Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Romania Table of Contents

After coming under communist control in 1948, Romania was closely aligned with the international policies and goals of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But after mid-1952, when Gheorghiu-Dej had gained full control of the party and had become head of state, Romania began a slow disengagement from Soviet domination, being careful not to incur the suspicions or disapproval of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The Gheorghiu-Dej regime strongly supported the Soviet suppression of the Revolution of 1956 in Hungary, hoping thereby to enhance prospects for the removal of Soviet occupation forces that had remained in Romania after the war. In fact Soviet forces were withdrawn in 1958, enabling Gheorghiu-Dej to take the first significant steps to diminish Soviet influence over Romanian foreign policy.

Gheorghiu-Dej rejected Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's plan to integrate the economies of the Comecon states and subordinate national economic plans to an overall planning body. Gheorghiu-Dej objected not only to the loss of economic autonomy but also to the subservient role Khrushchev envisioned for Romania -- supplier of raw materials and agricultural products for the more industrially developed members. Therefore he proceeded with his own plans for the country's industrial development, asserting the right of each Comecon state to develop its economy in accord with national needs and interests. To lessen dependence on Comecon, the regime gradually expanded economic relations with noncommunist states.

The conflict with the Soviet Union became more acute in 1962, when Gheorghiu-Dej again rejected the Comecon plan for Romania and announced the signing of a contract with a British-French consortium for the construction of a large steel mill at Galati. Romanian-Soviet relations continued to deteriorate as Gheorghiu-Dej exploited the Sino-Soviet dispute and supported the Chinese position on the equality of communist states and rejection of the Soviet party's leading role. In November 1963, Romania declared its readiness to mediate the Sino-Soviet dispute, a suggestion Moscow found arrogant and hostile.

A statement issued by the Central Committee in April 1964 declared the right of Romania and all other nations to develop national policies in the light of their own interests and domestic requirements. During the remainder of that year, the volume of economic and cultural contacts with Western nations increased significantly. Because of the increased tensions in Indochina that were developing into the Vietnam War, however, the regime curbed its efforts to improve relations with the United States.

Following the sudden death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, Ceausescu continued a foreign policy that frequently diverged from that of the Soviet Union and the other members of the Warsaw Pact. Ceausescu antagonized the Soviet Union by establishing diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in 1967 and by refusing to follow the Soviet lead in breaking relations with Israel in the wake of the June 1967 War.

The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led forces was a turning point in Romanian relations with Comecon and the Warsaw Pact. Some observers maintain that Ceausescu's denunciation of the invasion marked the apogee of Romanian defiance of the Soviet Union. But Ceausescu was careful not to press the policy to the point of provoking military intervention. The regime interpreted as a clear warning the enunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine--the concept articulated by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev that the protection of socialism in any communist state is the legitimate concern of all communist states.

After 1968 pressures mounted on Romania to cooperate more fully in the Warsaw Pact and to agree to a supranational planning body within the framework of Comecon. Nevertheless, the Ceausescu regime continued to resist the Soviet efforts toward economic integration. Several important events during the 1968-70 period strengthened Romania's international position, namely the visits of President Charles de Gaulle of France and President Richard M. Nixon of the United States and the long-delayed signing of a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in July 1970.

As of mid-1989, Ceausescu had dealt with several Soviet leaders during his tenure as head of state--Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Relations were most strained during the Brezhnev era, which witnessed the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Nixon visit to Romania, Soviet accusations of a Romanian plot to organize a pro-Chinese bloc in the Balkans, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1976 Ceausescu received Brezhnev in Bucharest--the first official visit by a Soviet leader since 1955. The final communique of the meeting reflected continuing disagreements between the two countries, as Romania refused to side with the Soviets in their dispute with China. In 1978, after visiting China, Ceausescu attended a Warsaw Pact summit meeting in Moscow, where he rejected a Soviet proposal that member countries increase their military expenditures. On his return to Bucharest, Ceausescu explained the refusal by stating that any increase in military expenditure was contrary to the socialist countries' effort to reduce military tensions in Europe. Perhaps because of Ceausescu's uncooperative attitude, a 1980 Romanian attempt to secure supplies of energy and raw materials from the Soviet Union and other Comecon countries failed when those countries demanded world market prices and payment in hard currency. Nor would the Soviet Union guarantee that it would increase or even maintain existing levels of oil exports to Romania for the following year.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused Romania to distance itself further from Brezhnev. When the UN General Assembly voted on a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops, Romania broke with its Warsaw Pact allies and abstained. And one month later, at a meeting of communist states in Sofia, Romania joined the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) in refusing to endorse the invasion.

During Andropov's brief tenure as Soviet leader, relations remained frigid. The wording of the communique following a meeting with Ceausescu in Moscow suggested that Andropov intended to pressure Romania to bring its foreign policy into line with the Warsaw Pact. The Romanian leadership appeared to suspect Andropov of pro-Hungarian sympathies because of his close personal friendship with First Secretary János Kádár of Hungary. Romanian disagreements with the Soviet position on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe also surfaced during the Andropov period.

Ceausescu's Moscow meeting with Chernenko in June 1984 was cordial and promised an improvement in the Romanian-Soviet relationship. Ceausescu had backed Chernenko over Andropov to succeed Brezhnev, and their mutual regard was reflected in less divergent positions on international issues. In contrast with previous years, Ceausescu began to increase his criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States for the deterioration of international relations.

With the replacement of Chernenko by Gorbachev in 1985, political relations between Romaina and the Soviet Union began to cool again, although the economic relationship improved. Soviet oil deliveries rose while Romania became the largest supplier of oil- and gas-drilling equipment to the Soviet Union. In other spheres, however, relations were tense, as Ceausescu's Stalinist philosophy conflicted with Gorbachev's program of glasnost' (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). In reaction to the political changes occurring throughout Eastern Europe in the wake of Soviet reforms, Romania moved toward retrenchment. Ceausescu rejected the decentralization of economic planning and management, the reintroduction of market mechanisms, and private enterprise as incompatible with socialism.

Romania also rejected much of Gorbachev's foreign policy. In December 1987, Ceausescu failed to attend a Warsaw Pact summit in East Berlin, where Gorbachev briefed leaders on his trip to Washington. While the Soviets frequently spoke of positive trends in East-West relations and progress in arms control, Ceausescu's statements took exception. He criticized the rationale for the Soviet-United States dialogue, stating that the international situation remained complex and fraught with the danger of war. Romania increasingly adopted a more hawkish position than the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact members on a number of East- West issues.

In May 1987, Gorbachev visited Romania, and the two leaders publicly aired their differences. Referring to complaints of mistreatment of the Hungarian minority, Gorbachev reminded Ceausescu of the need to demonstrate "tact" and "consideration" in nationality policy. He also criticized nepotism in the Eastern bloc, without mentioning Ceausescu by name, and complained about Romania's unwillingness to expand cooperation with the other members of Comecon. In October 1988, Ceausescu visited Moscow for official discussions with Gorbachev but failed to improve the state of bilateral relations. By that time, the Hungarian-Romanian dispute had become an even more serious issue.

Romania's objections to perestroika influenced its relations with other East European countries. It appeared that two major camps were emerging within the Warsaw Pact, with Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Romania lining up against restructuring and Hungary, Poland, and the Soviet Union favoring it. Romania strove to improve its relationship with the countries sharing its dislike for perestroika. Bulgaria had already established a special relationship with Ceausescu and his predecessor, Gheorghiu-Dej. Ceausescu and Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov, the two East European leaders with the longest tenure, met at least twice yearly and signed numerous joint venture and trade agreements.

Relations with Czechoslovakia improved markedly after Ceausescu's May 1987 visit, largely because of the countries' shared opposition to perestroika. Likewise, even before Gorbachev's rise to power, Romanian-East German relations had been fostered by certain shared resentments of Soviet actions. East Germany's Erich Honecker was the only Warsaw Pact leader to appear in Bucharest on the occasion of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Romania's liberation.

More about the Government of Romania.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress