Image from a Romanian-American military exercise carried out in Arad County in 2015. Photo: Raul Ștef

Russia’s Influence on Romania: From a Central European Perspective

/ September 28, 2020 / Translated by Antonia Sampalean
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Image Explanation: Photo of an American-Romanian military exercise that took place in the Arad region in 2015. Photo: Raul Ștef
Image Explanation: Photo of an American-Romanian military exercise that took place in the Arad region in 2015. Photo: Raul Ștef

Romania does not have a strategy to counter the propaganda and misinformation disseminated by the Russian Federation. According to the study entitled “Kremlin’s Influence on the Visegrad Group Countries and Romania”, it finds itself behind Poland and the Czech Republic in understanding this particular threat. The study was carried out by the “Wilfried Martens” European Studies Center of the European People’s Party, in collaboration with the Czech think tank called European Values.

According to the study, which was published late last year, Romanians view Russia with suspicion and precaution, yet the response to its actions are rather weak.

Romania’s relations to Russia revolve around the issue of the Republic of Moldova, especially since Romania is the main supporter of the Republic of Moldova’s inclusion within the EU’s plans of expansion.

The gradual deterioration of NATO’s and the Russian Federation’s relations has also led to responses from Romania’s highest diplomatic level. Our Foreign Ministers have continuously reaffirmed, in recent years, the need to respect both Romania’s strategic partnerships and the legitimate interests of both countries.

Based on the study, even though it has strong ties to its Western partners, Romania rarely displays any overt position against Moscow, choosing to remain “under the radar.” This study suggests that Romania’s intelligence services are influenced by the Russian ones, especially as a result of the fact that, during the communist period, the KGB trained Romania’s intelligence.

One of Romania’s major advantages, especially when comparing it to other countries in the former communist bloc, is that it has its own energy resources that are diverse, which has made it less dependent on Russia.

In regards to business relations, bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $4.4 billion USD by the end of 2012. In the meantime, imports from Russia have been on the rise whereas Romanian exports have been decreasing. The report mentions that Russia’s investment in Romania’s heavy industry can be viewed as somewhat concerning.

In military terms, the turning point was the annexation of Crimea, following which Romania adopted a program to modernize the army, buying Patriot missile batteries and increasing the percentage of GDP that would be allocated to the defense sector.

The anti-ballistic missile shield of Deveselu is another point of divergence, being classified by Moscow as a “threat”.

The report also notes that Eastern European countries – with the exception of Hungary – have sought to diversify their energy sources to reduce dependence on imports from Russia.

The authors of the study recommend the monitoring of propaganda and topics that produce misinformation, funding the independent media, and developing research in the field of information warfare as tools to counter Russia’s influence in the region.

You can view the entire study here.