to President Carter and he has expressed an interest—apparently without the express encouragement of either side—to improve relations between Washington and Peking. In sum, he relishes a role as mediator which, he believes, gives him prestige as an international statesman.

15. As far as we are aware, Ceausescu is unconcerned that he might, for whatever reason, leave the political scene and there is no clearcut candidate to succeed him. [5 lines not declassified]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Support Services (DI), Job 80T00634A, Production Case Files (1978), Box 2, Ceausescu’s Romania: A Situation Report. Confidential. The paper was prepared in the National Foreign Assessment Center.
  2. In preparation for the trip to Washington, the CIA also circulated a biographic research paper in March, entitled “Nicolae Ceausescu: Romania’s Maverick Leader.” The paper described him as possessing “shrewdness and flexibility in anticipating potential political crises and circumventing them.” “However,” the paper continued, “a recent psychiatric evaluation depicts him as possessing an unshakable belief in the wisdom of his decisions, an intense attachment to his goals, and a conviction that he alone knows what’s best for his country.” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe, Office Subject Files, 1958–1978, Lot 92D468, Box 5, Hungary Jan–June 1978)
  3. The Office of Research and Political Analysis at the CIA disseminated a report arguing that “resumption of wide-scale political dissident activity appears dim.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 80T00634A, Box 2, unlabeled folder)
  4. Rumors of labor unrest in the Jiu Valley, a major coal mining region of central Romania, surfaced in August 1977. In telegram 5847 from Bucharest, August 5, 1977, the Embassy reported Ceausescu’s unplanned “working visit” to the area to quell the growing rebellion. Ceausescu’s visit “is very much in keeping for him to rush to the scene of trouble to put out the fire.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770282–0284) On November 11, 1977, the Embassy reported in telegram 8323 from Bucharest, that Ceausescu was back in the Jiu Valley, noting the “gross emphasis on the role of Ceausescu personally—not the Party, not the Government, not other leaders” in resolving the labor issues in the region. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770417–0427) In telegram 2413 from Bucharest, April 11, the Embassy reported it received credible information that over 4,000 miners and their families had been relocated from the Jiu Valley back to their original areas, mainly the economically depressed Dobruja. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780157–0903)
  5. During his meeting with Andrei in Bucharest, March 31, Vanik discussed the issue and emphasized that he understood Romanian concerns with demonstrations against Ceausescu during his visit to the United States, but believed the numbers would be small and it would not interfere with the protocol of his visit. Andrei told Vanik that “agitation by Hungarian emigrants as well as by Hungarians here in Romania is ‘fed from the outside.’” (Memorandum of conversation, March 31; National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe, Office Subject Files, 1965–1980, Lot 92D412, Box 6, U.S.-Romania Political Relations)