A recent article titled “A Tale of Two Allies” which was published in the American newspaper Christian Science Monitor has sparked furore in the Romanian media. In brief the article accompanied in the electronic edition of the Christian Science Monitor by an interview with A. Wess Mitchell, Director of Research at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington D.C. analyzes the way in which the United States of America deals with its allies in Europe. The article basically argues, using Poland and Romania as examples, that the United States of America classifies its allies in two categories: mature allies-partners which do not require coaxing, as the article argues and another category (which I call it allies of opportunity, since the article fails to give a proper category) with which the United States has a relation based on reciprocity.
Wess Mitchell argues that this sort of relation is employed by United States in dealing with less important allies, while at the same time it expects from mature allies such as Poland or Britain to support the US foreign policy without quid pro quos. The latter type of relation is criticized as alienating important allies and reinforcing the perception that the US does not take into consideration the interests of its allies. In Wess Mitchell’s opinion this type of thinking with regard to mature allies has developed after the Cold War as a result of the American unipolar moment.
The US-Romanian relation is described as being carefully cultivated by American policy makers in Washington, with the US being careful to reciprocate any concession made by the Romanian government and maintain the appearance of a balanced alliance, not an asymmetrical one. The article does not criticize Romania in any way instead it focuses its criticism on the US, arguing that the same type of relation based on reciprocity must be employed towards older and far more important allies so as not to alienate them.
What then caused the swift reaction of the Romanian media? Well this article came at a delicate moment. Romania is in the midst of a political crisis which pits against each other president Traian Basescu and prime-minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu. Romanian foreign policy has also been affected by this political crisis, as the president is a staunch Atlanticist, while the prime minister favours a foreign policy aligned more with the positions of the European Union. Furthermore the publication of the article coincided with the visit of Russian president Vladimir Putin to Bulgaria, which resulted in the energy agreement between Russian and Bulgaria that virtually compromises the Romanian sponsored Nabucco project. The article also contains a quote form an undisclosed Pentagon source which describes Romania as a minor American ally over the long term. Last but not least in recent time the US-American relation has come under scrutiny as a result the handling of incidents involving US diplomats as well as the long deployment of Romanian forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is evident that the Romanian press overreacted over the meaning of the article published by the Christian Science Monitor. Nevertheless it also raises questions about the nature and utility of American and Romanian relations. The United States remain at the moment the most important ally Romania has and the alliance has been instrumental for Romania in gaining NATO membership. From the American of view Romania proved to be a staunch ally that supported US foreign policy after 9/11 and allowed access to US influence and power in the Black Sea, a region which has been until recently impervious to American foreign policy. As such the relation represents a stable partnership; however it might be threatened by the current unstable climate in Romanian politics, a rise in anti-American feeling in the country and the inability of Romanian authorities to explain the importance of this alliance to the Romanian public.