Romania Mare, or Greater Romania, is a slogan of Romanian nationalists. That would be the union of the Republic of Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Both share a common Romanian language and border, but not recent history. Romania is in the EU and NATO, while Moldova is not.
Both have just held national elections, which saw the defeat of the post-Communists. The verdict is still out on their successors but, one hopes, they will be better than the dour kleptocrats that pretty much had had the run of both places since the so-called "collapse" of Communism.
As a joke goes: "Communism fell, and the Communists fell on golden parachutes." In other words, in an apparent paradox, the reds and their families are the propertied classes in both places, which pervades national politics.
Among other things, the post-Communists tend to be strongly against a unification of both portions of the realm. Their successors are publicly uncommitted but some of them undoubtedly harbor such hopes.
However, it is mischievous to claim that unification is now back on the table, where it briefly landed after 1989. Yet, its specter never quite fades away, hinting a willingness to revise a border, for the first time since the Yalta Conference of 1945, when the Allies divided the world, including the Central and Eastern Europe's Intermarium, with Stalin.
To understand the current predicament, a whistle stop tour of the region's history is a must.
The lands currently called Rumanian used to be referred to as "Dacia," which became the easternmost province of the Roman Empire, halting on the Carpathian Mountains. Hence, the Romanian language is a Latinate dialect that has more in common with, say, French, than any neighboring tongues. Following the collapse of Rome, decentralization returned, albeit with the Christian Orthodox faith and its Byzantine links serving as common bonds in those lands.
There were a few medieval attempts to forge component parts into one, but those proved ephemeral. In the 14th century the so-called Danubian Principalities, Wallachia and Moldova, appeared as separate entities.
The capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire ushered in a new era of vassalage after 1453. The Muslim overlords changed Danubian rulers who displeased them. From time to time, the Turks encountered serious resistance, for example from the infamous Prince Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) aka "Dracula" in the 15th century.
The Ottomans eventually deposed the native Danubian princes and sent in their own stooges, the Phanariot Greeks, to rule over the Danubian Principalities in the 18th century. By the middle of the 19th century, as the Great Porte declined, Russia asserted itself as the primary mover of Turkey's dismemberment. With the Russian arms and the blessing of other European great powers, of a modern Rumania emerged with Bucharest as its capital.
However, the Russian Empire kept a chunk of Moldavia for itself. It Russified its new acquisition, including by imposing the Cyrillic alphabet and importing Russian bureaucrats and others. Meanwhile, Romania resurrected its Latinate roots. It accepted a German monarch and economic dependency from Berlin but cherished a French cultural model.
Romania fought on the side of the West during the First World War and in its wake reclaimed some lands in the east from Russia. In 1940, the Soviet Union sliced an eastern chunk off of Romania. The so-called Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic remained as an integral part of the USSR until its implosion in 1992, when it proclaimed its sovereignty as Moldova.
Initially, there was talk about the reunification with Romania, but it was quickly abandoned. Romanian nationalist sentiment failed to generate any feasible political solutions to a union. This situation has persisted until the present day.
What does it all mean for the United States of America? Europe's poorest nation, Moldova is of a rather transient interest to us. There are a few exceptions. First, there is a frozen conflict in its break away eastern province of Transnistria, where Russian speakers set up a de facto puppet dependency of Moscow. Transnistria can serve as an excuse for an intervention by President Vladimir Putin to snuff out Moldova's independence. That would send waves of refugees in all directions, destabilizing the region.
Second, Moldova is also very much of interest to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, because of its robust criminal scene, which includes anything from human trafficking (including the gory black market business of human organ sales) to money laundering and embezzlement.
A few years ago the shocking "Moldovan Laundromat" scam netted local well-heeled politicians/criminals a huge chunk of the yearly national budget, in just one go. Moldova's banks, usually run by Russian interests, maintain connections with their partners in the Baltics. The latter serve as a window to the West, including for laundering illegal funds.
As for Romania, the United States has much more invested there. The most important is Romanian-American military cooperation within NATO. The Romanians allow us the use of their nation's infrastructure, including, of course, military bases. That has proven extremely helpful for our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
We have committed ourselves to Bucharest's independence. Thus, any move by either Romania or Moldova will trigger repercussions also for the United States. We have promised to maintain the status quo; but no one here wants to die for a Romania Mare.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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