Romanian Union between opportunity and failure. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



But the engagement of imperial Russia in a war of aggression against Ukraine cardinally rewrote the thinking and interstate relation practices organization stereotypes. The Romanian people from both banks of the Prut are today in front of new opportunities for restoring the national unity, which appeared against the background of the war in Ukraine and were caused by the flagrant violation of the established rules of conduct in international relations...


Anatol Țăranu

For over 30 years, the debate on the Union has persisted in Moldovan society. In the period, the number of supporters of the Union among Moldovan citizens has grown continuously, from 2-3% at the start of the 1990s to 35-40% at the moment. Some think this change in the commitment to the Union in Moldovan society is too slow, while others are extremely panicked by the witnessed relevant developments. But all of them are sure that the perspectives of the Union are not related to the immediate future and some even hope that this thing will never happen.

Two available ways for dismemberment of USSR

The theme of the Romanian Union appeared in the public debate during the years of dismemberment of the USSR, being based on the necessity of removing the consequences of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact for the Romanian people. In parallel, the dispute about the future state Republic of Moldova, whose independence was proclaimed in 1991, was revived. The big question of this dispute refers to the development path of the young state Republic of Moldova, which is to follow the path of a sovereign state or to choose the path of return to the “historical and ethnic space of its national affiliation”, as the Declaration of Independence adopted unanimously by Parliament on August 27, 1991, stipules. The univocal response to this question hasn’t been yet formulated in Moldovan society.

The fact that after 30 years of development on the path of its state sovereignty, the Republic of Moldova remains a problem state, with incomplete territorial integrity, with a precarious economy and a poor social sphere, with a society that is divided in terms of identity, generates a big question as to the chosen development path. And this result in the Republic of Moldova’s development was achieved against the background of a civilization jump of the Romanians from over the Prut, who, after getting rid of the Socialist model of Soviet type, turned as an EU member state into one of the most dynamic European economies, with a social sphere that guarantees a level of wellbeing that is several times higher than of the Moldovan citizens, who remained attached to the post-Soviet space dominated by Russia.

Foreign support for Baltic States and also for Moldova

Among the post-Soviet states, the Baltic republics staged a notable economic and social ascent, leaving Moldova much behind even if all these countries set off from the same starting line at the beginning of the 1990s. When they speak about the separate path of development of the former Baltic Soviet republics, they usually invoke the massive support from outside for these states, the legality of occupation of their territories being always challenged by the West. The people of the Baltic States used the favorable attitude from outside to definitively separate themselves from the Soviet influence and tradition, returning to the state development model from before the Soviet annexation and adhering firmly to the civilization model of the EU in the new historical conditions.

The Republic of Moldova also had the opportunity of following this development path which was yet interrupted on June 28, 1940 by the Soviet invasion of Bessarabia. At least, the Western chancelleries were predisposed to recognize and support politically and diplomatically this variant of the Republic of Moldova’s development path after the separation from the USSR. A proof of this is the fact that in June 1991, when the Republic of Moldova de iure was part of the Soviet Union, two U.S. senators, Jesse Helms and Larry Pressler, introduced into the Senate of the U.S. a draft resolution with the request to give the people in the Republic of Moldova and Northern Bucovina the right to self-determination. The document requested that Washington should support the right to self-determination of the people from Bessarabia’s territories that were annexed by the Soviets in 1940, including a peaceful reunification negotiated with Romania, if the two parts wished this.

American arguments based on Soviet aggression

The given document provided compelling arguments concerning the right to self-determination of the people of Moldova eastwards the Prut owing to the affiliation of this territory to the Romanian principality of medieval Moldavia and to the illegal annexation of Bessarabia by the Russian empire in 1812. This right derives from the proclamation, on November 15, 1917, by the Soviet Government of the right to self-determination of the people of the Russian Empire and the founding of separate states, which led to the proclaiming by the People’s Council – the constituent democratically-elected Moldovan assembly - of the Moldovan Democratic Republic as an independent state.

The draft resolution of the U.S. Senate stipulated also the recognition of the legal and political viability of the People’s Council’s vote of April 9, 1918, about Moldova’s Union with the Kingdom of Romania, which was enshrined at international level in the Paris Peace Treaty of October 28, 1920. In the same connection, the invasion of the Kingdom of Romania on June 28, 1940 by the Soviets, which ended with the occupation of Eastern Moldova, Northern Bukovina and Hertsa Region, is presumed to be a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Paris Treaty of 1920, the General Treaty for the Renouncement of War of 1928, the Romanian-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1936, the Convention for the Definition of Aggression of 1933 and the generally recognized principles of international law.

The right to self-determination is valid also because the annexation of Moldova, Northern Bucovina and Hertsa was decided in a prospective way in the secret protocols to a nonaggression treaty signed by the Government of the Soviet Union and the German Empire on August 23, 1939. It is also valid because hundreds of thousands of Romanians from Moldova and Bukovina were deported by the Soviet Union to Central Asia and Siberia between 1940 and 1953. The Government of the United States repeatedly expressed its refusal to recognize the occupation of territories as a result of the so-called Stalin-Hitler Pact, including the annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940.

Arguments based on legalized will of Moldovans

The draft Resolution of the U.S. Senate certifies Eastern Moldova’s right to self-determination up to the Union with Romania also by the declaring by Moldova’s Parliament, on August 31, 1989, of the Romanian (Moldovan) language as the official language of the republic and the restoration of the Latin script, which was banned by the Soviet Government during the occupation, as the alphabet of the written Romanian language. In the same connection, there are mentioned the restoration of the Romanian flag as the official flag of the republic and the declaring of the Republic of Moldova as a sovereign state by Parliament on June 23, 1990.

Further, the document of the U.S. Senate makes reference to the Second Great National Assembly held on December 16, 1990 in Chisinau, where the national independence of the Romanians from the occupied territories was demanded, and to the refusal by the people of Moldova to take part in the Soviet referendum of March 3, 1991 for accepting a new union treaty. The Romania people’s right to Union derives also from Article 8 of the Helsinki Final Act, saying that “all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and culture”.

The Resolution stipulates the Senate’s conviction that the Government of the United States must:

1) Support the right to self-determination of the people of Moldova and Northern Bukovina and issue a declaration for the purpose;

2) Support the future efforts of the Government of Moldova to negative peacefully, if this is their wish, the reunification of Romania with Moldova and Northern Bukovina, as it is provided in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1920, in the prevailing norms of international law and in accordance with Principle I  of the Helsinki Final Act.

New opportunity based on Russian aggression

The document issued by the senate of the U.S. clearly says that in 1991, the U.S. Government was eager to support the opening of negotiations on the reunification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania. Resolution 148 has extremely big importance as regards this step and attests to the existence, at that time, of the predisposition to recognize a Romanian reunion at international level. But the then political class in Chisinau and the political class in Bucharest were not ready to take the opportunity of the national reunion and missed the historic chance offered by the collapse of the Soviet empire.

The revival in Russia of the imperial revanchist spirit closed the window of opportunity for the Union between the Republic of Moldova and Romania for decades to come. But the engagement of imperial Russia in a war of aggression against Ukraine cardinally rewrote the thinking and interstate relation practices organization stereotypes. The Romanian people from both banks of the Prut are today in front of new opportunities for restoring the national unity, which appeared against the background of the war in Ukraine and were caused by the flagrant violation of the established rules of conduct in international relations. What seemed impossible yesterday, today becomes a case of opportunity. Today, the Romanians from both banks of the Prut need a visionary political class, by the model of 1918, which can to learn the lesson of the failure of the start of the 1990s and use the window of opportunity that will be opened for restoring the Romanian unity after Russia suffers a defeat in the war against Ukraine.

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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