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A Century of U.S.-Romania Relations

A Century of U.S.-Romania Relations Thank You America for Supporting the Great Union of the Romanians!

No. 7-8, Sep.-Dec. 2017 » Bridging News

Romania’s Strategic Partnership with the United States is a cornerstone of our foreign and security policy. The Partnership’s multiple dimensions, ranging from political to military, from economic to cultural, provide invaluable support for Romania’s development and the fulfillment of its strategic potential. A permanent, open and beneficial dialogue lies at the heart of this relationship.

This strong bond has deep roots, and they reach back over a century. Upholding our close partnership in 2018 is the best way to honor and celebrate the American support of the Great Union of the Romanians back in 1918. As we mark the Romania’s Centennial anniversary, I believe that it is of utmost importance to remember the effort and commitment of the Romanian-American communities that, 100 years ago, helped convince President Woodrow Wilson to support the unification of the Romanians in one country.

As the First World War was entering an uncertain and particularly difficult phase, Romania stepped up its diplomatic efforts, aimed at obtaining recognition for its legitimate national aspirations. These efforts were strongly supported by the Romanian-American communities in the U.S., most of them of Transylvanian origin. In May 1917, with the approval of the Romanian Government, holding letters of introduction from the U.S. diplomatic representative in the Kingdom of Romania, the Greek-Catholic priest Vasile Lucaciu and lieutenant Vasile Stoica, left Iași for the United States. The objective of this unofficial Transylvanian mission was twofold: to encourage Romanian-Americans’ actions in favor of national unity and to attract official U.S. support in this regard. Stoica and Father Lucaciu coordinated the establishment of the National League of Romanians in America, an organization created on June 5th, 1918, that brought together more than 150 Romanian associations in the United States.[1] Elected President of the National League of Romanians in America, now-Captain Stoica sent memos to President Wilson and other U.S. officials, met with members of Congress and had public appearances publicized in major U.S. newspapers from New York, Washington D.C., Cleveland or Philadelphia. On September, 20th, 1918, Vasile Stoica was received by President Woodrow Wilson along with other leaders of the oppressed peoples from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[2] In response to this strong mobilization, President Wilson sent a clear message of support: “The government of the United States is not unmindful of the aspiration of the Romanian people, without as well as within the boundaries of the Kingdom. It has witnessed their struggles and sufferings and sacrifices in the cause of freedom from their enemies and their oppressors. With the spirit of national unity and the aspirations of the Romanians everywhere the government of the United States deeply sympathizes and will not neglect at the proper time to exert its influence that the just political and territorial rights of the Romanian people may be obtained and made secure from all foreign aggression”.[3]

This (very compressed) bit of history reveals so many little-known aspects – the coordinated efforts of Romanian communities across two continents and the essential role of Romanian Americans, the astute use of by the Romanian Government of what today we would call “lobby” and “public diplomacy”, the popular sympathy of regular Americans for a cause that they perceived to be just. Indeed, the American (including here Romanian Americans) contribution to the Great Union is rarely and insufficiently debated. Rectifying this situation offers an opportunity to study the origins of Romania’s most important strategic partnership today. A century of Romanian-American relations captures both sublime and dramatic moments, seemingly always dominated by a positive constant that began in 1918. This could be seen even during the Communist regime, a fact highlighted by the two visits made by American presidents in Bucharest in this period. After 1989, the international context allowed the bilateral relationship to fully revert to its natural dynamic.

A century after the Great Union, the two countries have a robust Strategic Partnership, anchored in a favorable public perception that makes Romania, at this time, probably the most pro-American country in Europe. Bearing in mind both historical evolutions and current context, we can draw a set of conclusions about the state and the perspectives of this relationship.

First, and most obvious, is that the partnership with the U.S. is and will remain an essential pillar of Romania’s strategic policy.

Second is that the Partnership is firmly anchored in shared long-term strategic interests, a common set of values, as well as genuine affinity and friendship between the two peoples. This means it is not intrinsically tied to a narrow historical moment, as its success and evolution over more than two decades of significant geopolitical shifts have proven.

Third, the Partnership has shown itself to be a “living”, dynamic framework, constantly expanding and adapting. Its development in relatively new areas, such as energy and cyber security or hybrid threats, demonstrates its adaptability and forward-looking nature. Cooperation in fields such as education, research and people-to-people relations is, in fact, an investment in the future of the Partnership.

Fourth, the scope and depth of the Partnership, coupled with a remarkable number of concrete results, underscore the bilateral compatibility and mutual benefits for both the US and Romania.

The most valuable lesson of 1918 is that the Great Union was by no means preordained, or a historical accident. It was, as we could see, the result of intense efforts, strategic foresight and courageous decisions, on behalf of political elites and citizens alike. As we express our gratitude to our American friends and allies for their support, we should remember that this friendship was rightly earned, it withstood the most difficult trials of history and it enriches both our great nations. 

Note: Ideas included in this article have been used previously in the study From the Great Union of 1918 to the Strategic Partnership: A Century of U.S.-Romania Relations, prepared by George Cristian Maior for American Romanian Academy of Arts and Science.

[1] Gelu Neamţu, In America for the Union of Transilvania with Romania, (published in the Romanian language - În America pentru unirea Transilvaniei cu România, Dageron Impex, 1997, pp. 86-89.

[2] Neamţu, op.cit., p. 91.

[3] Victor Mamatey, The United States and East Central Europe. 1914-1918. A Study in Wilsonian Diplomacy and Propaganda, edited by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1957, p. 378.

 
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