Operation Danube. Romanian view
Romanians – the contagiousness of the French example
In previous materials we talked about the reaction of some Western European NATO member countries, now let's talk about Romania's attitude towards the introduction of troops into Czechoslovakia. More precisely, our focus will be on the transformation of Soviet-Romanian relations in the period after World War II and before the period under consideration, and we will even look a little further.
Romania’s status in the Warsaw Division, albeit with a certain amount of reservations, can be compared with France’s in NATO for the period from 1966 - withdrawal from the military structure of the alliance until 2003 - the return of the Fifth Republic back.
Like Charles de Gaulle, first G. Gheorghiu-Dej, and then N. Ceausescu allowed themselves a certain independence, both in the CMEA and within the framework of the Warsaw Pact, and even public criticism of Moscow.
In general, in the last summer month of that year, the Kremlin had to hurry until the situation in Czechoslovakia got out of control. And A. Dubcek was nervous and, contrary to popular belief, personally asked L. I. Brezhnev for military assistance.
The Kremlin did not really know how Romania would behave, an operation against which, similar to the Danube, would have been incomparably more complex from a military and political point of view, since Bucharest could fully count on the help of Belgrade (and through it the West) with weapons.
The fears of the Soviet leadership regarding a possible demarche of the Romanians were not unfounded:
And this despite the fact that Romania had no less strategic importance for the security of the southwestern borders of the USSR than Czechoslovakia. But N. Ceausescu had to be kept not even in the orbit of his influence, but simply in the status of an ally claiming an equal relationship, precisely through diplomatic methods.
G. Georgiu-Dej correctly but persistently demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops.
How did Bucharest come to such a life, having decided to follow the advice of Charles de Gaulle: not to leave the Warsaw Pact Organization, but to have its own special opinion in it?
It all started after the death of I.V. Stalin. Although at first the development of Soviet-Romanian relations was progressive. Thus, in the period 1955–1959, according to historian A. S. Gladysheva, Moscow and Bucharest signed a number of agreements on
However, the Romanians did not like the deployment of Soviet troops on their territory. The idea of “Greater Romania” haunted and agitated the consciousness of both I. Antonescu, N. Ceausescu, and post-Soviet Romanian leaders. And certainly - it is not compatible with the presence of foreign troops on its territory (yes, the conductor had to put up with German units, but in return he received part of Soviet territory, molding Transnistria with them, and besides, the Nazis protected the marshal from the legionnaires of the Iron Guard) .
In addition, the Romanians (and not only them) were not satisfied with Moscow’s appointment of commanders of the Internal Affairs Troops, as well as their chiefs of staff, exclusively from Soviet generals and marshals.
I don’t think that the Kremlin’s similar policy towards its Eastern European allies was fully justified from a political point of view. Nominally, a representative of each of the republics included in the Department of Internal Affairs could be appointed as commander in turn for, say, three years. The same applies to the chiefs of staff. It is unlikely that this would seriously weaken the real control of the USSR over the allies, but it could strengthen their loyalty to the “big brother”. In a word, the Soviet leadership lacked flexibility and a certain tact in dialogue with partners in the socialist camp.
And as a result: the current situation, rightly notes A. S. Gladysheva,
Nevertheless, during the Hungarian events of 1956, Bucharest officially supported Moscow, and a Soviet mechanized division moved out from the territory of Romania to suppress the fascist, essentially, putsch. However, part of the Romanian population, not to mention the Hungarians living in Transylvania, expressed sympathy for the rebellious Budapest.
In addition, G. Gheorghiu-Dej, emphasizing his loyalty to the Kremlin, correctly but firmly insisted on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Romanian territory. And he actually had legal grounds for this: in 1955, our last soldier left Austria, which, in accordance with Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 should have led to the withdrawal of Soviet Army units from Romania and Hungary.
N.S. Khrushchev, however, was in no hurry, and yet in 1958 our troops left the country, and Bucharest began to gradually turn from a real ally into a nominal one, with an increasingly captivating consciousness of the party elites, a trend toward nationalism instead of internationalism, or more precisely : for the Romanian leadership, their own interests in the foreign policy arena began to prevail over those that Moscow sought to defend within the framework of ensuring the collective security of the Warsaw Pact countries.
Despite the fact that the Romanians did not intend to leave the organization, although, however, much later than the Czechoslovak events, in 1981, the United States offered N. Ceausescu to write off debts in exchange for leaving the CMEA and the Warsaw War. But the “genius of the Carpathians” refused. Membership in both organizations provided its own advantages in the form of economic preferences, as well as making it possible to obtain inexpensive but high-quality Soviet weapons. Regarding the latter, I recommend a very informative article by N. Saichuk, a link to which is given at the end of the material, in which there is information about the formation of the Romanian military-industrial complex.
In the international arena, Bucharest followed its own geopolitical interests, which did not always correspond to Moscow’s ideas about the solidarity of the countries of the socialist camp. Let's say, at the end of the 1950s, the Romanian comrades took the initiative to create a system of collective security in the Balkans, with the establishment of a nuclear-free and missile-free zone on the peninsula. The implementation of such an idea could not take place without Yugoslavia, which occupied a key position in the region, with which the USSR had difficult relations.
Romania at a crossroads
All this brought Bucharest, according to the fair remark of A. S. Gladysheva,
In addition, as historian T.V. Volokitina notes, self-reliance allowed Romania to reach the average European level in terms of economic development in the second half of the 1960s. In this regard, I would like to note the impression made on N. Ceausescu from his visit to North Korea and his acquaintance with the Juche ideas.
In general, the “genius of the Carpathians” followed a course that, as the researcher mentioned above writes, led to the following result already in the second half of the 1970s: the modernization of the Romanian economy, its own highly developed oil refining, heavy and light industries were created, and incomes increased.
The basis for such a policy was laid by the Romanians in the 1950s. And in this sense, N. Ceausescu was a worthy successor to G. Gheorghiu-Dej.
Drift of foreign policy
The drift of Romania's foreign policy became especially noticeable in the context of the reaction to events taking place in the world with the direct participation of the USSR. Thus, Bucharest provides Moscow with unconditional support not only during the Hungarian events, but also the Suez crisis of 1956, but criticizes the Kremlin during the Berlin 1961 and Caribbean 1962 crises.
In the second case, G. Georgiu-Dej's dissatisfaction was caused by N. S. Khrushchev's reluctance to inform the allies about the deployment of missiles in Cuba. And already in 1963, during a meeting with American Secretary of State D. Rusk, the head of the Romanian Foreign Ministry C. Menescu said that if a situation similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis arose, Bucharest would take a neutral position.
At the same time, Romania was rapprochement with China, which represented a not-so-veiled challenge to the USSR, which had more than tense relations with the Celestial Empire, heading downhill towards an armed conflict on the border. And largely because of Bucharest’s position, Mongolia was not accepted into the Warsaw Warsaw.
Of course, such a logic of developments could not help but lead N. Ceausescu, who headed Romania in 1965, to criticize Moscow after the entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. Despite the fact that initially the “genius of the Carpathians” was clearly underestimated in the Kremlin, considering the difficulties in Soviet-Romanian relations as caused by the conflict between G. Gheorghiu-Dej and N. S. Khrushchev. And the coming to power of a new leader in Romania was considered – writes T.V. Volokitina – in Moscow as an opportunity to start from scratch.
“Genius of the Carpathians”: your own shirt is closer to the body
However, as noted above, N. Ceausescu was first of all a Romanian nationalist, and secondarily a convinced communist (if he was one at all). In this regard, it is not surprising that one of his first domestic political steps was the elimination of Hungarian autonomy in Transylvania.
The Romanian press also constantly emphasized that no Moldovans exist and that they are flesh and blood of the Romanian nation. Such publications did not escape the attention of L.I. Brezhnev and irritated him greatly.
During a personal meeting, Nikolai Andreevich, who spoke excellent Russian (as the Soviet leader called his colleague), retorted: during his stay in Chisinau, local residents communicated with him in Romanian, and not in Moldavian. In the understanding of N. Ceausescu, there are no Moldovans at all - they are Romanians, the most real ones.
In a word, such examples are direct evidence of the great power mentality characteristic of the “genius of the Carpathians.”
Well, at the end of the day, just a few words about the difficulties of a military operation against Romania, should the Soviet Union decide to undertake it.
The distance from Dresden to Prague is approximately 118 km, and from the nearest settlement to the Romanian border, Reni, which was part of the Ukrainian SSR, to Bucharest - 268 km.
Yes, Bucharest is located quite close to the Bulgarian border - only 85 km. However, a possible strike from the BPR presented well-known political and logistical difficulties: since 1947 there have been no Soviet troops in Bulgaria, and transporting them by sea was an expensive undertaking that required time, and was fraught, unlike the Danube, with a full-scale war, yes even against the backdrop of worsening relations with China.
Bulgaria directly bordered the NATO countries: Turkey and Greece (their relationship is a separate issue), as well as its border with Yugoslavia was quite long. Therefore, in the event of an operation against Romania, it would be necessary to keep part of the forces on the Bulgarian-Yugoslav border. In general, an attack from Bulgaria seems unlikely to me.
And the offensive operation from the territory of the USSR and Hungary, taking into account the mountainous nature of the hypothetical theater of military operations and the relatively large territory of Romania, actually deprived the Soviet command of hopes for the implementation of the Hungarian and Czechoslovak scenarios. So N. Ceausescu’s fears regarding a possible invasion of his country by Soviet troops seemed unfounded.
In general, the Bulgarian factor in our topic is interesting in itself:
Another thing: despite T. Zhivkov’s devotion to the USSR (his sale of Bulgaria’s gold reserves to the Soviet Union in 1960 is worth something), one must also take into account the personal connections of the Bulgarian and Romanian leaders. Starting in 1965 and for a quarter of a century, they met annually, or even twice a year: they hunted, had heart-to-heart conversations in an informal setting.
That is, in the event of aggravation of Soviet-Romanian relations, T. Zhivkov would hardly refuse the USSR to provide its territory for an attack on Romania, but certainly he would try to persuade L. I. Brezhnev not to do this and would act as a mediator in resolving the conflict, or would have refrained from the participation of Bulgarian troops in it.
In the next article we will talk about the reaction to the Danube in Yugoslavia.
To be continued ...
Bystrova N. E. K stories creation of the Warsaw Pact // https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/k-istorii-sozdaniya-organizatsii-varshavskogo-dogovora/viewer
Volokitina T.V. Balkan version of the regime of personal power (Todor Zhivkov and Nicolae Ceausescu) // https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/balkanskiy-variant-rezhima-lichnoy-vlasti-todor-zhivkov-i-nikolae-chaushesku .
Gladysheva A. S. Romania in the Warsaw Pact: from solidarity to confrontation // https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/rumyniya-v-organizatsii-varshavskogo-dogovora-ot-solidarnosti-k-konfrontatsii-1955-1965 ?ysclid=lnl6da8cl5177809712.
Saichuk N. The special path of the Romanian military-industrial complex // https://warspot.ru/19816-osobyy-put-rumynskogo-vpk.
Chuprin K. Ceausescu’s uranium plans // https://topwar.ru/99995-uranovye-plany-chaushesku.html.
- Hodakov Igor
- Operation Danube and NATO. Dissenting opinion of France Operation Danube and NATO. West German suffering and Danish hesitation
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