In the context of the war in Ukraine, the strategic objective of Romania - a NATO member state - was and is the consolidation of the eastern flank by strengthening the Alliance's military presence and capabilities.
In the area of security, Romania's role is set to become increasingly important, particularly in the Black Sea region.
At the extraordinary NATO summit held in Brussels on 24 March 2022, it was decided, in response to the actions of the Russian Federation, to deploy the Response Force and place 40.000 soldiers on the eastern flank, as well as significant air and naval capabilities. Four "fighting groups" were established, including one in Romania.
Subsequently, at the NATO summit in Madrid, it was decided to deploy additional forces in the Eastern European region to develop the structure of combat groups. In this sense, Romania has made a substantial contribution to NATO's collective defense and to strengthening the Alliance's capabilities, acting as a guarantor of security and stability in the Black Sea region. Furthermore, the strategic importance of the Black Sea has been included, on Romania's initiative, in the "New Strategic Concept" adopted at the NATO summit in Madrid.
Since 2023, Romania has increased to 2,5% the percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) allocated to defence, according to the commitments undertaken.
Romania's concern regarding increasing strategic resilience in the Black Sea region has resulted in projects that will significantly contribute to consolidating the EU's energy independence.
These strategic decisions were also reconfirmed on the occasion of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the NATO countries held in Bucharest at the end of November 2022, an event that represented a real political-diplomatic success and reaffirmed the increasingly important role of Romania and the proactive diplomacy demonstrated by it. The character of Romanian foreign policy was also reflected in the Final Declaration of the NATO summit in Vilnius, which states the support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. It is known that the stability and integrity of the Republic of Moldova, as well as its pro-Western orientation, are a constant concern of Romania.
On the sidelines of the Vilnius summit, Romania undertook, together with other NATO states, the creation of a training center for pilots from member states and Ukraine, in particular for the qualification of F-16 fighters.
Through targeted actions in multiple areas - from the reception and exemplary management of Ukrainian refugees, to the facilitation of grain transit through the Romanian ports on the Danube and up to diplomatic, logistical and training measures - Romania is undoubtedly in the front line of support for Ukraine.
A key component of the hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against NATO and the EU – and implicitly against Romania – is propaganda.
If initially, with the outbreak of the war, Russian propaganda in Romania focused on the relativization of Euro-Atlantic support for Ukraine – an aspect that it had no impact on public opinion, given that Romanians massively support Ukrainian refugees – subsequently the Russian attempt vanished along with the possibilities of making Romanian democracy vulnerable and the dilution of Romania's pro-Western orientation.
Knowing the historical aversion towards Russian imperialism, Moscow's propaganda does not aim to make Romanian public opinion pro-Russian, but only to produce dissent and distrust in society.
According to some sociological studies carried out by think-tank specialists, in Romania Russian propaganda would have had no effect on public opinion, since Romanians, in the vast majority, continue to express themselves in favor of supporting Ukraine.
Attempts to exploit some nationalist segments in Romania by circulating possible territorial offers also did not have the expected effect, just as the exploitation of natural fears linked to the energy crisis or inflation was not successful either.
Furthermore, it must be underlined that Romania acted firmly, since the beginning of the war, to destroy Russian propaganda tools. At the end of February 2022, Bucharest banned the official Russian propaganda channels Sputnik and Russia Today, as well as nine sites spreading fake news.
On February 21, 2023, the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Bucharest was suspended, as Romanian authorities believed that this institution had turned into a propaganda vehicle to justify the invasion of Ukraine and convey anti-Western messages. In the message presented to the Russian ambassador, the repeated situations in which the center committed itself to distorting reality at the level of Romanian public opinion were exposed: "The center has significantly moved away from the natural goals of strengthening cultural ties and has turned, unfortunately, into an instrument of propaganda, disinformation and exoneration of the war crimes of the Russian Federation".
On June 8, Romania decided to reduce the diplomatic and technical staff of the Russian Federation in Bucharest, effectively 40 people, a fact that reflects the current level of bilateral relations, drastically reduced after the Kremlin started the war .
An eminently pro-Western country
Romanian society has not been diverted from its pro-Western trajectory. Typical European values are deeply internalized by the vast majority of the population. From this point of view, perhaps the most relevant is the position of the Community of Lipovian Russians in Romania, expressed by its president, MP Silviu Feodor, who states that here they are a community perfectly integrated into Romanian society, taking on the same values and interests . The Russians are actually lipovans in Romania they do not support Moscow's actions in Ukraine. Furthermore, as MP Feodor stated in a press release, the community of Lipovan Russians shows its solidarity with Ukrainian refugees, offering support to families who need to flee the war.
Even if in Romania there are, as everywhere in Europe, some sovereign or nationalist currents, these have been generated by internal conditions – economic crisis, inflation – and in no way by external influences.
As a member of NATO since 2004 and of the European Union since 2007, Romania has made considerable progress in the direction of development, currently being one of the most attractive European countries for foreign investments.
Antoniu Martin (historian and political analyst)
Photo: MoD Romania / Laurențiu Turoi