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The Russian media and analysts traditionally turn their eyes upon Romania in the context of its relations with Moldova in the first instance, as well as Romanian claims to patronize, and even as much as to annex it. Meanwhile, this country should be given particular attention, as it plays a rather significant role in the Balkan-Black Sea geopolitical processes. In the key segments of its fairly young sesquicentennial statehood, it has been maneuvering between the leading powers of Western Europe (later joined by the United States), which is the lens it considers relations with Russia through. But our country had a crucial role in Romania's formation. It is for a reason that there is still a Kiseleff Road in Bucharest, named after Count Pavel Kiselyov (Kiseleff), the viceroy of Nicholas I in the Danube principalities of Moldavia and Walachia, the predecessors of present-day Romania.
The culmination was perhaps World War I, when Romania chose the Entente over the German bloc after long deliberation, thus becoming an ally to Russia, though not the most long-awaited one. The apocryphal statement of General Alekseyev is known that the Romanian choice did not have a discrete role: in any case, it would take ten divisions to defeat it or, by contrast, to save it from defeat. Even after the World War II, having fallen into the Soviet sphere of influence, it did not take the Romanians long to start pursuing a "multi-vector" policy, especially vivid under Ceausescu, when relations with the United States, Britain, Germany and France were pretty much better than with the formal allies.
The present-day situation is even easier than usual to Romania as a EU and NATO member. Within the extremely simplistic and primitive abstraction known as the "collective West", relations between different subjects and bundles of subjects are concealed, and sometimes clearly conflict-ridden. But either a military clash or a tough "cold war" between them are highly unlikely. Thus, Bucharest and other limitrophe capitals won't face any kind of distressing choice. The only thing that is definitely not going to happen is staying in the same boat with Russia. Unlike a boat navigated away from it.
The liberal-capitalist developmental pattern brought no luck to the Romanians. The nation, whose border guards mercilessly robbed Ostap Bender, is now in the same bind as the "great combinator" after all the "branzuletkas" were taken away from him. In the 2000s, Romania's economic growth rate allowed calling it the "Balkan Tiger", but now the one-time positive momentum has worn away. According to data released on Tuesday by the European Statistical Office, the country is EU's second-worst after Bulgaria in terms of average monthly earnings.
It should come as no surprise that a growing number of citizens feel nostalgia for the Ceausescu era and are skeptical about the Euro-Atlantic path, although unable to abandon it. However, frankly speaking, Washington and Brussels have never cared a lot about the prosperity of their new Eastern European allies. But the same Romanians can, just like Bender, find weak and dubious, but at least some kind of comfort and replace millionaires in managing NATO's southern European front.
Thus, September last year saw the Romanian army get the first out of seven American Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems. This "magnificent seven" is meant to cover the Aegis Ashore system deployed by the Americans at the Deveselu base in 2015. At the receipt ceremony, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said: "I am honored to be here today, in a moment which I deem historic, the moment when the first Patriot missile system arrives in Romania. Romania has chosen very clearly, Romania has chosen to be a member of NATO, Romania has chosen the strategic partnership with the United States of America, Romania has chosen to be a member of the European Union."
In November, the US military moved two HIMARS (High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System) combat vehicles to Romania and deployed them within the immediate reach of the Crimean Peninsula. The launchers fired several missiles towards the Black Sea before having been brought back to a base in Germany. And at the turn of winter and spring, the HIMARS appeared in the Romanian territory on a regular basis – the first 18 installations out of the 54 ones ordered arrived in the country and entered service with the 81st tactical operational missile battalion stationed in Focșani next to the border with Moldova. Let's also mention the deployment of US Air Force personnel and MQ-9 Reaper scout-attack drones at the air base outside Câmpia Turzii a couple of months earlier. Their presence was described as "long-term".
Apart from that, in late February and early March, the Romanian part of the Black Sea hosted NATO's Poseidon 21 naval drills under the auspices of the Romanian Navy, involving the Greeks, the Americans, the Spaniards, the Turks and the French. And March 19 marked the beginning of the North Atlantic Alliance's new Black Sea exercises called Sea Shield 21, in which the Romanians are certainly engaged either. They even were heroes of the day. The General Staff of the Romanian Naval Forces that arranged the exercises defined their objective as follows: "...To verify and strengthen the level of interoperability and cooperation between the Romanian Navy, the Romanian Army, various structures subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other NATO Naval Forces. The drills include all NATO naval operation stages in response to the region's geopolitical crisis, and their role is to demonstrate the Romanian army's continued readiness to strengthen the alliance's maritime position amid a changing security environment."
Bucharest and its curators provide good conceptual grounds for an explicit or latent anti-Russian focus. Last summer, the news broke that a "Russian threat" was mentioned in the updated national military doctrine. Scheming real-life wars is traditionally accompanied by the "memory wars", with the Romanian capital's municipal authorities discussing the idea of rebranding the square named as a tribute to Soviet marshal Fyodor Tolbukhin. Sooner or later, things will apparently come to the Kiseleff Road. Well, "no fresh news, as the phrase goes."