Center for Strategic Decision Research


A Romanian View on Security in Central and Southeastern Europe

His Excellency Victor Babiuc
Defense Minister of Romania


Few today doubt the current trend to globalization. Few also doubt that the means to deal with global problems are in the hands of just a few. International security is no exception. We are all affected, one way or another, by events taking place thousands and thousands of miles away. The Gulf War proved this, as have all the other major recent crises including those in the Former Yugoslavia, Africa, and Haiti. But because the majority of states do not have the means to deal with such global problems, many are trying to contribute to international security by developing regional initiatives. Europe is home to several good examples of this trend. Here, while NATO, WEU, and OSCE deal with European security on a large scale, regional structures such as the Central European Initiative, the Black Sea Cooperation Council, Cooperation in the Baltic and North Seas, the Southeast Cooperation Initiatives, and many others are working as well. Some countries including Romania have also developed close trilateral forms of cooperation with many of their direct neighbors or countries in close proximity.

The problem with this pattern, however, is that we can’t really test the resistance of such structures to disruptive security risks. We do have concerns about them, though, because of the lessons of history—including the League of Nations—and because of more recent precedents, when such structures proved incapable of preventing or rapidly ending devastating conflicts such as the one in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Put bluntly, the question is: Do all regional initiatives actually enhance our security, or do they delude us regarding the real sum of our security? I side with those more inclined to believe that a) priority should be given to certain means of ensuring security on the continent, and b) more strict specialization between institutions should rapidly evolve.

As far as Romania is concerned, we have given undisputed priority to integration with NATO and regard other means of ensuring our security as secondary to this. This is not to say that Romania is left in a security vacuum as long as it is not a NATO member-state. We are relying on both our national means as well as on deepened and active cooperation with NATO members and Partner countries for our security. However, all solutions short of NATO membership will be transitory and not fully satisfactory for Romania. Unfortunately, transitory solutions are costly and have a bad habit of becoming permanent!


Common wisdom has it today that many of the major threats to our security are not traditional ones. This may be so, but the more traditional threats are still at large, as we have seen with India’s and Pakistan’s testing of nuclear bombs. We still need to pay attention to the huge arsenals of conventional weapons. As CFE negotiations have shown, downsizing them is difficult. We also need to pay more attention to the huge uncontrolled flow of conventional and unconventional armaments that can easily upset local balances of power. And we need to look more carefully at the unfortunate tendency of many emerging local and regional powers to assert their new role by enlarging and modernizing their arsenals, with, if possible, nuclear weapons.

In any list of potentially deadly events that may occur in the 21st century, none of these dangers should be overlooked. My question to you is: As we plan for the future, should we have to choose between preparing for the most probable dangers or the most deadly? My answer is no. Speaking for my government, I can tell you that our security strategy includes consideration of both the new, unconventional threats as well as the more classic concerns. And here again, to strike the right balance, Romanian membership in NATO is a must. To reach this goal we are putting greater emphasis on modernizing our armed forces and on reaching a working level of interoperability. NATO membership will enable us to make a notable contribution to common defense while developing an important peacekeeping and peace-support capability.


These days, restructuring of the military has become a common exercise in almost all countries, although the form it takes is far from identical. However, downsizing personnel, reducing obsolete hardware, modernizing command structures, placing more emphasis on C41, and finding new ways to better integrate operations and electronic warfare are common denominators. Such modernizing, no matter the starting point or the scope, is costly. And no matter how low we try to keep these costs, to many of our fellow citizens they look rather high. Additionally, with the fierce competition for resources by the “internal political market,” resources for military items are limited. My question to you concerning military reform is: Is each of us going to insist on finding a local answer to the global problem of modernizing the armed forces? I vote with those ready to say nay! The process of restructuring individual armed forces in Europe and in the Euro-Atlantic area is not promising. We need to take advantage of institutions such as NATO, WEU, and OSCE to deal with this problem. As a strong NATO candidate, Romania looks forward, with more than hope, to a more comprehensive approach to and more integrated support for modernizing its armed forces.


As we work to resolve the many issues facing us, let me assure you that Romania is taking the right steps and is looking confidently toward the development of a new security structure in the Euro-Atlantic area. We know we can make a valuable contribution to this goal, particularly as a member of a renewed North Atlantic Alliance.




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