Cold War perceptions: Romania’s policy change towards the USSR, 1960-1964

Elena Dragomir, Cold War Perceptions: Romania’s policy change towards the Soviet Union, 1960-1964, Helsinki University Printing House, Helsinki 2014

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This study investigated Romania’s early 1960s policy change towards the Soviet Union, focusing on two questions – why the change occurred and what actually changed. Calling it detachment from Moscow, dissidence, new state security strategy, independent or autonomous line, historiography focuses – from an objectivist perspective – on the external permissive conditions that allowed the change. It works within a paradigm which maintains that after the war Romania allied (balanced) with the USSR against the Western threat but contends that Romania’s alliance with the USSR and its (post-1960) opposition to the USSR were mutually exclusive. In tackling this dichotomy, some scholars argue that the change was simulated or apparent, while others acknowledge a partial, incomplete detachment but pay little attention to what actually changed.

Drawing from recently declassified archive materials, this study used a perceptual approach and a paradigm which argues that post-war Romania allied not against the threat but with the (perceived) threat – the USSR. It focused on the proximate causes triggering the change and explained what changed. It investigated the emergence of Romania’s opposition to the USSR mainly through two case studies (the CMEA reform process and the Sino-Soviet dispute) and covered the period between 1960 and 1964 – between Romania’s first categorical (albeit non-public and indirect) opposition to the USSR and the issuing of the Declaration marking Romania’s first public and official (although indirect) acknowledgement of the disagreements with the USSR.

This study found that the proximate causes of Romania’s policy change towards the Soviet Union resided in the Romanian leaders’ perceptions of the threats posed to Romania’s interests by various specific Soviet policies, such as the attempts to impose the CMEA integration or a strong collective riposte against China. The Romanian leaders considered that such Soviet policies had to be blocked, but they feared that opposition risked triggering even bigger threats or even the ultimate (perceived) threat to Romania’s security – an open confrontation with the USSR. Thus, they responded to the perceived threats by conceptualising the change in Romania’s policy towards the USSR not in terms of breaking off the alliance, but in terms of finding practical ways (tactics) to block specific (perceived) less-than-ultimate Soviet threats, without provoking a confrontation with the USSR.

Through its findings, this study opens new research perspectives on the Romanian-Soviet post-war relations and on the role of the leaders’ beliefs in Romania’s foreign policy choices. It may also be a starting point to understand the unusual present-day relations between Romania and the Russian Federation.


During the time I spent on this study, I incurred considerable debts to many individuals in Finland and Romania. Pursuing a doctorate is an experience that truly reveals the importance of teachers and mentors, of colleagues and friends, and, over the past years, I have had the privilege to found myself within a supportive set of social and professional networks. As a researcher and graduate student, I greatly benefited from the academic environment at several institutions: the Department of Political and Economic Studies (at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki), the Graduate School for Russian and Eastern European Studies (at the Aleksanteri Institute in Helsinki), and the Grigore Gafencu Research Centre (at the Valahia University of Târgovişte, Romania).

I also had the privilege to participate in two significant research projects, Competition in Socialist Society, run by the University of Helsinki (director of project Dr. Katalin Miklóssy) and Utopia versus realism in Romania’s foreign policy, run by the University Valahia of Târgovişte (Director of Project Dr. Silviu Miloiu). The weekly Graduate Seminar at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, the conferences and seminars organised at the Aleksanteri Institute, the monthly conferences and workshops from the Grigore Gafencu Research Centre provided me with settings for presenting work in progress – and sometimes distress – and for receiving supervision, guidance, feedback, comments, suggestions or challenging questions.

Numerous participants joined these academic groups over the years, and many deserve particular mention for their comments on different working papers which I presented or for how they supported me in solving different but often crucial administrative and practical matters. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Seppo Hentilä, Pauli Kettunen, Katalin Miklóssy, Suvi Kansikas, Silviu Miloiu, Marjukka Laakso, Marjatta Rahikainen, Riikka Palonkorpi, Juhana Aunesluoma, Sari Autio-Sarasmo, Ohto Rintala, Markku Kivinen, Markku Kangaspuro, Ira Jänis-Isokangas, Eeva Korteniemi, Hanna Ruutu, Anna-Maria Salmi.

Working under the supervision of Professor Seppo Hentilä and of Dr. Katalin Miklóssy, I have been taught rigor and reason. Time is a very precious commodity of academic life and I am very grateful for the time that Professor Seppo Hentilä and Katalin Miklóssy took to read and comment my apparently never-ending drafts. The study could not have reached the current state without their patient reviews and rechecks, and I feel most deeply indebted for their useful discussions and numerous remarks pinpointed on each chapter. I would also like to thank to Professor Mihai Retegan, from the University of Bucharest, who has agreed to act as opponent during the public examination and to Professors Dennis Deletant and Liviu Tirau, who, acting as pre-examiners of my dissertation, presented me with challenging and useful suggestions and comments.

I am deeply indebted to my colleague and friend Suvi Kansikas who unselfishly devoted time and effort to read and comment my work. Moreover, Suvi’s help and guidance with regard to the practicalities of the last phases of the doctorate programme was crucial. I am convinced that without Suvi’s support with regard to different practicalities I would have not finished the programme. Thank you, Suvi!

Silviu Miloiu also read and commented my drafts and for that I am very grateful to him as well. I am also indebted to Dr. Mihai Croitor (from the Department of Contemporary History and International Studies, Faculty of History and Philosophy, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania) for his insightful discussions, especially during the last phases of the research.

Silviu Miloiu and Katalin Miklóssy have been the first two people who have shown confidence in me and in my academic potential. If my work will ever count for something, then that is because they encouraged me to do research and because they often guided me through it. I am also forever grateful to my friends and neighbours, Cati and Florin Savu. Without their support, I could not have started the programme several years ago. Many thanks are also due to Dr. Tom Junes for his useful language corrections.

During the time I was in this doctoral programme, several funding bodies financed my work: The Finnish Centre for International Mobility, the Valahia University of Târgoviste (through the Utopia versus realism research project), the University of Helsinki (through the Competition in Socialist Society research project), and the Dinu Patriciu Foundation (through the Open Horizons scholarship program). I am grateful to them all.


Abstract 3

Acknowledgements. 4

Abbreviations. 8

List of Tables. 8

1 Introduction. 9

1.1 The research problem.. 9

1.2 Theory and method. 11

1.3 Previous research. 15

1.4 Sources. 19

1.5 Structure of the study. 23

2 Romania’s post-war grand strategy. 24

2.1 Conceptualising Romania’s post-war grand strategy. 24

2.2 Bargaining for friendship. 27

2.3. Romania – A loyal bandwagoner 33

3 The reformation of the CMEA, 1960-1962. 36

3.1 Romania’s opposition to specialisation. 36

3.1.1 Threat perceptions. 37

3.1.2. Early opposition tactics. 42

3.2 Attempts at CMEA integration. 49

3.2.1 Manoeuvring against integration. 50

3.2.2. An early compromise. 56

4 Coping with the perceived integration threat 59

4.1 Re-launching integration. 59

4.2 Romania’s first dissent 61

4.3 Developing new tactics to block integration. 65

4.3.1 Making the divergences public. 67

4.3.2 China-related arguments. 72

4.3.3 The sovereignty argument 74

4.4 Settling the integration dispute. 78

4.4.1 The Iron Gates Power Plant project 78

4.4.2 Bargaining a compromise. 81

4.4.3 Reaching an agreement 90

5 Looking for a balance with China. 100

5.1 Romania and the Sino-Soviet dispute, 1960-1962. 100

5.1.1 Supporting the CPSU.. 102

5.1.2 Romania’s neither-nor-position. 106

5.1.3 Ideological considerations. 109

5.2 In search of an ally. 111

5.2.1 Initiating rapprochement with China. 112

5.2.2 Mutual signs of goodwill 115

5.2.3 Towards a Romanian public position. 124

5.2.4 Mutual promises of support 131

6 The April 1964 ‘Declaration of Independence’ 136

6.1 The perceived threats of early 1964. 136

6.1.1 A Warsaw Pact ‘body of coordination’ 137

6.1.2 CMEA-related threats. 139

6.1.3 Where two are fighting, the third does not win. 142

6.2 Attempts at mediation. 145

6.2.1 The official Romanian objectives. 148

6.2.2 The secret Romanian objectives. 150

6.2.3 The results of the mediation. 152

6.3 Romania’s public dissent 156

6.3.1 The April 1964 RWP’s Declaration. 158

6.3.2 The Declaration and the CMEA.. 162

6.3.3 The Valev Plan. 164

6.4 Soviet reactions to the RWP’s Declaration. 170

6.4.1 Accusations in anti-Sovietism. 171

6.4.2 A new compromise. 175

7 Conclusion. 179

Annex – Biographical information. 194

References. 197

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