7 . Contemporary Period: Foreign Affairs

Up to 1866 Rumanian foreign politics may be said to have been non-existent. The offensive or defensive alliances against the Turks concluded by the Rumanian rulers with neighbouring princes during the Middle Ages were not made in pursuance of any definite policy, but merely to meet the moment's need. With the establishment of Turkish suzerainty Rumania became a pawn in the foreign politics of the neighbouring empires, and we find her repeatedly included in their projects of acquisition, partition, or compensation (as, for instance, when she was put forward as eventual compensation to Poland for the territories lost by that country in the first partition).[1] Rumania may be considered fortunate in not having lost more than Bucovina to Austria (1775), Bessarabia to Russia (1812), and, temporarily, to Austria the region between the Danube and the Aluta, called Oltenia (lost by the Treaty of Passarowitz, 1718; recovered by the Treaty of Belgrade, 1739).

[Footnote 1: See Albert Sorel, The Eastern Question in the Eighteenth Century (Engl. ed.), 1898, pp. 141, 147 &c.]

While her geographical position made of Rumania the cynosure of many covetous eyes, it at the same time saved her from individual attack by exciting countervailing jealousies. Moreover, the powers came at last to consider her a necessary rampart to the Ottoman Empire, whose dissolution all desired but none dared attempt. Austria and Russia, looking to the future, were continually competing for paramount influence in Rumania, though it is not possible to determine where their policy of acquisition ended and that of influence began.

The position of the principalities became more secure after the Paris Congress of 1858, which placed them under the collective guarantee of the great powers; but this fact, and the maintenance of Turkish suzerainty, coupled with their own weakness, debarred them from any independence in their foreign relations.

A sudden change took place with the accession of Prince Carol; a Hohenzollern prince related to the King of Prussia and to Napoleon III could not be treated like one of the native boyards. The situation called for the more delicacy of treatment by the powers in view of the possibility of his being able to better those internal conditions which made Rumania 'uninteresting' as a factor in international politics. In fact, the prince's personality assured for Rumania a status which she could otherwise have attained only with time, by a political, economic, and military consolidation of her home affairs; and the prince does not fail to remark in his notes that the attentions lavished upon him by other sovereigns were meant rather for the Hohenzollern prince than for the Prince of Rumania. Many years later even, after the war of 1878, while the Russians were still south of the Danube with their lines of communication running through Rumania, Bratianu begged of the prince to give up a projected journey on account of the difficulties which might at any moment arise, and said: 'Only the presence of your Royal Highness keeps them [the Russians] at a respectful distance.' It was but natural under these circumstances that the conduct of foreign affairs should have devolved almost exclusively on the prince. The ascendancy which his high personal character, his political and diplomatic skill, his military capacity procured for him over the Rumanian statesmen made this situation a lasting one; indeed it became almost a tradition. Rumania's foreign policy since 1866 may be said, therefore, to have been King Carol's policy. Whether one agrees with it or not, no one can deny with any sincerity that it was inspired by the interests of the country, as the monarch saw them. Rebuking Bismarck's unfair attitude towards Rumania in a question concerning German investors, Prince Carol writes to his father in 1875: 'I have to put Rumania's interests above those of Germany. My path is plainly mapped out, and I must follow It unflinchingly, whatever the weather.'

Prince Carol was a thorough German, and as such naturally favoured the expansion of German influence among his new subjects. But if he desired Rumania to follow in the wake of German foreign policy, it was because of his unshaken faith in the future of his native country, because he considered that Rumania had nothing to fear from Germany, whilst it was all in the interest of that country to see Rumania strong and firmly established. At the same time, acting on the advice of Bismarck, he did not fail to work toward a better understanding with Russia, 'who might become as well a reliable friend as a dangerous enemy to the Rumanian state'. The sympathy shown him by Napoleon III was not always shared by the French statesmen,[1] and the unfriendly attitude of the French ambassador in Constantinople caused Prince Carol to remark that 'M. de Moustier is considered a better Turk than the Grand Turk himself'. Under the circumstances a possible alliance between France and Russia, giving the latter a free hand in the Near East, would have proved a grave danger to Rumania; 'it was, consequently, a skilful, if imperious act, to enter voluntarily, and without detriment to the existing friendly relations with France, within the Russian sphere of influence, and not to wait till compelled to do so.'

[Footnote 1: See Revue des Deux Mondes, June 15, 1866, article by Eugene Forcade.]