A Pragmatic Approach to Romania-Russia Relations

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  • 6 October 2016

The approach of the relations between Romania and Russia is carried out differently, according to the place where the analysis is performed. For a South American, detachment comes easier, but Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian or Ukrainian citizens cannot be equally objective. Obviously, a degree of sentiment is even easier to detect if the analyst is Romanian or Russian.
However, human feelings must not eclipse the glow of lucidity and pragmatism. Every day, interstate relations, together with the relationships between nations, demonstrate more lucidity and clear calculations rather than feelings. All the same, without denying that the less successful actions of a state infringe upon the feelings of another state, it must be emphasized that love and hate alone do not nourish for more that a few days and, without food, the spirit leaves the body. Only work can provide you with food, while diligent work allows you to sell your product not just on the local market but also at hundreds or thousands of kilometers away.
If viewed from an abstract perspective, the history of Romania-Russia relations is one of the most interesting topics for an expert in geopolitics. History always begins in the preceding moment, while the foregoing billions of seconds add to the experience of the everyman and especially to that of the decision makers. Every second ahead of us compels us to know the past, especially when drawing conclusions without which it would be impossible to take fair and positive measures.
Historia magistra vitae (“history is life’s teacher”), but history is not the only science required for a solid knowledge of international relations. Geography is vital, legal sciences play an important part in negotiating international agreements and treaties, while economy has been speaking louder in the past 25 years than all sciences combined. Actually, there is a long list of sciences which can explain parts of the international relations, which allows the number of experts to increase, since different viewpoints contribute, just like the facets of a diamond, in obtaining a substantial analysis of international relations.
The past 27 years represented a decrease of Romania’s efforts to understand the realities of the contemporary world. Since the beginning of the ’90s, research focused only on the Western region in relation to the main political entities, NATO and the European Union.
It’s like a thick fog descended in those moments upon the political decision makers, who suddenly forgot not only the achievements of Romania in various significant international matters, such as the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the relationship between USA and China, the relationship between the Soviet Union and China, etc., and, all of a sudden, almost all of the efforts of Romanian international politics targeted the West. Therefore, political decision makers forgot that Romania has economic and political interests in many regions, especially where the Romanian industry proved its prowess by exporting high-quality goods or building industrial objectives at the request of various countries.
As a consequence, Romania lost markets where huge efforts had been made by Romanian enterprises, political relations dropped to a level which is intolerable for a country which openly promotes world peace without any hidden motives. Still, the blindness and the repeated confirmations of the incompetence of local political leaders went on to such an extent that in the past years little information trickled down to Bucharest about Romania’s neighboring countries. The Western focus of Romanian geopolitics led its political leaders to remember sporadically that there are neighboring countries around, that Romania is not isolated in the midst of an ocean, at least a thousand kilometers from the nearest country.
Therefore, we can sadly observe several aspects: there are no research institutes created by line ministries for the study of neighboring countries, there are no institutes for the research of large states or great geopolitical regions. Currently, Romania does not have much knowledge on regions on which it was well informed less than 30 years ago.
Even worse than that was the decrease in the quality of Romanian higher education. Rectors and universities alike did not know to establish themselves university research centers in the aforementioned fields, centers which should have been well financed, provided with experienced researchers and doctoral candidates and especially books about and from the respective regions. The few existing centers are not the result of a significant concern for the study of the greatest geopolitical areas and the countries in which Romania has an interest, but the manifestation of the interest of one or several professors in a certain region, which often provides them with a certain degree of control over the financial resources of the university in which the centers were established. The retirement of the professors also meant the termination of the activity of those centers.
What is the main consequence of these deficits? Nowadays in Romania, the books on our neighbors are translations of foreign authors who, naturally, have a different perspective on these countries, as well as different interests in approaching international relations. The situation is even worse concerning the study of great geopolitical areas, since only in the past 3 or 4 years small press runs of Romanian authors were issued on the market.
Almost all books published in Romania about the Eastern region and Russia are translations of foreign authors. Romania has been neglecting the Eastern space for over 25 years, thus “achieving” poor scientific, economic and political results. Romania exports very little on a market in which it proved it can perform – furniture, agricultural products, machines and equipment, etc. – and the worst part is that it is less and less informed on the realities of this region.
Less and less is known about Russia in Romania. The articles and books which are written mostly use the same names and phrases, repeated and rearranged dozens of times: Vladimir Putin, Gazprom, bears, pipes, KGB, “the largest country in the world.” If we are talking about geopolitics, only one name is mentioned, that of Professor Aleksandr Dugin. On Russian universities and researchers only some will mention the Lomonosov University, the MGIMO and, at most, the name of the Peoples’ Friendship University. People forget or misunderstand the fact that Moscow is home to hundreds of universities and research centers which are the stamping ground of honored specialists who influence the decision-making process in the Russian Federation, which has negative consequences on the Romanian citizens’ understanding of the Eastern country.
If one asked Romanian citizens what Chinese universities they are familiar with, what they know about Iranian researchers or what economic interests are at play between Russia and Uzbekistan, the answers would fit on half a page. Although many valued young Romanians have outstanding results in universities abroad in the field of international relations, our country no longer carries out coherent research activities on this region.
Therefore, at the initiative of the undersigned, the Eastern Geopolitics Association (EGA) was established a few days ago. Without subrogating public institutions and universities, it will attempt to fill in part of this gap in geopolitical analysis. We seek to enhance the knowledge of the region east of Romania from the point of view of both quantity and quality. Therefore, the establishment of this association and this website is a logical manifestation of the academic research undertook.
Russia is a very significant section of this website. For this reason, we will seek to approach the neighboring state as pragmatically as possible, attempting to perform analyses which could be useful to all Romanian readers, regardless of their training level and the position they occupy in various public or private institutions. Furthermore, to achieve this, the list of potential contributors for articles remains open to anyone who has something to say in an elegant and well-substantiated way.
Romania and Russia must establish a relation more pragmatic than that they had until now, a relationship based on increased respect and trust and especially an increased number of successful collaborations. Neither country was immune to mistakes, but they knew how to collaborate efficiently in decisive moments. Smooth talk is not enough for increasing the size and quality of the bilateral relations. Action must follow, bearing benefits for both parties.
On October 1, 2016, the date of writing this article, Russia has an area approximately 72 times that of Romania, 7 times more people, a GDP 9 times larger, while the GDP per capita is larger in Russia by a little less than 5000 USD. From a military, political and global influence standpoint, Russia surpasses Romania by far, because it is one of the largest powers of all time, while Romania is a country with lesser ambitions, even smaller than those which would be appropriate to its status.
Therefore, what would a pragmatic relation between Romania and Russia look like? The answer must be based on two factors: the correct assessment of the positions and power of the two states, on one hand, and the dignity and honor which must characterize the relations between people and state, on the other hand.
Precisely, the powerful Russia can influence Romania, as little Bucharest could never oppose alone the Moscovite power. A door closed by Romanians in terms of economy, politics or otherwise can be opened by Russia, as it is more powerful, but a door closed by Moscow on the same economic or political planes could never be reopened by the weaker Romanian state. This power inequality emphasizes a reality: in Romanian-Russian relations, Moscow is the “first violin”, since it is always the strongest in a relationship that maps its terms and limitations.
Romania exercises its power in relation to what it has, but what it has could never surpass the power of Russia. Of course, the limitation of Romania’s power means that not all of its interests can be fully promoted in certain cases, because other great powers may block peace and collaboration initiatives that Romanians might wish to see implemented. However, bilateral relations imply the presence of two partners, the strongest of which sooner or later asserts its will.
The pragmatism of the bilateral relation between Romania and Russia must not take into consideration only dry economic, geographical, military data. Honor and dignity between two states play an essential part because no one likes to be told what to do, how to do it and, especially, to have someone else decide in their place or override their decisions. Dignity also means fair terms for concluding and executing international agreements and conventions, but it especially means to be open for collaboration in as many fields as possible.
However, in order to maintain good relations, you must be acquainted with the party you wish to negotiate. In order to know someone, you must read more, from as many sources as possible, and you must visit the country in question with an open, unprejudiced mind.
Are Romanian intellectuals able to do this? The answer is definitely yes. They can gain solid knowledge on as many aspects of the Russian state as possible, from its history and economy to its society and so on. By proving that they know more, they will be able to better understand the realities of the bilateral relation and they will quickly notice where the pragmatic relation between Romania and Russia could be improved.
The two countries can collaborate and develop their own interests in many fields, but both parties must be sincere in their approach, being aware of their mutual limitations, strengths and, especially, of the factors that might prejudice their interests. The potential for development is an equation which must include and be familiar with all aspects mentioned in this article, so that a positive result can be achieved for both parties in the end.
However, no brick can be laid in the home of bilateral relations development in the absence of the strongest mortar, knowledge. Read, read, read – that is how we will consolidate our knowledge of the facts, realities and options for action. If you have skills in analyzing the Eastern region, write, write, write, and this website will publish your work.

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