ROMANIA-RUSSIA Between myths and inconvenient truths

Cornel Codiţă (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 4 aprilie 2012

Between myths and inconvenient truths

The uniqueness of its structure and of its political, social and historical destiny is one of Russia's features that few would feel inclined to challenge. However, when looking at it from the outside, almost from any point in Europe, Russia looks more like a conglomerate of contrasts, a collection of images similar, perhaps, to the ones Mussorgsky depicted in his suite for piano, and which Ravel later turned into his well known symphonic piece.

This is true for Romanians as well. Romania's collective spirit sees Russia as a land of origin of great creations, which the lovers of arts, from music and painting, to literature, theater, film and ballet, rightly consider to be a giant, a universal and immortal attraction. At the same time, for thousands of people and for their direct descendants, the country is also the area of absolute pain, of graves forgotten or never marked, of human lives violently ended in the infernal machinery of the gulags, of the forced dislocation of communities and of nationalization, resulting from the application of the "Stalinist solution" to the problem of the multicultural diversity, of political disputes, or of the integration of the "acquired" lands and countries, which turned Russia into the geo-political giant of the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also the Russia which lit up the altar of Science, with its famous mathematicians and physicists. Unavoidably, there is also the Russia raised under the mantle of the USSR, which, through a huge wave of brutality created the pseudo-scientific system capable of generating Homo Sovieticus, multiplied into millions of copies all across the European area ruled by Russia with an iron fist, after WW2; a historic variety of the one-dimensional man, hugely degraded compared to the rather grotesque strokes used by Zinovyev.

For most Romanians, regardless of whether they are politicians, businesspeople, or mere mortals, Russia remains a "Terra incognita". Hence the heavily accented temptation to operate with myths and clichés such as Churchill's famous joke, "Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery and hidden inside in an enigma", or the title of the famous movie of Menshov, "Moscow doesn't believe in tears". When the issues in the relationship between Romania and Russia become acute, when they need to be put into perspective and evaluated, these cultural preconceived notions are virulently revived and invade the public consciousness. Very often, they are the only tools that we operate with.

The mechanism still works and it's not surprising, since Romania's relations with Russia have never been so out of joint, since the creation of modern Romania. The source of this grave distortion, beyond the lack of political culture, or maybe even lack of culture, of ideas, of projects or of articulate solutions coming from those who make decisions which affect the relationships between two countries, beyond prejudices and local accidents, is a deep and irreducible difference, a complete paradigm shift. Moscow and Bucharest approach this mutual relationship with radically different tools, goals and from different angles, which creates the massive incongruence which anyone can notice.

Russia's policy towards Romania can never be understood merely by studying the mutual relations, the actions and the political options of one Romanian politician or another, even less so by studying the local accidents and the blunders which we have become so good at when it comes to the relationship with the "great neighbor to our East". Russia today does politics, not just in the region Romania is located in, but also on a global level, along the axes of power of a geo-strategic paradigm which pits the Eurasian factor against the Euro-Atlantic organization.

The political engine behind Russia's short term actions is the resolution of the new generation of decision makers in Moscow, not to recover the status that Russia once held on the world's political stage, but to make the country's far more lasting, secure and profitable than the former USSR was. This project animates the "Putin political generation" and all the tools of the government are used, as needed, to achieve it, from the massive energetic resources which all of Europe is dependent on, all the way from the construction of a new area of control and political economic-influence in the critical areas, from the espionage and covert actions intended to consolidate the influence and the political control, all the way to the polished diplomacy, able to effectively convey the most different tones and particularities.

In obvious and egregious contrast with Russia's geopolitical perspective, the only tone which Romania's policy used so far to express itself, is a self-centric one, deprived of clear objectives, and if there were any such clear objectives, they were approached while completely ignoring their context, such as what we call the "problem of the Romanian treasure". The lack of consistency and structural inadequacy of Romania's policy have resulted, among other things, in a huge estrangement between Moscow and Bucharest and the quick erosion of the relevancy of our initiatives in approaching some issues which were critical for us, such as the relationships with the Republic of Moldova, the Transnistria problem, the Black Sea space or Ukraine.

Is it possible to escape the myth (clichés) and to overcome the mountain of inconvenient truths which separates Russia and Romania? Yes, provided the Romanian policy is capable to generate a strategic project which would allow it not just to express its positions, objectives and solutions coherently, in its relations with Moscow, but to also exploit the benefits of its new Euro-Atlantic status, frail though they may be.

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