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> 2. Romania's Geopolitical and Geostrategic position in 39-40
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Posted: December 18, 2003 08:03 pm
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by Petre Otu

In scholars' studies the geopolitic and geostrategic situation of a state is regularly defined through elements of the geographic factor (latitude, longitude, relief, hidrography etc) and of the political factor (nearer or further from power centres, strategic directions covering the territory, neighbours etc). The vacillating relations between the geographic and the political factor gives a dinamic character to the geopolitic and geostrategic position and requires its placement into the frame of some particular historic context.

In the end of the fourth decade of our century, geographically speaking, the Great Romania reunited in 1918 in its national borders was situated at a crossroad of the great European geographic areas opened to three wide horizons (directions); to the Balkan Peninsula, to the Central Europe and to the Euroasian stepes. All these directions converge to the Carpathians crests, comunicating each with another. Beside mountains an important role played the maritime shore and the Danube line which linked the centre and the southeast of the European continent. Romania controlled a quarter of Danube's basin and the most part of its hidrographic reservoir; also, it detained the mouths of the river. In addition, the Romanian state's territory possessed multifarious precious riches: oil, cool, minerals, woods, a substantial agricultural production etc, with important consequences of economic and military reason.

A geopolitical study of a country also implies an analyses of its political, regional and continental environment, also those belonging to its neighbours. From this perspective, history showed that the political structures "took the shape" of the geographical space, the geographic crossroad being doubled by the political and the military ones.

The seizing of the nonmilitarized zone of the Rhine by Germany (in March 1939) and the lack of riposte of France and Great Britain emphasized the fragility of the political system settled by the Paris Peace Conference during 1919-1920. The political crises in March 1939 introduced powerful disturbing factors into the Romanian alliances system built during the interwar period; many Romanian politicians expressed at the time their reserves concerning an Anglo-French help. The rising of Germany and USSR determined a diversity of choices in Romanian foreign policy.

Nicolae Titulescu tried in 1936 to conclude a mutual assistance pact with USSR, being convinced that "Such a treaty is necessary for Romania, in case either Germany would declare war to the Soviet Union, or Germany would come to an understanding with this state. Moreover, the Romanian-Russian treaty and mutual assistance pact must be concluded in a moment favourable for Romania; else, an approach between Russia and Romania would take place without us, that's to say against us".

Another part of the Romanian political class visioned as a better solution an approach towards Germany. Thus, during Romanian Parliament's debates, Octavian Goga said in November 1936: "A war beside Russia, no matter if we shall win or we shall be defeated, will bring to a situation without solution for escape. Being defeated, we shall suffer the consequences of the ancient Latin phrase "vae victis" /.../ A victorious bolshevist Russia /.../ would mean its penetration towards Occident, our territory crushed by the Russian armies, a bolshevization of the continent, I may say of the entire planet".

The governmental circles expressed their commitment for continuing a policy beside France and Great Britain. Synthesising the geopolitical position of the country, the Romanian prime-minister Armand Calinescu noted in his diary on the 24th of May 1938: "The geographic position. A wealthy country. Settled on the invasions road. On trade and circulation ways - the Danube. Where ideologyes are confronting each other /.../ what must be the policy ? Not sentimentalism, but interests. We can join neither Russians, nor Germans. If we'll join Russians and they win, they'll menace with bolshevization. If we are beside Germans, their victory means economical, then political subjection /.../ That's why we must search for military support. I do recognize that France is confronting a crisis, yet this appears to be overpassed. Yes, we have England. Here we must build our policy".

The Anschluss and the Munich treaty (September 29th, 1939) in addition with the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia (March 15th, 1939) stroke a great blow to the Romanian system of alliances. The Small Entente, a regional security organization founded between 1920-1921, ceased to exist. Few Romanian hopes were linked to the tripartite negotiations between Soviet Union, Great Britain and France in Moscow (in August 1939), but they failed very soon. Meanwhile these negotiations took place, the Soviet Union - who became since the middle of March 1939 an arbitrator in the European affairs - secretely approached Germany and very quickly concluded the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact on August 23rd, 1939. This bargain had major political and military consequences for Romania whose isolation was entirely settled. In the new given situation, the Romanian state could not benefit by two major elements - the Soviet-German rivalry and the Anglo-French support. The balance of powers settled in the half of the XIX century in this area of Europe, which permitted the existence of Romania as an independent country was severly affected by the elimination of France and Great Britain from the zone and by the agreement concluded between Russia and Germany. Grigore Gafencu, the foreign affairs minister, wrote wisely: "Romania is not only surrounded - as before - by two rival empires who asked for her neutrality, but also by two partners who asked nothing except obedience for the new order they wanted to settle in common".

The consequences from the military point of view were serious. The defensive Romanian pattern, based on the regional system of alliances, failed; from now on, the defence of Romania was to be assured by Romania itself, based on its own resources. Yet these were disproportioned related to the potential enemies, so that Romania reach a situation which the Romanian military leadership tried to avoid as much as possible in the past: the dispersion of the forces on three theatres of military operations. The Romanian operational-strategical disposition between 1933-1934 (projected for rejecting a possible German agression) which disposed the majority of forces on the "Western front" had to be modified so that the army could cover all strategically menaced directions.

Trying to safeguard Romania's territorial integrity, the leadership of the country proclamed on the 6th of September 1939 her neutrality. The state of neutrality was prolonged until the end of May 1940 and during this period the Romanian diplomacy searched for proper solutions related to the grave geopolitic and geostrategic situation of the country. Thus a "Balkan Bloc" was projected, also a "Neutral Bloc"; meanwhile the Romanian diplomats tried to maintain the viability of the Balkan Entente. They acted for strenghtening the relations with Great Britain and France, having in view the security guarantees offered by these two countries in the benefit of Romania.

Both Soviet and German pressures were very strong during this period. Step by step, an approach towards Germany was made and after the III Reich's victories in the spring of 1940, Romania abandoned her neutrality in the favour of Berlin. Yet this thing could not save the national borders of the country which were gravely cut up through the dictates in the summer of 1940 (in these the contribution of the III Reich being substancial).

Concluding, we must say that the geopolitical and geostrategic position of Romania during 1930-1940 was a very difficult one, as the Romanian state was placed in the huge "buffer space" from the Baltic to the Black Sea, a region which during centuries has absorbed the shocks of the clashes between the geopolitic centres situated in the eastern and the western areas.

The fragility of Great Romania's geopolitic and geostrategic position represented the main cause in the dismemberment of her territorial integrity during the 1940 summer.
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