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Romania

Romania

  • Romania has long had tense relations with Russia, which have deteriorated further since the start of the Ukraine crisis
    Romania explicitly identifies Russia as a threat to its national security in the realms of information warfare, cyberattacks, and other hybrid tactics
  • Despite this acknowledgement, Romania’s strategic capabilities with respect to these threats are still relatively underdeveloped


Relations with the Russian Federation

Below-radar supporter. Concerns about Russia, but given complicated historical relations and local context, has most of the time stayed away from being vocal about the Russian aggression.[1]

Romania has been an EU and NATO member state since 2004. The country’s high domestic fossil fuel reserves make the question of energy secondary in Romania’s relations with Russia. Romania’s primary concern is with its immediate neighbourhood. It was supportive of pro-EU and pro-NATO measures in Georgia, and with forming a common Black Sea partnership within Europe. Moldova, Transnistria, and EU expansion are the defining issues of Romania’s foreign policy.

As Chisinau’s foremost advocate in Europe, Romania’s interests in Moldova’s accession to the EU have clashed with Russia’s desire to maintain the frozen conflict in Transnistria. Romania remains dedicated to deeper ties with the US and NATO, as well as with its Black Sea partners, such as Georgia and Ukraine. Within the EU context, Romania’s relationship with Russia is best described as ‘below-radar supporter’, where concerns are tempered by historical relations and local context.

According to Eurobarometer, 53% of Romanians have a positive view of Russia, while 41% have a negative view.[2] Recently, however, nationalist tendencies have once again acquired mainstream acceptance, through social media channels and the voices of some opinion leaders. Some of these outlets have no overt pro-Kremlin inclination but “create a particularly fertile ground for pro-Kremlin media and serve as multipliers for narratives that promote the Kremlin’s goal of weakening Romania’s pro-Western sentiment.”[3]

Political acknowledgement of the threat

Romania’s complicated history with Russia, particularly concerning Moldova and Transnistria, has long fuelled Romanian suspicion of Russia. The onset of the crisis in Ukraine in 2013 only exacerbated these concerns. Today, Romania openly acknowledges the threat of Russian disinformation and subversive efforts both to its own national security as well as to Europe at large – a stance that is increasingly reflected in government documents and official statements.

For example, the Romanian National Defence Strategy for 2015-2019 explicitly identifies Russia as a threat to Romanian and European security; inter alia, it recognizes the danger of “hostile informational actions, which trigger the development of some support points on national territory, especially with an influential purpose”.[4] In an implicit reference to Russian destabilization efforts, the strategy report also names “cyber threats initiated by hostile entities, state or non-state” and the “perpetuation of the frozen conflicts in the Black Sea Region and instability in the Western Balkans” as crucial security issues for Romania.

Likewise, the 2016 Military Strategy of Romania names hybrid warfare, intelligence operations, and cyberattacks in its list of potential military risks and threats.[5] According to the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the new Romanian National Defence Strategy “makes quite clear that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Russian actions in the Black Sea region deeply affect the regional security environment”, which “is an important and novel element” of Romania’s defence orientation.[6] While Romania’s 2010 strategy “mentioned the Georgian-Russian conflict as a destabilizing factor […] it saw the main security challenges as coming from military conflicts outside the European continent, terrorism and weapons proliferation.

Now […] the identified threats to Romania’s security derive from the changed security environment both inside and outside its borders: frozen conflicts and destabilizing actions (by Russia) in Romania’s immediate vicinity, cyber threats and informational hostilities.”[7]

Government activities against Russian influence & disinformation

Despite overt political acknowledgement of the Russian threat, Romania’s response strategy is still nascent and relatively underdeveloped by comparison to other EU states like the Baltics and the Czech Republic. So far, these concerns have entered official government strategy documents, but have not been effectively put into practice.

The Kremlin sees Romania as a NATO outpost and “a clear threat” due to it hosting elements of a US anti-missile shield. Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, a senior Russian foreign ministry official has said “all these decisions ... are in the first instance aimed against Russia,” accusing Romanian authorities of revelling in anti-Russian rhetoric. Moreover, as of 2016, Romania had the second-highest defence budget in Eastern Europe. To reaffirm its commitment to NATO, Romania will spend 2 percent of its GDP on defence. Romania hosts a U.S. ballistic missile defence station and has contributed troops to U.S.-led and NATO campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moscow says the real purpose of the shield is to erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent by reducing its chances of a successful retaliation in the event of being attacked by another country’s nuclear missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow views the missile shield in eastern Europe as a “great danger” and Moscow will be forced to respond by enhancing its own missile strike capability.

In October 2017, Romanian authorities once again proved to take the threat of Russian disinformation policy seriously: due to concerns over fake news and propaganda, the Romanian National Council on Television and Radio turned down the request for license renewal by the Russian RTR TV channel.[8]

The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also committed to the mission of the EEAS East STRATCOM Task Force and NATO STRATCOM COE. With regard to the EEAS East STRATCOM Task Force, Romanian MEP Siegfried Mureşan (European People’s Party) proposed that the EU should invest €3 million in 2018 for a project involving the training of specialised staff in the European Commission’s representations in the Eastern Neighbourhood to monitor social networks and the media in order to combat disinformation.[9]

The approach of intelligence agencies to Russian interference

Romania’s National Defence Strategy for 2015-2019 outlines intelligence and counterintelligence priorities. With respect to Russian disinformation and aggression, these include: “ensuring mechanisms to prevent and counteract cyber attacks […]; identifying and counteracting asymmetric and hybrid actions; […] knowing, preventing and eliminating risks and threats generated by hostile intelligence actions […]”.[10]

Activities of the non-governmental sector


Currently, there is still a limited number of non-governmental initiatives in Romania concerned with addressing the impact of Russian disinformation and other hostile influence operations. Three stand out in particular: the Center for Conflict Prevention and Early Warning,[11] an NGO focused on research in conflict analysis and crisis decision-making in the post-Soviet space; the Global Focus Think Tank which runs a project on building resilience and response against “propaganda, disinformation, and illicit influence”[12]; and the Eurisc Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the study of issues related to risk, security, and communication, “focusing on nonmilitary risks, security culture in relation to Romania’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes (EU and NATO), and civil-military relations”.[13] Furthermore, the Euro Atlantic Diplomacy Society (E.A.D.) hosted a forum focused on the mechanisms of disinformation and the question of how to fight back against propaganda.[14]


[1] “How do European democracies react to Russian aggression”. European Values. 22 April 2017. Available at: http://www.europeanvalues.net/russia/  
[2] Special Eurobarometer 451: Future of Europe. The European Commission. October 2016.  https://ec.europa.eu/finland/sites/finland/files/ebs_451_anx_en.pdf  
[3] Rebegea, C. (2017). “ Russian propaganda meets Romanian nationalism”. Center for European Policy Analysis. 5 June 2017.  http://infowar.cepa.org/Briefs/Ro/Russian-propaganda-meets-Romanian-nationalism  
[4] National Defense Strategy 2015-2019. The Presidential Administration of Romania.  http://old.presidency.ro/static/National%20%20Defense%20Strategy%202015%20-%202019.pdf  
[5] The Military Strategy of Romania (2016). Ministry of National Defense, Romania.  https://www.eda.europa.eu/docs/default-source/Defence-Procurement-Gateway/ro_milstrategy.pdf  
[6] Rebegea, C. (2015). “A Strong Romania in Europe and in the World”.  Center for European Policy Analysis. 26 June 2015.  http://cepa.org/index/?id=fe39765e51d6dadb4eddba0dfe604086  
[7] Rebegea (2015).
[8] See:  https://www.unian.info/world/2183771-romania-denies-license-renewal-to-russian-tv-channel-over-propaganda.html  
[9] See  http://www.europeanvalues.net/kremlin-watch-monitor-may-18-2017/  
[10] National Defense Strategy 2015-2019. The Presidential Administration of Romania.   http://old.presidency.ro/static/National%20%20Defense%20Strategy%202015%20-%202019.pdf  
[11] See  http://cpc-ew.ro/  
[12] See   http://www.global-focus.eu/about-us/  
[13] See  http://www.nira.or.jp/past/ice/nwdtt/2005/DAT/1265.html  
[14] See  http://www.eadsociety.com/ddee-topics/  

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