Larry Watts about Disinformation: Romania and the Wartime Statute - Ziaristi OnlineZiaristi Online

Larry Watts about Disinformation: Romania and the Wartime Statute

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Romania and the Wartime Statute

by Larry L. Watts

The CIA’s document collection on the Wartime Statute sheds new light on Romania’s behavior during the latter Cold War, revealing why the rest of the Warsaw Pact viewed it, in the words of one Gauck Institute researcher, as “ein feindliches Bruderland” – an “enemy fraternal country.”1 The image of purposeful insistence that emerges from this document collection is decidedly different from that circulating, and found persuasive by many Western analysts, at the time.2 During the 1980s especially, Soviet disinformation was relentless in depicting Romanian defiance as mindless and ridiculous, casting Ceausescu especially as a buffoonish contrarian engaged in opposition for opposition’s sake. The purpose of this disinformation was to distract attention from the underlying cause and precise nature of that defiance, thus also discouraging sympathy and support for the Romanian position either from the West or from within the Bloc.

In fact, ending Soviet military control was a principal goal of Romanian policy in the post-Stalin era. It motivated a campaign for the withdrawal of Soviet troops and advisers during the 1950s and early 1960s. When Moscow placed Pact armies on alert while bypassing national authorities during the 1961 Berlin Crisis, it prompted Bucharest to end the training of its officers in Soviet institutions as a means of breaking the extra-national chain of command. And it provoked public denunciations when Moscow did so again during the Cuban missile crisis, this time resulting in a purge of Soviet influence and agent networks, the formation of an anti-KGB/anti-GRU counterintelligence unit, and an extraordinary pledge to President Kennedy that the Romanians would not join the USSR in offensive operations against the United States. As their prime minister publicly complained, the Unified Command of the Warsaw Pact had “ordered all of the armies of belonging to this group of forces to be placed in a state of alert”:

“There is an article 3 in the Warsaw Treaty text binding all signatory countries to mutual consultation regarding important international issues. I ask you, would not these problems warrant such consultation? Or, at least, would not the order to place member state armies on alert status require prior consultation? …The orders were given, the actions implemented, and no one was consulted. At least, we were not.”3 1

Henceforth, Romanian defiance hinged upon the protection of national sovereignty, blocking new assertions of Soviet control when necessary, and rolling back that control where possible. As a Romanian delegation informed Chinese leaders in 1965, while “the armies of the other socialist countries of Europe are currently subordinated” to Soviet military command, their goal was to do away with that state of affairs – to ensure that “no supranational control existed” over the Non-Soviet members of the Warsaw Pact.4

Peace-Making as Offensive Strategy

As part of this effort Bucharest maintained that neither the US nor NATO represented an offensive military threat in Europe that would justify the Kremlin’s “chain-ganging” methods. According to the April 1964 ‘declaration of independence,’ negotiation rather than confrontation was the ideologically-correct way of redressing threats and tensions, and healthy interstate relations were possible only if freed from ideology and based on the principles of equality, national sovereignty, mutual respect, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states.5 Cooperation with capitalist states was not only ideologically-justifiable, but an imperative of peaceful coexistence, redefined in Bucharest as relating to the achievement of peace rather than the furtherance of class warfare.

At the start of 1965 Party First Secretary Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej reacted to Soviet demands for tighter integration in response to NATO’s deployment of multilateral forces in Europe by calling for disarmament, a ban on nuclear weapons in Europe, and a collective security system – all regular features of Romania security policy for the next quarter century.6 Such calls made regular appearance in Soviet propaganda. The difference being that Bucharest was constantly seeking ways and means of implementing them in the real world.

Romania argued its positions and justified its ‘democratizing’ and ‘demilitarizing’ initiatives by interpreting literally the egalitarian – and, for Moscow, completely propagandistic – terms of the 1955 Warsaw Treaty and subsequent Pact documents. In this lonely fight within the Soviet alliance against the war hysteria Moscow employed to justify its imperious claims of command privilege, Romania appeared the eternal optimist regarding the international situation, and bore the brunt of coordinated attacks from all of the other Pact members for its trouble. Virtually every attempt to “strengthen integration” because of what Moscow claimed to be an increasingly dangerous international environment was met by Romanian counterargument that the key to defusing tensions lay in unilateral reductions in military expenditures, arms and troops; in unilateral withdrawals of troops from foreign bases; in renouncing offensive military strategy – including the both the use and threat of force; in sincere negotiations with the West; and in the dissolution of the two military alliances.

As the Romanians explained to President Johnson in 1967, even their mediation of third-party conflicts was motivated by the desire to rid themselves and the rest of Eastern Europe of Soviet control, allowing each to be “master in its own house.” In the presence of crisis and tension, their prime minister explained, an unnamed power invariably tried to force them “to get together, to renounce some of their sovereignty and some of their independence and to obey the command of another state,” endangering that which “Romania has won, and which they wish to preserve at all costs.”7

The rather strong impression one gets from much of this documentation is that of the Soviets and their subordinate allies fleeing from the Romanians and their initiatives – holding secret meetings to coordinate their positions against Romanian opposition, cancelling official meetings when Soviet purposes might be stymied by Bucharest, suddenly dropping the main discussion items from meeting agendas in the face of Romanian counterproposals, circulating “no discussion” instructions against Romanian initiatives, and frequently stipulating that news of these differences be kept from a broader public. As an irritated Gomulka pronounced during one heated debate, “it was not the six parties that were trying to put pressure” on the Romanians, “it was they who were putting pressure on the six parties.”8

The 1966 PCC Meeting in Bucharest

When the Soviet loyalists refused to consider Romanian objections, initiatives or proposals Bucharest was not bashful about going public with them. According to a Hungarian report, for example, already during the February run-up meetings to the 1966 PCC Romania made clear its view that the “main flaw” of the Warsaw Pact arose from the regular violation of its basic principles – “among others, the principle of consultation” – by Soviet authorities, as in the missile deployments to Cuba, nuclear disarmament proposals submitted to the UN, the exclusion of Albania, and orders given by the Soviet Commander-in-Chief of the Unified Armed Forces (CCUAF) moving armies of the member states to alert status on his own authority.9 Romania “urged compliance” with the Treaty, “demanded consultation in every issue [including nuclear policy] that concerns the member states,” and insisted the Pact represent coalitional interests and practices.10

Regarding the Wartime Statute in particular, Bucharest insisted that decisions be made collectively, remained “adamant that the plans and measures” of the CCUAF take effect only “after the approval of the government of the member states,” and “firmly held” to their view that non-Soviet officers should be eligible to serve as CCUAF and Chief of Staff, and that the two “should not belong to the same armies.”11 The Romanians likewise deemed the position advocated by all other members – that wartime command should rest with Soviet commanders and institutions – as “irreconcilable with the sovereignty of the member states.”12

When Moscow excluded the Romanian proposals from consideration or discussion, Bucharest leaked them to the New York Times.13 The main topic of the 3-point agenda for the 1966 PCC, which Brezhnev took pains to underscore at the beginning of the meeting, was to be the approval of the Soviet statute proposal.14 When the Romanians circulated their own statute proposal nevertheless, the Soviet delegation simply dropped the point from the agenda.15

An internal discussion of the Hungarian Politburo laid out Moscow’s dilemma. On the one hand, the Romanians refused to renounce positions that “subverted and impeded” efforts “to strengthen the Warsaw Pact,” and those positions frequently prevailed.16 As one Hungarian Politburo member complained:

“[A]s we can see from the Western press, the Romanians have leaked everything that happened there and have described it as a great political victory, as a Romanian victory. And in some respects, especially as far as the Warsaw Treaty and Comecon are concerned, they are right, their position has prevailed.”17

On the other hand, Romania’s departure from the Pact was excluded from consideration “because of the larger context.”18 The other Pact members thus resorted to “alternative” informal methods to strengthen the alliance and Soviet control over it, concealing their moves as much as possible from Romania, and especially from Romanian veto.

Intra-Bloc Coalition-Building Efforts

Another element of Bucharest’s strategy entailed the more or less constant search for likeminded leaders in Eastern Europe. Along with the passive influence exerted by its example, active efforts to build counterbalancing coalitions within the Pact were a regular feature of Romania’s modus operandi, occasionally threatening catastrophe for Soviet strategy.19 Prague’s July 1968 “Gottwald Memorandum” echoed Bucharest’s terminology of independence, sovereignty and equal rights and reflected the same logic that led to the development of its independent national defense strategy.20 Romanian discourse was also resonant in the criticism of General Václav Prchlik against the stationing of Soviet forces on Czechoslovak territory, as well as in his calls for the freeing of security policy from “erroneous and obsolete” ideological premises; for ending submissive subordination to a variety of Soviet “marshals, generals, and lower-ranking officers”; and for instituting a “genuine equality” in alliance decision-making, including those concerning nuclear weapons policy.21

As Foreign Minister Gromyko informed the Soviet Politburo during the Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia was rapidly becoming a “second Romania,” which, in the “best” of cases, would mean “the complete collapse of the Warsaw Pact.”22 Romania went so far as to offer Prague Border Guards assistance to help counter Soviet charges that the Czechoslovak frontiers were wide-open and allowing a massive influx of Western agents disguised as “tourists” – an ironic charge given that Moscow used exactly that method for the August 1968 invasion.23

In a 38-page report on Romanian behavior during and after the crisis, the East German Stasi reported that the Romania leadership “placed considerable hope in the events in Czechoslovakia because it was expecting that they would radiate outward to other socialist countries as well,” specifically Hungary and Poland, where “similar forces” were also believed by Bucharest to be elaborating “more independent national policies.”24 Active measures to combat these efforts – such as Janos Kádár’s attempt to persuade Dubèek that Romanian aid was treacherously given, in order to “find allies against the Soviet Union, against CMEA, and against the Warsaw Pact” – became the order of the day.25

As the documents in the collection presented here suggest, Moscow had clear cause to worry about Romanian influence or, worse, possible collusion with the Polish senior officer corps. Although apparently unable to shift the policy pursued by their defense minister and party leadership, the Polish General Staff thought almost exactly as the Romanians regarding the irreconcilable nature of Soviet military control and national sovereignty.26

The 1978 PCC Meeting in Moscow

At the 1978 PCC meeting Romania rejected outright Soviet claims of a world hurtling towards war, and of an arms race entirely provoked by the US and NATO. The world, according to Ceausescu, was actually becoming less dangerous.27 The West had not increased its arms expenditures (and certainly not at the rate the Warsaw Pact had). The Soviet military – whether by intention or inattention – statistically misrepresented the situation. And his country could never accept any subordination to a supranational military authority that contravened the provisions of the 1955 Warsaw Treaty.28 Rather than accepting Marshal Kulikov’s justification for the proposed Wartime Statute, and – according to the Romanian leader – thereby escalating the arms race, fueling global tensions, and impoverishing the world, Ceausescu insisted instead on the need “to open the perspectives for real policies of disarmament, and for avoiding, with all decisiveness and with the highest sense of responsibility, being drawn into the arms race.”29

The other Pact members, in unison, demanded approval for the Statute using an argument worthy of Charles Dodgson – that they had achieved the unanimity required for such decision by the 1955 Treaty amongst themselves, and that Romania was now at fault for failing to join their “unanimity.”30 Back home in Bucharest, the Romanians described Kulikov’s report on the Statute “as an emanation of Soviet militarist circles” designed to draw “the member countries into a dangerous arms race” and to “transfer the command of their troops to the Soviet General Staff,” thereby undermining the independence and sovereignty of the non-Soviet allies and clearing the path “for interference in the domestic affairs of our states by the Soviet Union”.31

Ceausescu openly warned the other Pact members at the 1978 PCC meeting that he would go public with Romanian objections if they were not taken into account. He now did so, offering tantalizing information on the secret statute while repeatedly declaring his country’s refusal to submit to it. Pointedly, he also referred to NATO as the model of intra-alliance democratic procedure allowing for differences among members, and underscored Romania’s “traditionally friendly relations” with many NATO states, “which have always aided us in our struggle against foreign domination,” thus giving Romanians “no reason” to regard them as a threat.32
In the course of 1978 Moscow alleged to other Pact members that Romania was betraying Warsaw Pact military secrets to the West.33 As Brezhnev stated to Honecker several months before the PCC meeting: “Basically, [Ceausescu] is a traitor,” and only the “devil knows what else he might possibly do.”34 According to the Stasi, the Romanian Army was cooperating closely with the US military, particularly along intelligence lines, for “clearly anti-Soviet” purposes such as “infiltrating, from the military perspective, into the Warsaw Treaty system over the long term.”35

Indeed, by 1979 Romania was procuring Soviet military technology for the US in a clandestine operation with the CIA and Pentagon that ran up until December 1989.36 On the other hand, the Warsaw Pact was by no stretch of the imagination a freely-joined alliance based on a common military interest. And Romania’s guerrilla war against this instrument of Soviet control was a far cry from treason against friendly partners.

Two Illusions: Romanian Conformity and Shared Opposition

While capturing the dynamics of Soviet behavior rather well, the US intelligence community was somewhat less accurate in discerning the intent of non-Soviet Warsaw Pact members – understandably so given their secondary importance in the context of the Cold War. US reliability assessments, although repeatedly footnoting Bucharest’s persistent rejections of Soviet command authority and offensive strategy, typically concluded that Romania would participate in a Soviet-led offensive nevertheless, at least in the initial stages.37 US assessments held to this conclusion even when stipulating that Romania’s possible role was “unclear,” since it “balked at any participation” in offensive operations whatsoever.38 The argument for this inclusion was apparently based on Soviet control mechanisms that did not, for the most part, exist in the Romanian case.

The benefit of the doubt given in US assessments to General Jaruzelski’s alleged resistance to Soviet demands and national orientation rests on similarly questionable footing (apart from recent revelations regarding his attitude towards Soviet military intervention and recruitment by Soviet intelligence in the 1940s.) According to the CIA’s principal source in Poland at the time, Jaruzelski unequivocally rejected Bucharest’s offers of solidarity and “the course of becoming independent of the USSR which Romania had chosen to follow.” According to Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, Jaruzelski dismissed Romanian support for any type of independent Polish stance within the Pact as “counter-revolutionary plot.” Instead, he joined in Soviet-coordinated anti-Romanian countermeasures, forbade social contacts with Romanian officers, and even went so far as to willfully misrepresent Romanian policy to higher political authority. 39 Jaruzelski’s refusal to consider those offers, and especially his distortion and downgrading of Romanian positions to Polish political chiefs, reinforces the image emerging from these documents of top East European military leaders recognizing the supremacy of Soviet command over that of their own party and state leaderships.

These documents broaden our understanding of Romania’s dogged defiance beyond the Cold War-era stereotypes that portrayed it as shallow grandstanding and treacherous deception. They go a fair distance in explaining Moscow’s evident need to stigmatize the leadership and the country in such a manner as to disqualify serious consideration of their policies during the 1980s. And they further suggest that although Kremlin leaders may have had the party and military chiefs of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria snugly in their pocket, they may not have had the same degree of control or certainty regarding senior officers below the highest-level – and most clearly did not in the case of Poland. The image of Romanian inconsequence projected by Moscow apparently concealed a genuine fear of contagion.

1980: Romania’s Post-Statute Strategy

Refusing to accept the Statute, Romania circulated a line-by-line revision that would transform it into a genuinely coalitional alliance, reflecting closely the concerns of the Polish General Staff (and probably those of other military officers within the Pact). Bucharest redoubled efforts to impose an approach to international security that would render the Statute superfluous. It called even more frequently for specific unilateral freezes and reductions to jumpstart disarmament; called for the “reduction of foreign troops stationed on the territories of the European states”; and stressed repeatedly “the need to restrict the military character of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, in order to create the necessary conditions for their disbandment.”40

At the 10th CDM meeting in Bucharest, Ceausescu responded to Soviet Defense Minister Ustinov’s claims of “heightened tensions” and “reinforced aggressive preparations by NATO, and especially by the USA and the FRG,” by pointing out that the “other NATO states had not fulfilled their projected arms increases,” and that “the necessity of cutting military budgets” remained the goal of “utmost importance”:

“If we fail to catch up with the capitalist states, if we do not raise living standards and meet the cultural needs of our people, then even missiles will do us no good. The point is to solve economic problems, and then all other problems will resolve themselves”.41

Seeking to exploit common European interests that non-Soviet members held apart from the USSR, Ceausescu insisted on the participation of all Pact members in working out a concrete program for security, détente and peace in Europe, and especially in advancing the disarmament process – a process theretofore left to the complete discretion of Moscow.42

Bucharest, which refrained from portraying the US, NATO and West Germany as enemies in its domestic propaganda and media since the 1960s, now actively combated the enemy-imaging of the West within Warsaw Pact councils as well, often leveraging alliance declarations and communiqués to exclude demonizing references to the US in particular, while insisting that the blame for global tensions be equally shared between the two blocs.43 Such an approach denied the justifying threat behind Soviet efforts to enforce tighter integration and subordination among its allies. By stressing the shared responsibility of the Warsaw Pact members for creating international tensions, it also established the logical basis for unilateral freezes, reductions, and withdrawals, as an effective means of easing tensions, transitioning to disarmament, and ending the Cold War.

The underlying strategy was to render the Warsaw Pact and its Wartime Statute redundant by shifting the focus of Pact members from military issues (since there was no threat in Europe) to problems of socio-economic (and socialist) development. Citing as authority earlier Moscow-approved declarations, which to the Kremlin’s considerable regret proclaimed as goal the dissolution of both blocs, Romania advocated an end to its own alliance – following up calls for reducing the military character of both blocs with demands for the unilateral disarmament of the Warsaw Pact – in effect hijacking the tactics and messages that Soviet-controlled peace fronts directed against the West and turning them inward.44

1983: Andropov vs. Ceausescu

The contradictory strategic goals of these erstwhile alliance partners was often very explicit – with Bucharest seeking to dissolve the Pact and transcend the East-West confrontation while Moscow sought to “man-up” its alliance in order to come out on top of the Cold War. This contrast was perhaps most stark during Andropov’s effort to play up fears of a US nuclear first-strike. The Soviet leader asserted the unequivocal necessity of military countermeasures to prevent US superiority, dismissed “a unilateral disbandment of the Warsaw Pact” as entirely out of the question, and warned Pact members that such a possibility should not even be raised in discussion, much less labeled a desired goal of the bloc allies.45 Ceausescu responded by insisting the existing balance of nuclear forces had to be reduced to a lower level, that unilateral reductions and withdrawals were the key to making the transition to disarmament, and that concrete actions were immediately necessary to reduce the military character of the alliances and limit their activity as prelude to their much-desired dissolution.46

By 1983 Romania was overtly attempting to leverage Soviet policy towards an easing of East-West tensions (and formal acknowledgment of its own independence) by threatening de facto withdrawal from the soon-to-expire Warsaw Treaty. According to an East German report:

“It has become clear that [Romania] is already trying – with an eye to the formal expiration of the Warsaw Treaty in 1985 – to loosen its ties with the alliance. That is the aim of both the demand that negotiations with NATO about the “dissolution of the blocs” should begin immediately and the initial refusal to confirm a further term of office for the Supreme Commander of the unified Armed Forces.”47

Behind the scenes Bucharest was even more troublesome: advocating President Reagan’s “zero option” in the Euromissile crisis and even encouraging the Czechoslovak and East German populations to resist the deployment of Soviet weapons on their territory, prompting East German intelligence to conclude – as Marshal Kulikov had the year before, and Marshal Grechko a decade before that – that the Romanian leadership did “not at all take into account the interests and security needs of the Romanian Socialist Republic,” much less those of the broader socialist community.48

Bucharest was adamant in maintaining that the “Soviet Union should refrain from further stationing of rockets, because otherwise the international situation would be made more tense”; that Moscow “should give up trying to include English and French missiles” to break the deadlock in Soviet-US negotiations; and that the preconditions for Romania’s “further cooperation, respectively, membership” in the Warsaw Pact included conventions stipulating that “no troops are permitted to enter the territory of another state without the approval of the legitimate authority of that territory,” as well as separate conventions “covering all legal, material, technical, financial and logistical questions” when troops of one member legitimately entered the territory of another member.49 The Romanians underscored that their troops could be deployed abroad only in defensive operations, and only after Bucharest had evaluated as legitimate the “request for assistance from the country in question.” These conditions, they announced, had already been “presented to Vice President Bush during his last visit,” and now would be formally presented to the Warsaw Pact defense ministers as well.50 10

1985: Romanian Influence on Gorbachev’s Security Transformation

During the first quarter of 1985, Romania refused to even discuss an extension of the Warsaw Pact unless the members considered proposals it had been submitting since the beginning of the decade, including:

. Proposing and convening a Warsaw Pact-NATO meeting on arms reductions;

. Establishing a Warsaw Pact commission for discussing and making recommendations for the Soviet-American disarmament negotiations;

. Instituting a unilateral Warsaw Pact budget freeze in 1985-1986; and

. Initiating a reorganization of the PCC’s procedures and competencies.51

As before, the Soviets and their loyalist allies “refused to discuss the Romanian suggestions.”52

Not surprisingly Romania continued to insist that Moscow cease including French and British missiles with those of NATO in negotiations with the US; that the Soviets open their “package” of strategic ballistic weapons, intermediate-range weapons, and space weapons and consider each of the contents separately; that an agreement on removing intermediate-range missiles from the continent was the absolute first priority for all Europeans; that the other Pact members should be involved in negotiations regarding nuclear disarmament in Europe; and that “the Warsaw Treaty countries should display a more positive approach at the Geneva Disarmament Conference, the Stockholm Conference and the Viennese negotiation, putting on the table a greater number of concrete initiatives.”53
These positions foreshadowed the “new thinking” in foreign policy that Mikhail Gorbachev launched more than a year later. Indeed, by openly combating the Soviet military over their statistics, assessments and expenditures, Bucharest not only “carried the water” for such a policy shift but also established the beachhead for the policy innovation that, as Gorbachev repeatedly notes in his memoirs, was obstructed chiefly by the theretofore unassailable control of the conservative Soviet military establishment.54 Soviet party leaders rarely took on their military leadership frontally. Romanian leaders had been doing so as regular practice since the end of the 1950s.

Gorbachev and his advisors justly warrant credit for grasping the wisdom of these positions, implementing them against considerable odds, and thus changing the world. However, it would appear that the creative minds behind the security transformation leading to the end of the Cold War appeared in Bucharest before they did in Moscow.55

During 1985-1986 Romania continued to present concrete proposals for unilaterally reducing Warsaw Pact troops and expenditures and “giving members a greater say in the development of proposals for nuclear arms control,” again meeting with staunch opposition from the other Pact members.56 Bucharest quickly moved to exploit Gorbachev’s policy of engaging the West by seeking to specify and extend what were still largely propagandistic initiatives into concrete obligations. For instance, after welcoming the Soviet call for the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2000, Bucharest added “a 50 percent reduction of armed forces, conventional weapons, and military budgets, and the incremental dissolution of the Warsaw Pact by the year 2000” as well.57 While some of these ideas eventually found their way into Gorbachev’s program, at the time they “did not receive any support” from the other six allies.

1988-1989: Countering Revivification

At the beginning of 1988 Moscow launched a new push for strengthening the Warsaw Pact and formalizing the Wartime Statute, using the familiar method of attempting to force a fait accompli upon a recalcitrant Romania.58 Although Ceausescu expressed surprise that the USSR had not given up the effort, he did consider it worthy of fuller discussion in the PCC. Not because Romania found it any more acceptable then it had in 1966, 1978, or 1980, but because eight years had lapsed since the Statute was seriously discussed, many of “the issues were forgotten,” and a new clarification now that Moscow wanted to revivify the effort as part of a “restructuring” would be useful.59 Asked the purpose served by its formalization, Ceausescu linked Romanian security strategy directly to the Statute, replying that the latter granted Moscow command authority powers “until we do away with nuclear weapons and the military blocs. This is its use!”60

Dusting off its long-established stand on the national control of armed forces and collaboration only along coalitional rather than subordinate lines, Romania moved to decrease the Statute’s utility as an instrument facilitating Soviet command powers. Fully cognizant of Kremlin practice in “taking a finger and then swallowing the whole arm” – Bucharest refused even to respond to Soviet General Staff requests for military data for use in Soviet-American negotiations since doing so would constitute de facto acknowledgement of subordination to Soviet military authority. Instead, Bucharest provided data only to the appropriate coalition authority from where, as Ceausescu explained to his political committee, the Soviet military, as a member, could access and make use of it any way they liked.61

Romania’s July 1988 proposal for reorganizing the Warsaw Pact was a direct response to this anachronistic effort to formalize the Wartime Statute and strengthen alliance integration. The Romanians proposed that the PCC be broken out of the Warsaw Pact and transformed into an all-European socialist organization refocused on socio-economic priorities – to include Yugoslavia and Albania. The Pact itself was to shift into a secondary, purely military, role and made more democratic with biannual or even annual political-military leadership rotation, although allowing for multiple Soviet terms as chief of general staff with the consensus accord of the other partners.62 Bucharest underscored that, in contrast to Kremlin goals of reinforcing the alliance and Soviet control over it, its proposal was made on the basis of “the special attention that socialist countries give to the questions of disarmament, and the easing of tensions and cooperation in Europe and the entire world, including the establishment of conditions for achieving the simultaneous dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact as quickly as possible.”63

Moscow’s “preliminary conclusions,” circulated to its subordinate allies, noted Romania’s “obvious” intention to reorganize the Pact “by separating the political functions from the military ones,” and “changing the existing order by providing for collective decisions on military development and the common use of the armed forces in wartime.”64 As in the case of Romania’s 1966 initiative, Soviet authorities rightly concluded that the “proposals concerning the rotation of the chairmanship of the military defense committee and the post of Supreme Commander aim at weakening the now existing system of the alliance’s military organization.” Consequently, discussion of the proposals was embargoed in formal Warsaw Pact councils, while consultations over how to respond to them were carried out secretly among the loyalist allies.65

The 1989 PCC Meeting in Bucharest

The other six partners did not reply with their coordinated refusals until a year later, shortly before the July 1989 PCC in Bucharest. Acknowledging that there had been no permanent Warsaw Pact political institutionalization because Romania “would not tolerate” it, the Hungarian foreign and defense ministries noted that Bucharest now sought “to strengthen political and economic cooperation outside the framework of the Warsaw Treaty”; to prevent the creation of “a supranational structure” injurious to “the sovereignty of the member states”; to introduce “concrete” measures for the “democratization of the mechanism of military cooperation.”66 According to Budapest, the Romanians “clearly” placed “the Soviet leadership under great pressure” such that Moscow had been compelled into “making a concession” over the issue of “the modernization of the Warsaw Pact.”67

The July 1989 PCC in Bucharest reflected in almost every detail Romanian positions persistently advocated since the founding of the Warsaw Pact – many of which, although constrained by Moscow to their propagandistic usage, it had leveraged into previous Pact communiqués, declarations and statements. Ironically, Romania was pulling off its “Van Helsing” act – finally driving a stake through the heart of this instrument of Soviet control – in the midst of a massive disinformation campaign depicting it as developing and/or seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, as advocating military interventions against its own allies, as engaging in genocide, and as being a Soviet Trojan horse.68

Much of the disinformation regarding Romanian behavior during the latter Cold War was plausible because the regime in Bucharest held, apparently with full conviction, two mutually-exclusive sets of norms and values for foreign and domestic policies. The former, inherited from pre-Communist (and pre-bourgeois) elites, reflected the desire of a medium-sized state situated in a threat-rich environment to transcend the status of object in international politics, and owed its inspiration and argumentation to classically liberal international legal theory. The latter, based on a variant of socialism that countenanced no sharing of power by the proletariat’s dictatorship and no form of property ownership other than that of the Party-state, blocked any hope of liberalizing democratic or economic reform.

In conclusion, this collection allows one of the clearest perspectives yet on the seriousness and tenaciousness of the Romanian battle against Soviet hegemony within the Warsaw Pact, while de-bunking previous assessments that the country and its leadership had somehow been brought – or bought – back into line during the 1980s. At the same time, it promises further revelations through closer examination of the precise nature – rather than merely the fact of – Romanian defiance during the last decade of the Cold War.


1 The term was coined by Gauck Institute researcher George Herbstritt. See his, “Ein feindliches Bruderland: Rumänien im Blick der DDR-Staatssicherheit” [An Enemy Fraternal Country: Romania As Perceived By GDR-State Security], Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte, Literatur und Politik (Berlin), no. 1 (May 2004). For Romania’s relations with the other Pact members during 1955-1978, see Larry L. Watts, With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania, Bucharest, Military Publishing House, 2010.
2 For example, academic and government analysts participating at a 1985 Woodrow Wilson Center/Kennan Institute conference on the Warsaw Pact generally characterized Romanian opposition as exaggerated, overemphasized, inconsequential, futile, and diminishing. The Warsaw Pact and The Question of Cohesion: A Conference Report, Washington D.C., Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies/The Wilson Center, May 1985, pp. 25, 45-47.
3 Dennis Deletant and Mihail Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact: 1955-1989, Cold War International History Project, Working Paper #43, April 2004, p. 74. Bucharest had leaked its opinion to the New York Times that there was a need for “new ways” of reaching decisions within the Warsaw Pact. The New York Times, 19 December 1964.
4 Transcript of Discussions Held with Chinese Communist Party Delegation to the 9th Congress of the Romanian Communist Party, 26 July 1965, Cold War International History Project (CWIHP),, by permission of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
5 Scânteia, 23 April 1964
6 Speech by the Romanian Head of State (Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej), 19 January 1965, Courtesy of Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP),, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
7 Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, 26 June 1967, Document 157, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XVII, Eastern Europe,
8 Hungarian Minutes of Poliburo Meeting on Summit [Political Consultative Committee] in Bucharest, 12 July 1966, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
9 Hungarian report on meetings of deputy Foreign Ministers in Berlin and deputy Defense Ministers in Moscow, 12 February 1966 in “Records of the Meetings of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers,” ed. by Csaba Békés, Anna Locher, Christian Nuenlist. PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich and the National Security Archive at the George Washington.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
13 The Romanian positions were described in successive issues of the New York Times, 14-18 and 22 May 1966 (16 May especially). See also, The Times (London), 16 May 1966.
14 Bulgarian Minutes of PCC Meeting, 4 July 1966, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
15 Hungarian Minutes of Politburo Meeting on Summit [PCC] in Bucharest, 12 July 1966, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.
19 In 1964, for example the Poles expressed their admiration for Romania’s independent stance not only to Bucharest but also to Chinese interlocutors. Transcript of a Third Conversation Between the Chinese Premier (Zhou Enlai) and the Romanian Prime Minister (Ion Gheorghe Maurer), 10 October 1964, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
20 Memorandum of the Academic Staff of the Czechoslovak Military Academies on Czechoslovakia’s Defense Doctrine, 4 June 1968, Document No. 50 in Vojtech Mastny and Malcom Byrne, editors, A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991, Budapest, Central European Press, 2005, pp. 270-278.
21 Mark Kramer, “The Kremlin, The Prague Spring, And the Brezhnev Doctrine,” pp. 31-33, at CIA FOIA – Special Collections: Czech Invasion, See also Scânteia, 21 and 31 July 1968; Krasnaya Zvezda, 23 July 1968; US Embassy in Prague, 24 July 1968, p. 2 point 6, CTK, 27 July 1968; Chronology of Czechoslovak Events: January-August 1968, 6 August 1968, pp. 16-17, “Strategic Warning and the Role of Intelligence” ( 2010), Compare General Prchlik’s 15 July statement with that of Ceausescu on the same day (Scânteia, 15 July 1968). As head of the Military Section of the Czechoslovak Central Committee, General Prchlik was aware of proposals for democratizing the Pact circulated by Bucharest since at least 1966.
22 Carole Fink, Phillip Gassert and Detlef Junker, eds, 1968: The World Transformed, New York and Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998. pp. 136-137. See also Matthew J. Ouimet, The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy, Chapel Hill, University of Northern California, 2003, p. 17. Budapest likewise believed that Czechoslovak movement towards the Romanian model “would lead to the appearance of a ‘Little Socialist Entente,’ based on nationalism and a closer collaboration between Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia.” Report of Hungarian HSWP delegations to the Political Committee, 22 May 1968; Magyar Orszagos Leveltar, MKS, 288, fund 5, folder 456, p. 52; Mihai Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring, Iasi, Center for Romanian Studies, 2000, pp. 127-128.
23 The offer was transmitted to the Czechoslovak Prime Minister from his Romanian counterpart. Retegan (2000), p. 165. The offer was also related by the Romanian Foreign Minister – and head of the UN General Assembly – at the time. Betea (2008), p. 578. US Embassy from Prague, 24 July 1968, p. 2, point 5, “Strategic Warning and the Role of Intelligence” (2010),; Pravda, 19 July and Pravda, Krasnaya Zvezda (Moscow) and Rabotnichesko Delo (Sofia), 21 July 1968. Pravda reported the discovery of a Western “arms cache” and claimed Moscow’s possession of NATO and CIA documents for a “plot to subvert the East European countries, particularly Czechoslovakia” several days earlier (July 19).
24 The Situation of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the Imperialist Influence on This Country¸7 February 1969, BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5481, S. 1-38, in Annex 5, Georg Herbstritt and Stejarel Olaru, Stasi si Securitatea, Bucharest, Humanitas, 2005, pp. 259-287.
25 MOL, MKS, 288, fund 4, folder no. 92, ff. 13-33; Retegan (2000), pp. 139-140. This theme had already appeared in Western media. See e.g. “Czechs On Their Own,” The Economist, 4 May 1968.
26 1956-11-02-Gen. Jan Drzewiecki’s Critique of the Statute of the Unified Command, and Intelligence Information Special Report: 1979 Wartime Statute of the Combined Armed Forces, 28 November 1979, CWIHP,, by permission of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In contrast, Jaruzelski praised the Statute and condemned Romanian rejection before his Soviet superiors. Twelfth Session of the Committee of Defense Ministers of the Warsaw Pact Member States, 20 February 1980; Background Information on the Development of the Unified Wartime Command System for the Combined Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact, 10 June 1983, pp. 8, 12, 15, CWIHP.
27 Minutes of Discussion of Report by the Supreme UAF Commander at the PCC Meeting, December 1978, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Ibid
31 Minutes of the Romanian Politburo Meeting, 24 November 1978, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
32 Ceausescu’s Address to the Central Committee, 29 November 1978; Ceausescu’s Address on the 60th Anniversary of the Unification of Romania, 1 December 1978; Patrick Moore, “The Ceausescu Saga,” RAD Background Report/275, Radio Free Europe Report, 20 December 1978, pp. 8, 12-13.
33 Benjamin Weiser, A Secret Life: The Polish Colonel, His Covert Mission, And The Price He Paid To Save His Country, New York, PublicAffairs, 2005, p. 178. Four years earlier CPSU CC deputy secretary Oleg Rakhmanin alleged that Romania was betraying secrets to the Chinese as well. Vojtech Mastny, “The Warsaw Pact as History” in Mastny and Byrne (2005), p. 42.
34 Transcript, Meeting of East German leader Erich Honecker and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Crimea, USSR, 25 July 1978, Document 8, “U.S.-Soviet Relations and the Turn Toward Confrontation, 1977-1980 – New Russian & East German Documents,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 8/9 (Winter 1996), p. 123.
35 Operational Review Survey of the Socialist Republic of Romania, 12 September 1978, BStU, MfS, Abt. X 22, S. 3-56, and Supplementary Annex to the Material “Operational Review Survey of the R.S.R.”, 27 September 1978, BStU, MfS, HA II 18663, S. 223-226 in Annexes 13 and 15, Herbstritt and Olaru (2005), pp. 320-21, 335-37.
36 Benjamin Weiser, “Ceausescu Family Sold Soviet Military Secrets to U.S.” and “One That Got Away: Romanians Were Ready to Sell Soviet Tank,” The Washington Post, 6 May 1990; Michael Wines, “U.S. Used Romania To Get Soviet Arms,” The New York Times, 7 May 1990; “Ceausescu’s Brothers ‘Sold Secrets To US’” Daily Telegraph, 7 May 1990.
37 Warsaw Pact Forces Opposite NATO (NIE 11-14-79): Volume I – Summary Estimate, 31 January 1979, pp. 63-68; Warsaw Pact Forces Opposite NATO (NIE 11-14-81), 7 July 1981, pp. 27-28, 30; Military Reliability of the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact Allies (NIE 12/11-83), 28 June 1983, pp. 3-5, 7, 14,
38 See e.g. Employment of Warsaw Pact Forces Against NATO (NI IIM 83-10002), 1 July 1983, p. 9 (See also pp. 3-4, 8),
39 See Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski’s Q & A briefing to the CIA, “Jaruzelski’s Attitude, Behavior and Style,” (Released in Part, Exemption: HR70-14, 19 August 2008), p. 47, in “Preparing for Martial Law: Through the Eyes of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinki,” CIA at
40 Czechoslovak Report on the Proceedings and Results of the Meeting of the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Treaty in Warsaw, May 14-15, 1980, 25 May 1980; Mladenov Report to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, 27 May 1980, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network..
41 Report on the 13th CDM Session, December 1980, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid; Speech by the General Secretary of the PCR (Nicolae Ceausescu), 4 January 1983; Telex from Viktor Kulikov (Supreme Commander of the United Armed Forces) to Heinz Hoffman (East German Minister of Defense) of 14 October 1983, 14 October 1983,Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
44 Report by the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Petur Toshev Mladenov) to the Politburo of the CC of the BCP, 27 May 1980, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
45 Statement by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Comrade Yu. V. Andropov, 4 January 1983, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
46 See e.g., Note Regarding the Documents Prepared for the PCC Meeting in Prague, 3 January 1983; East German Report on and Conclusions from the Meeting, January 1983, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
47 East German Report on and Conclusions from the Meeting, January 1983, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
48 Informational Note Drawn Up by the Chief of Service Referring to the Current Situation and Policy of Romania, 15 December 1983, BStU, MfS, ZAIG 6267, S. 9-11, in Annex 28, Herbstritt and Olaru (2005), p. 364. See e.g. Memorandum of Conversation with Marshals Ustinov and Kulikov concerning a Soviet War Game, 14 June 1982, Document no. 95 in Mastny and Byrne (2005), p. 463; and Minute regarding the meeting between Comrade Erich Hoenecker and Comrade Marshal Grechko, 17 November 1973, BStU, MfS, SdM 1577, S. 50-56, in Annex 12, Herbstritt and Olaru (2005), p. 314-315
49 Telex from the East German Ambassador to Romania (Bock) of 14 October 1983, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
50 Ibid
51 Reports (3) by Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister István Roska on the Meeting of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, 9 January 1985, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
52 Ibid
53 Report by Hungarian Ambassador in Moscow Sándor Rajnai on the Meeting of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, 1 March 1985; Report on the Meeting of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, 8 March 1985, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
54 Mikhail Gorbachev, Memoirs, New York, Doubleday, 1996, pp. 203-204, 405, 415, 443-444.
55 Less than two weeks before Chernenko’s funeral, Moscow was categorically opposed to such an approach. See e.g. Report on the Meeting of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, 8 March 1985, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network
56 East German Summary of the Romanian Position at the Forthcoming PCC Meeting, 19 October 1985; East German Report on the Proceedings of the Meeting, October 1985; Evaluation of the PCC Meeting by the General Secretary of the BCP (Todor Zhivkov), October 1985; Bulgarian Report on the PCC Meeting, 27 October 1985; Information from the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Mladenov) to the Politburo of the CC of the BCP regarding the Bulgarian Position on the Romanian Proposal for the Reduction of Warsaw Treaty Forces, 22 September 1986, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
57 Speech by the Romanian Foreign Minister (Ilie Vaduva), 19 March 1986; East German Report on the Results of the PCC Meeting, June 1986, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network. See also
58 Memorandum of Meeting of the Bulgarian and Romanian Deputy Foreign Ministers regarding the CMFA Meeting in Sofia, 27 March 1988, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
59 Stenographic transcript of the meeting of the Political Consultative Committee of the CC of the Romanian Communist Party, 17 June 1988, CWIHP,, by permission of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
60 Ibid.
61 Ibid.
62 Romanian Proposal for Warsaw Pact Reform: Letter of the CC of the Romanian Communist Party, 4 July 1988, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
63 Ibid.
64 Romanian Proposal for Warsaw Pact Reform: Information Regarding the Romanian Proposal, 8 July 1988, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
65 See e.g. Ibid; Memorandum on the Hungarian Position re: the Reform of the Warsaw Pact’s Mechanisms, 6 December 1988; Joint Memorandum of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of National Defense on the Future of the Warsaw Pact, 6 March 1989; Minutes of Meeting of the HSWP Political Committee on 16 May 1989-Excerpt on WP Issues, 16 May 1989; Bulgarian Proposal for the Improvement of Warsaw Treaty Structures Prepared for the Bucharest Political Consultative Committee Meeting, 14 June 1989, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
66 Joint Memorandum of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of National Defense on the Future of the Warsaw Pact, 6 March 1989, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
67 Minutes of Meeting of the HSWP Political Committee on 16 May 1989-Excerpt on WP Issues, 16 May 1989, Courtesy of PHP,, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.
68 The campaign alleging such hostile nuclear and conventional military intentions and activities towards Hungary was especially evident during March-July 1989, and resurfaced briefly during Romania’s December 1989 Revolution. See e.g. Kevin Devlin, “Hungary’s New Defense Doctrine: ‘Enemy Not The West But Romania,’” RAD Background Report/101, Radio Free Europe Research, 16 June 1989; Henry Kamm, “Hungary Cites Military Threat From Romania,” New York Times, 11 July 1989; Andrea Tarquini, “Ceausescu is Buying Missiles to Aim at Hungary,” La Repubblica, 16/17 July 1989; Douglas Clarke, “The Romanian Military Threat to Hungary,” RAD Background Report/130, Radio Free Europe Research, 27 July 1989, pp. 1-6. For the campaign alleging Romanian advocacy of military intervention against Poland see e.g. “Dokumenty Polska-Rumunia,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 29 September-1 October 1989; “Romania has called for military intervention in Poland,” Polityka Weekly News Roundup, Warsaw, Polityka in Polish, no. 38, 23 September 1989 (excerpts), p. 2, Joint Publications Research Service, East Europe (JPRS-EER-89-130), 27 November 1989, p. 19. While Devlin and Clarke soundly debunked the allegations regarding Romanian intentions against Hungary by investigating each of them in detail and examining actual Romanian military preparations at the time, Western investigations of an alleged interventionist intention towards Poland have relied upon the same persons and institutions involved (both wittingly and unwittingly) in the original disinformation campaign.

Larry L. Watts

Source: Woodrow Wilson Center – Cold War International History Project via Ziaristi Online – Intelligence Section

Cold War Interntional History Project - Ziaristi Online

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