Institutul de Sociologie al Academiei Române şi Revista “Sociologia Azi” au organizat pe 25 martie, la Casa Academiei Romane, conferinta “Basarabia si Aliatii incompatibili” (vedeti si Video), pentru pentru a marca a 96-a aniversare a Unirii Basarabiei cu Ţara, ocazie cu care istoricul american Larry Watts si-a lansat in premiera si volumul sau aparut recent la Editura Rao, “Aliaţi incompatibili. România, Finlanda, Ungaria şi al Treilea Reich”. La solicitarea noastra, profesorul Larry Watts a avut amabilitatea sa ne remita prefata editiei din 2013, in original, scrie revista Institutului, Sociologia Azi.
Preface to the 2013 edition
The study before you – my 1998 doctoral dissertation – was several times abandoned in its formative stages. As I look back upon the process, I am rather surprised it was ever completed. The first hiccup occurred in the autumn of 1989, shortly after I completed my doctoral exams at UCLA/RAND and had accepted a visiting professorship to teach “national security and international relations” at the University of Washington in Seattle for the following winter term. While watching the collapse of Romanian communism on television with the rest of the world, I received a telephone call from the Princeton-based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) requesting me to open an office for them in Bucharest, all thought of completing my dissertation fleeing from my mind.
In 1993, I contacted the political science department of UCLA to restart the doctoral dissertation writing process only to discover that the personnel of UCLA’s political science department had changed almost en masse in the intervening years since my departure. The new departmental staff required my presence in Los Angeles at least once a semester, during which I would also have to been enrolled. Those conditions, the cost of enrollment together with the ten-hour time difference, the cost of travel between Bucharest and Los Angeles, and my work obligations in Romania, made the completion of my doctorate at UCLA prohibitive.
Prodded by my professors from my previous alma mater (Peter Sugar, Herb Ellison and Jim Augerot) and by my old friend Professor Ingmar Söhrman at Uppsala University in Sweden, I began the dissertation anew in 1995, under the guidance of Jan Åke Dellenbrandt at Umeå University. In a horrific turn of events Jan Åke disappeared while monitoring elections in Latvia soon after we began our collaboration, sparking an agonizing seven-month-long search before his remains were recovered in a Latvian lake, his wallet and valuables untouched. The trauma to his family, friends, and university was enormous. This study might well have perished along with Jan Åke were it not for the insistent support of my friend Ingmar Söhrman and the willingness of Ambassador Krister Wählback to take over the guidance of my dissertation.
Working with Krister was a memorable experience which I account one of the most intellectually stimulating of my academic career. Not only was he an expert on the time period of my dissertation, as a fellow of the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences he knew very well the basic theme of my work and, during its writing in 1997-1998, he also served on the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s “Nazi Gold Commission” and later as one of the Swedish experts in the Swedish-Russian Working Group on Raoul Wallenberg. Needless to say, we had much to talk about, both at the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm and at Umeå University. Krister’s initial expertise was on Finland and that, combined with expressions of strong interest from Helsinki, resulted in my third doctoral defense at the University of Helsinki (Umeå University requiring two formal defenses of the dissertation: one intra-departmental and the other public, with the opponent flown in from another university.)
The text that follows is a faithful reflection of my original dissertation, with only typographical errors corrected, several directly pertinent sources included in footnotes, and an index added. But for two exceptions, one of a theoretical nature and the other pertaining to historical interpretation, I believe that it still stands a fairly accurate treatment of comparative history and politics regarding the period. When I began the dissertation and at the time of its original publication in 1998 “states” (or “nation-states”) were still the main actors in the international system, despite the extremely important role of international organizations and multinational corporations. Given the perhaps overly-enthusiastic embrace of post-Cold War globalism, and especially with the founding and expansion of the European Union, this may no longer be the case. Consequently, Neo-realist theory as I applied it to small state alliance behavior in the Second World War may be less applicable to the current international situation.
The most vulnerable point of historical interpretation is probably my assessment of the political intentions of King Carol II. Subsequent archival revelations have confirmed that the traditional party leaderships, the Romanian population, and the Romanian military leadership were overwhelmingly committed to a West defined principally by France and Great Britain (the National Peasant Party leader Iuliu Maniu, among others, even acted as British agents). However, subsequent publication of the King’s own journals indicate that when he came to power in 1930 he was already thoroughly dedicated to the destruction of Romania’s constitutional monarchy, and especially of its multi-party and parliamentary system – which he referred to disparagingly as the “French system.”
It now appears that King Carol II was influenced by a variety of German agents, including former colleagues from Potsdam’s Infantry Regiment in which he served for a time while still a prince prior to World War I, as well as members of the German-branch of the Hohenzollern family to whom he was related, and an assortment of German military attaches, including the infamous Alfred von Gerstenburg, who accepted Romania’s formal withdrawal from the Axis in August 1944 and only to then bombard the capital of Bucharest and provoke a state of war with their former allies. Thus, the King’s maneuvering between the Western Allied powers and the Third Reich during 1930-1940 might be better understood less as a series of tactical measures and more as a profound contradiction – if not schizophrenia – among Romanian foreign and security policymakers prior to September 1940.
A second area in which my interpretation comes up short is in possibly overdrawing the anti-Soviet “obsession” of Hungary’s right-wing leadership in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Since the initial publication of this study Soviet era archives have confirmed that consolidation of the unified Romanian state had “pushed” Hungary and the USSR to form a de facto alliance against it. The extent to which Admiral Horthy and his regime managed to forge a ‘gentlemen’s’ agreement with Stalin vis-à-vis Romania as revealed in Russian archives made available after 1991 was indeed impressive.
Not only did Horthy intend to enlist Moscow’s military support against Romania already by 1919, even preparing the way by appointing a former commander of Bela Kun’s Red Army as his chief of staff in 1939 (as noted herein), but Moscow also declared itself willing to ignore Hungary’s declaration of war should their participation not be “active.” By January 1944 the Soviet army even ordered their troops and partisans operating in the region not to fire upon Hungarian forces, suggesting how strongly the Kremlin desired such an anti-Romania coalition.
This underscores the extremely complex political environment in which wartime Romania was compelled to operate. While the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were correctly viewed by the responsible elites in Bucharest as the greatest threats in Europe, the Horthy regime in Hungary had managed to forge early alliance with Hitler and reach an understanding with Stalin regarding the ultimate division and disposition of Romanian territory. Meanwhile the King seemed bent upon a path that remove the already extremely fragile underpinnings of Romania’s only counterbalance to Soviet and German-Hungarian domination – its political ties with the Western democracies of France and Great Britain.
That said, re-reading this study in light of my own later work on the Cold War, I am struck by the persistent recurrence of basic elements of Romania’s security dilemma. Surrounded by powers that did not wish it well, and blocked by them from consolidating a regional alliance that would empower the smaller states of the region vis-à-vis their larger neighbors, Romania continued to seek security guarantees from outside that region, and continued striving for equality with its larger and great power partners.
4 July 2013
 See e.g. the introduction in Tatiana Vladimirovna Volokitina, Tofik M. Islamov and Tatiana A. Poliakova, editors, Transilvianskii Vopros: Vengero-Rumynskii Territorialnii Spor i SSSR, 1940-1946. Dokumenti [The Transylvanian Question: The Romanian-Hungarian Territorial Dispute and the USSR 1940-1946, Documents], Moscow, Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Federal Archives, Rosspen 2000.
 Larry L. Watts, With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania, Bucharest, Military Publishing House, 2010, pp. 89-93, 110-114.
 Edgar M. Howell, The Soviet Partisan Movement 1941-1944, Washington D.C., Department of the Army, 1956, pp. 193-194.
 How fragile those underpinnings were, is starkly illustrated in the British assessment that Romania would have to be “thrown to the wolves” in order to protect British interest’s elsewhere in the Balkans. See e.g. Mihai Retegan, Povestea unei trădări: Spionajul britanic în România 1940-1944, Bucharest, RAO, 2010.