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NATO at war with Russia? Don’t Poke the Bear!

Eric Duma, XII A

Two years have passed since the war in Ukraine started. What looked like a simple victory for Russia has transformed into a devastating war of attrition. With plummeting morale, the West fears that Ukraine will lose. Moreover, many say that another war with Russia is looming on the horizon, one into which NATO, including Romania, will be dragged. Regarding these fears, I have one thing to say: DON’T POKE THE BEAR!

NATO was established in 1949, promising its members mutual cooperation in the face of war through Article 5. Having your national security ensured by the United States was beneficial for war-torn European countries. Even Romania acknowledged this fact and joined NATO in 2004. However, drunk with the security guarantees, the organisation’s members took the peace for granted, dropping their defence budget one by one, below the agreed 2%.


The graph above shows that in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea only three NATO members had their defence budget over 2%. In 2022, when the war started, only 9 countries fulfilled the defence goal with Romania almost making it (1.9%). The events of 2022 truly left their mark on European countries. It caught them off guard, with their economies affected by the pandemic and a comatose defence industry. It is conspicuous that most had not learned anything from the events of 2014. 

Nevertheless, leaders remained blissfully calm. Most European countries are both members of NATO and the European Union. They have the likes of the United States and Germany on their side. Ukraine was neither a member of the EU nor a member of NATO. It could not happen to them. 

This false illusion has been shattered recently. In February, Donald Trump, who is expected by many to win the presidential elections in the US, stated that he would encourage Russia to attack NATO members that do not fulfil the defence budget requirements. Trump has truly rattled the organisation, leaving us wondering whether or not he is capable of pulling the United States out of NATO if he were reelected. Something like this would be catastrophic. The European defence industry has been in shambles for a long time, and it might be too late to awaken it ‘in the nick of time’.

Therefore, facing tension on both sides of the conflict, countries have to astutely navigate the status quo. I am happy to declare that Romania is relatively experienced at this. Ever since the mediaeval era, Romanians have had to appease the empires just to ensure their survival. 

Sure, many rebuke Romania for this, however, for better or for worse, this kind of diplomacy has helped a country historically squished between multiple empires ensure its continuity. “Knowledge of our History will become increasingly necessary to navigate the upcoming tumultuous times,” said a leading diplomat at a summer school that I attended last year. And from this knowledge of our history, I must admit that we do not want to be the enemies of Russia.

Over these two years, like every other state, Romania has denounced Russia’s actions and housed around 140k refugees. The state apparatus mobilised like never before, housing people, and offering financial and humanitarian aid. 

It has also offered military aid, however, it still refuses to publicly announce how much it has given to Ukraine and in what form. This is one of the few instances in which I am content with President Klaus Iohannis’ silence. Why? Because whether or not we agree with the military aid offered to Ukraine (this is another story), declaring it in front of the citizens, in front of the whole world, would be counterproductive for the war efforts.

Conversely, our covert diplomacy was rendered inefficient due to multiple shortcomings. Firstly, the US Pentagon leaks of 2022-2023 show that Romania’s military aid is on par with that of Poland, one of Ukraine’s most vocal supporters. Secondly, this February, one of Ukraine’s government organisations publicly thanked Romania “for the 15 military aid packages''. It’s as if they (allegedly) want to get us into a military conflict by disclosing this information!

Furthermore, not all political parties share the same approach. While the PNL-PSD government is discreet, USR is more audacious. After Aleksei Navalnîi’s death in a Russian prison, USR Bucharest has underscored its intention to rename Tuberozelor Street into Aleksei Navalnîi Street. What is so important there to change the name? That’s where the Russian Embassy’s consular service is located. Speaking about the Bear!

If what I have written so far is not enough to prove how our country is degrading its relations with a nuclear power that has invaded us and played us like a fiddle, rest assured that the EU is the last straw. To the whole continent’s surprise, French President Emmanuel Macron has talked on behalf of NATO and admitted that the alliance will not rule out sending troops to Ukraine. Czech President Petr Pavel holds similar views. Good for them!!!! They should be the first ones to go then to set a good example for their citizens. But… no exceptions on the part of politicians and their relatives, right?

To conclude with, as NATO’s future is uncertain, who is going to help Romania? Are the Germans who are already going through hard times at home going to help us if the United States will not? Will the United Kingdom which has already left the EU help the likes of Romania and Bulgaria? Remember, the US and the UK left Eastern Europe to be swallowed by the Iron Curtain after WW2. Will Clotilde Armand and all the progressives help us? Are the Romanians studying Political Science in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands and shouting “fight for/support Ukraine” going to come back and die for this country? No. THEN STOP POKING THE BEAR!!

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