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.]

The campaigns of 1866 and 1870 having finally established Prussia's supremacy in the German world, Bismarck modified his attitude towards Austria. In an interview with the Austrian Foreign Secretary, Count Beust (Gastein, October 1871), he broached for the first time the question of an alliance and, touching upon the eventual dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, 'obligingly remarked that one could not conceive of a great power not making of its faculty for expansion a vital question'.[2] Quite in keeping with that change were the counsels henceforth tendered to Prince Carol. Early that year Bismarck wrote of his sorrow at having been forced to the conclusion that Rumania had nothing to expect from Russia, while Prince Anthony, Prince Carol's father and faithful adviser, wrote soon after the above interview (November 1871), that 'under certain circumstances it would seem a sound policy for Rumania to rely upon the support of Austria'. Persevering in this crescendo of suggestion, Austria's new foreign secretary, Count Andrassy, drifted at length to the point by plainly declaring not long afterwards that 'Rumania is not so unimportant that one should deprecate an alliance with her'.

[Footnote 2: Gabriel Hanotaux, La Guerre des Balkans et l'Europe (Beust, Memoires), Paris, 1914, p. 297.]

Prince Carol had accepted the throne with the firm intention of shaking off the Turkish suzerainty at the first opportunity, and not unnaturally he counted upon Germany's support to that end. He and his country were bitterly disappointed, therefore, when Bismarck appealed directly to the Porte for the settlement of a difference between the Rumanian Government and a German company entrusted with the construction of the Rumanian railways; the more so as the Paris Convention had expressly forbidden any Turkish interference in Rumania's internal affairs. It thus became increasingly evident that Rumania could not break away from Russia, the coming power in the East. The eyes of Russia were steadfastly fixed on Constantinople: by joining her, Rumania had the best chance of gaining her independence; by not doing so, she ran the risk of being trodden upon by Russia on her way to Byzantium. But though resolved to co-operate with Russia in any eventual action in the Balkans, Prince Carol skilfully avoided delivering himself blindfold into her hands by deliberately cutting himself away from the other guaranteeing powers. To the conference which met in Constantinople at the end of 1876 to settle Balkan affairs he addressed the demand that 'should war break out between one of the guaranteeing powers and Turkey, Rumania's line of conduct should be dictated, and her neutrality and rights guaranteed, by the other powers'. This demarche failed. The powers had accepted the invitation to the conference as one accepts an invitation to visit a dying man. Nobody had any illusions on the possibility of averting war, least of all the two powers principally interested. In November 1876 Ali Bey and M. de Nelidov arrived simultaneously and secretly in Bucarest to sound Rumania as to an arrangement with their respective countries, Turkey and Russia. In opposition to his father and Count Andrassy, who counselled neutrality and the withdrawal of the Rumanian army into the mountains, and in sympathy with Bismarck's advice, Prince Carol concluded a Convention with Russia on April 16, 1877. Rumania promised to the Russian army 'free passage through Rumanian territory and the treatment due to a friendly army'; whilst Russia undertook to respect Rumania's political rights, as well as 'to maintain and defend her actual integrity'. 'It is pretty certain', wrote Prince Carol to his father, 'that this will not be to the liking of most of the great powers; but as they neither can nor will offer us anything, we cannot do otherwise than pass them by. A successful Russian campaign will free us from the nominal dependency upon Turkey, and Europe will never allow Russia to take her place.'

On April 23 the Russian armies passed the Pruth. An offer of active participation by the Rumanian forces in the forthcoming campaign was rejected by the Tsar, who haughtily declared that 'Russia had no need for the cooperation of the Rumanian army', and that 'it was only under the auspices of the Russian forces that the foundation of Rumania's future destinies could be laid'. Rumania was to keep quiet and accept in the end what Russia would deign to give her, or, to be more correct, take from her. After a few successful encounters, however, the Tsar's soldiers met with serious defeats before Plevna, and persistent appeals were now urged for the participation of the Rumanian army in the military operations. The moment had come for Rumania to bargain for her interests. But Prince Carol refused to make capital out of the serious position of the Russians; he led his army across the Danube and, at the express desire of the Tsar, took over the supreme command of the united forces before Plevna. After a glorious but terrible struggle Plevna, followed at short intervals by other strongholds, fell, the peace preliminaries were signed, and Prince Carol returned to Bucarest at the head of his victorious army.

Notwithstanding the flattering words in which the Tsar spoke of the Rumanian share in the success of the campaign, Russia did not admit Rumania to the Peace Conference. By the Treaty of San Stefano (March 3,1878) Rumania's independence was recognized; Russia obtained from Turkey the Dobrudja and the delta of the Danube, reserving for herself the right to exchange these territories against the three southern districts of Bessarabia, restored to Rumania by the Treaty of Paris, 1856. This stipulation was by no means a surprise to Rumania, Russia's intention to recover Bessarabia was well known to the Government, who hoped, however, that the demand would not be pressed after the effective assistance rendered by the Rumanian army. 'If this be not a ground for the extension of our territory, it is surely none for its diminution,' remarked Cogalniceanu at the Berlin Congress. Moreover, besides the promises of the Tsar, there was the Convention of the previous year, which, in exchange for nothing more than free passage for the Russian armies, guaranteed Rumania's integrity. But upon this stipulation Gorchakov put the jesuitical construction that, the Convention being concluded in view of a war to be waged against Turkey, it was only against Turkey that Russia undertook to guarantee Rumania's integrity; as to herself, she was not in the least bound by that arrangement. And should Rumania dare to protest against, or oppose the action of the Russian Government, 'the Tsar will order that Rumania be occupied and the Rumanian army disarmed'. 'The army which fought at Plevna', replied Prince Carol through his minister, 'may well be destroyed, but never disarmed.'

There was one last hope left to Rumania: that the Congress which met in Berlin in June 1878 for the purpose of revising the Treaty of San Stefano, would prevent such an injustice. But Bismarck was anxious that no 'sentiment de dignite blessee' should rankle in Russia's future policy; the French representative, Waddington, was 'above all a practical man'; Corti, the Italian delegate, was 'nearly rude' to the Rumanian delegates; while Lord Beaconsfield, England's envoy, receiving the Rumanian delegates privately, had nothing to say but that 'in politics the best services are often rewarded with ingratitude'. Russia strongly opposed even the idea that the Rumanian delegates should be allowed to put their case before the Congress, and consent was obtained only with difficulty after Lord Salisbury had ironically remarked that 'having heard the representatives of Greece, which was claiming foreign provinces, it would be but fair to listen also to the representatives of a country which was only seeking to retain what was its own'. Shortly before, Lord Salisbury, speaking in London to the Rumanian special envoy, Callimaki Catargiu, had assured him of England's sympathy and of her effective assistance in case either of war or of a Congress. 'But to be quite candid he must add that there are questions of more concern to England, and should she be able to come to an understanding with Russia with regard to them, she would not wage war for the sake of Rumania.' Indeed, an understanding came about, and an indiscretion enabled the Globe to make its tenor public early in June 1878. 'The Government of her Britannic Majesty', it said, 'considers that it will feel itself bound to express its deep regret should Russia persist in demanding the retrocession of Bessarabia.... England's interest in this question is not such, however, as to justify her taking upon herself alone the responsibility of opposing the intended exchange.' So Bessarabia was lost, Rumania receiving instead Dobrudja with the delta of the Danube. But as the newly created state of Bulgaria was at the time little else than a detached Russian province, Russia, alone amongst the powers, opposed and succeeded in preventing the demarcation to the new Rumanian province of a strategically sound frontier. Finally, to the exasperation of the Rumanians, the Congress made the recognition of Rumania's independence contingent upon the abolition of Article 7 of the Constitution - which denied to non-Christians the right of becoming Rumanian citizens - and the emancipation of the Rumanian Jews.[1]

[Footnote 1: Rumania only partially gave way to this intrusion of the powers into her internal affairs. The prohibition was abolished; but only individual naturalization was made possible, and that by special Act of Parliament. Only a very small proportion of the Jewish population has since been naturalized. The Jewish question in Rumania is undoubtedly a very serious one; but the matter is too controversial to be dealt with in a few lines without risking misrepresentation or doing an injustice to one or other of the parties. For which reason it has not been included in this essay.]

It was only after innumerable difficulties and hardships that, at the beginning of 1880, Rumania secured recognition of an independence which she owed to nobody but herself. Whilst Russia was opposing Rumania at every opportunity in the European conferences and commissions, she was at pains to show herself more amenable in tete-a-tete , and approached Rumania with favourable proposals. 'Rather Russia as foe than guardian,' wrote Prince Carol to his father; and these words indicate an important turning-point in Rumania's foreign policy.

In wresting Bessarabia from Rumania merely as a sop to her own pride, and to make an end of all that was enacted by the Treaty of Paris, 1856, Russia made a serious political blunder. By insisting that Austria should share in the partition of Poland, Frederick the Great had skilfully prevented her from remaining the one country towards which the Poles would naturally have turned for deliverance. Such an opportunity was lost by Russia through her short-sighted policy in Bessarabia - that of remaining the natural ally of Rumania against Rumania's natural foe, Austria-Hungary.

Rumania had neither historical, geographical, nor any important ethnographical points of contact with the region south of the Danube; the aims of a future policy could only have embraced neighbouring tracts of foreign territory inhabited by Rumanians. Whereas up to the date of the Berlin Congress such tracts were confined to Austria-Hungary, by that Congress a similar sphere of attraction for Rumanian aspirations was created in Russia.[1] The interests of a peaceful development demanded that Rumania should maintain friendly relations with both the powers striving for domination in the Near East; it was a vital necessity for her, however, to be able to rely upon the effective support of at least one of them in a case of emergency. Russia's conduct had aroused a deep feeling of bitterness and mistrust in Rumania, and every lessening of her influence was a step in Austria's favour. Secondary considerations tended to intensify this: on the one hand lay the fact that through Russia's interposition Rumania had no defendable frontier against Bulgaria; on the other hand was the greatly strengthened position created for Austria by her alliance with Germany, in whose future Prince Carol had the utmost confidence.

[Footnote 1: It is probable that this confederation had much to do with the readiness with which Bismarck supported the demands of his good friend, Gorchakov.]

Germany's attitude towards Rumania had been curiously hostile during these events; but when Prince Carol's father spoke of this to the German Emperor, the latter showed genuine astonishment: Bismarck had obviously not taken the emperor completely into his confidence. When, a few days later, Sturdza had an interview with Bismarck at the latter's invitation, the German Chancellor discovered once more that Rumania had nothing to expect from Russia. Indeed, Rumania's position between Russia and the new Slav state south of the Danube might prove dangerous, were she not to seek protection and assistance from her two 'natural friends', France and Germany. And, with his usual liberality when baiting his policy with false hopes, Bismarck went on to say that 'Turkey is falling to pieces; nobody can resuscitate her; Rumania has an important role to fulfil, but for this she must be wise, cautious, and strong'. This new attitude was the natural counterpart of the change which was at that time making itself felt in Russo-German relations. While a Franco-Russian alliance was propounded by Gorchakov in an interview with a French journalist, Bismarck and Andrassy signed in Gastein the treaty which allied Austria to Germany (September 1879). As Rumania's interests were identical with those of Austria - wrote Count Andrassy privately to Prince Carol a few months later - namely, to prevent the fusion of the northern and the southern Slavs, she had only to express her willingness to become at a given moment the third party in the compact. In 1883 King Carol accepted a secret treaty of defensive alliance from Austria. In return for promises relating to future political partitions in the Balkans, the monarch pledged himself to oppose all developments likely to speed the democratic evolution, of Rumania. Though the treaty was never submitted to parliament for ratification, and notwithstanding a tariff war and a serious difference with Austria on the question of control of the Danube navigation, Rumania was, till the Balkan wars, a faithful 'sleeping partner' of the Triple Alliance.

All through that externally quiet period a marked discrepancy existed and developed between that line of policy and the trend of public opinion. The interest of the Rumanians within the kingdom centred increasingly on their brethren in Transylvania, the solution of whose hard case inspired most of the popular national movements. Not on account of the political despotism of the Magyars, for that of the Russians was in no way behind it. But whilst the Rumanians of Bessarabia were, with few exceptions, illiterate peasants, in Transylvania there was a solidly established and spirited middle class, whose protests kept pace with the oppressive measures. Many of them - and of necessity the more turbulent - migrated to Rumania, and there kept alive the 'Transylvanian Question'. That the country's foreign policy has nevertheless constantly supported the Central Powers is due, to some extent, to the fact that the generation most deeply impressed by the events of 1878 came gradually to the leadership of the country; to a greater extent to the increasing influence of German education,[1] and the economic and financial supremacy which the benevolent passivity of England and France enabled Germany to acquire; but above all to the personal influence of King Carol. Germany, he considered, was at the beginning of her development and needed, above all, peace; as Rumania was in the same position the wisest policy was to follow Germany, neglecting impracticable national ideals. King Carol outlined his views clearly in an interview which he had in Vienna with the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1883: 'No nation consents to be bereaved of its political aspirations, and those of the Rumanians are constantly kept at fever heat by Magyar oppression. But this was no real obstacle to a friendly understanding between the two neighbouring states.'

[Footnote 1: Many prominent statesmen like Sturdza, Maiorescu, Carp, &c. were educated in Germany, whereas the school established by the German community ( Evangelische Knaben und Realschule ), and which it under the direct control of the German Ministry of Education, is attended by more pupils than any other school in Bucarest.]

Such was the position when the Balkan peoples rose in 1912 to sever the last ties which bound them to the decadent Turkish Empire. King Carol, who had, sword in hand, won the independence of his country, could have no objection to such a desire for emancipation. Nor to the Balkan League itself, unfortunately so ephemeral; for by the first year of his reign he had already approached the Greek Government with proposals toward such a league, and toward freeing the Balkans from the undesirable interference of the powers.[1] It is true that Rumania, like all the other states, had not foreseen the radical changes which were to take place, and which considerably affected her position in the Near East. But she was safe as long as the situation was one of stable equilibrium and the league remained in existence. 'Rumania will only be menaced by a real danger when a Great Bulgaria comes into existence,' remarked Prince Carol to Bismarck in 1880, and Bulgaria had done nothing since to allay Rumanian suspicions. On the contrary, the proviso of the Berlin Convention that all fortifications along the Rumania frontier should be razed to the ground had not been carried out by the Bulgarian Government. Bulgarian official publications regarded the Dobrudja as a 'Bulgaria Irredenta', and at the outset of the first Balkan war a certain section of the Bulgarian press speculated upon the Bulgarian character of the Dobrudja.

[Footnote 1: See Augenzeuge, op. cit., i. 178]

The Balkan League having proclaimed, however, that their action did not involve any territorial changes, and the maintenance of the status quo having been insisted upon by the European Concert, Rumania declared that she would remain neutral. All this jugglery of mutual assurances broke down with the unexpected rout of the Turks; the formula 'the Balkans to the Balkan peoples' made its appearance, upon which Bulgaria was at once notified that Rumania would insist upon the question of the Dobrudja frontier being included in any fundamental alteration of the Berlin Convention. The Bulgarian Premier, M. Danev, concurred in this point of view, but his conduct of the subsequent London negotiations was so 'diplomatic' that their only result was to strain the patience of the Rumanian Government and public opinion to breaking point. Nevertheless, the Rumanian Government agreed that the point in dispute should be submitted to a conference of the representatives of the great powers in St. Petersburg, and later accepted the decision of that conference, though the country considered it highly unsatisfactory.

The formation of the Balkan League, and especially the collapse of Turkey, had meant a serious blow to the Central Powers' policy of peaceful penetration. Moreover, 'for a century men have been labouring to solve the Eastern. Question. On the day when it shall be considered solved, Europe will inevitably witness the propounding of the Austrian Question.'[1] To prevent this and to keep open a route to the East Austro-German diplomacy set to work, and having engineered the creation of Albania succeeded in barring Serbia's way to the Adriatic; Serbia was thus forced to seek an outlet in the south, where her interests were doomed to clash with Bulgarian aspirations. The atmosphere grew threatening. In anticipation of a conflict with Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia sought an alliance with Rumania. The offer was declined; but, in accordance with the policy which Bucarest had already made quite clear to Sofia, the Rumanian army was ordered to enter Bulgaria immediately that country attacked her former allies. The Rumanians advanced unopposed to within a few miles of Sofia, and in order to save the capital Bulgaria declared her willingness to comply with their claims. Rumania having refused, however, to conclude a separate peace, Bulgaria had to give way, and the Balkan premiers met in conference at Bucarest to discuss terms. The circumstances were not auspicious. The way in which Bulgaria had conducted previous negotiations, and especially the attack upon her former allies, had exasperated the Rumanians and the Balkan peoples, and the pressure of public opinion hindered from the outset a fair consideration of the Bulgarian point of view. Moreover, cholera was making great ravages in the ranks of the various armies, and, what threatened to be even more destructive, several great powers were looking for a crack in the door to put their tails through, as the Rumanian saying runs. So anxious were the Balkan statesmen to avoid any such interference that they agreed between themselves to a short time limit: on a certain day, and by a certain hour, peace was to be concluded, or hostilities were to start afresh. The treaty was signed on August 10, 1913, Rumania obtaining the line Turtukai-Dobrich-Balchik, this being the line already demanded by her at the time of the London negotiations. The demand was put forth originally as a security against the avowed ambitions of Bulgaria; it was a strategical necessity, but at the same time a political mistake from the point of view of future relations. The Treaty of Bucarest, imperfect arrangement as it was, had nevertheless a great historical significance. 'Without complicating the discussion of our interests, which we are best in a position to understand, by the consideration of other foreign, interests,' remarked the President of the Conference, 'we shall have established for the first time by ourselves peace and harmony amongst our peoples.' Dynastic interests and impatient ambitions, however, completely subverted this momentous step towards a satisfactory solution of the Eastern Question.

[Footnote 1: Albert Sorel, op, cit., p. 266.]

The natural counter-effect of the diplomatic activity of the Central Powers was a change in Rumanian policy. Rumania considered the maintenance of the Balkan equilibrium a vital question, and as she had entered upon a closer union with Germany against a Bulgaria subjected to Russian influence, so she now turned to Russia as a guard against a Bulgaria under German influence. This breaking away from the 'traditional' policy of adjutancy-in-waiting to the Central Powers was indicated by the visit of Prince Ferdinand - now King of Rumania - to St. Petersburg, and the even more significant visit which Tsar Nicholas afterwards paid to the late King Carol at Constanza. Time has been too short, however, for those new relations so to shape themselves as to exercise a notable influence upon Rumania's present attitude.