The Russia-Ukraine War appears as a very remarkable issue for the main actors of the international system. This war is one of the important issues that the United States of America (USA) particularly focuses on. Because the Washington administration wants to limit the influence of Russia, one of its important rivals in global politics, in the region. In this context, it can be argued that the sensitivity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is seen as the security umbrella by the USA and its Western allies, towards the region has increased recently.
Although the bipolar struggle during the Cold War ended with the victory of the USA, Russia inherited the legacy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Therefore, it can be said that NATO, which was established on April 4, 1949, is still of critical importance today. It appears that Russia has embarked on a fight against Kiev due to its objection to NATO-Ukraine relations and historical claims. Due to this move, many actors in the region experienced security concerns. Based on this, it can be argued that NATO is seen as a deterrent force against the Moscow administration and that the USA has increased its presence in the region under the umbrella of NATO.
Russia has been subjected to various sanctions by the West due to the said struggle and has chosen to continue its struggle against the dominance of the USA by cooperating with new actors. The efforts of European states to improve their relations with NATO due to security concerns have been the driving force for Russia to turn to new actors. The Putin administration, which developed a strategy based on energy and food commodities in this struggle, left the Black Sea Grain Corridor Agreement on July 17, 2023. Considering the roles of regional actors in world grain exports, it can be claimed that this step will create a conjuncture in Russia’s favor.
It must be stated that the Ukraine-Russia War caused the West to adopt an attitude against Moscow and deepened NATO’s relations with the regional states. One of the actors we encounter in this context is Romania. The Bucharest administration supported Ukraine on many issues during the war and expressed its attitude towards Russia on different platforms. Although there were security concerns in Romania due to the war, the country also had gains from this war. Because the Bucharest administration saw it as a new alternative in Europe’s food problem due to the embargo imposed on Ukraine. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that nearly 25 million tons of grain products have been exported through Romania since the start of the war in Ukraine and that Romania is the largest grain center in Europe [i]
Ultimately, it can be argued that, due to the Romanian factor, Moscow’s influence on Europe has relatively decreased and the importance of Bucharest has increased. In this context, it is possible to say that the interest in Romania has continued with increasing momentum recently. It is seen that this interest also supports Romania’s integration process with Europe. For example, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola’s advocacy of Romania’s inclusion [ii] in the Schengen area can be seen as an outcome of Europe’s interest in the Bucharest administration.
Another important issue that should be emphasized is Romania’s geopolitical position. Because this position has serious consequences for the Bucharest administration. The most important element that can be mentioned in this context is that Europe sees Romania as one of the buffer states against Russia. This situation can also be read as one of the reasons for the West’s interest in Bucharest. In addition, while Romania’s position causes it to deepen its relations with Ukraine on the grain issue, it also causes it to have security concerns against Russia. Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar’s statement on September 6, 2023 that parts of a unmanned aerial vehicle from Russia’s recent attacks on Ukraine’s port on the Danube River were found in Romania [iii] proves the reason for these concerns.
It is possible to say that due to Romania’s security concerns, NATO, which is seen as the security umbrella of the West, has moved towards an attitude aimed at addressing these concerns. Because NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that there was no sign of a deliberate attack by Russia, but that it posed a risk,[iv] and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană’s statement that Russia had no intention of attacking an alliance member country, [v] NATO’s statement This issue can be seen as steps to address security concerns Based on this, it can be stated that the West is worried about the Russia-Ukraine War spreading to the region and NATO is seen as a deterrent force against these concerns.
Even though it is known that Romania is a member of NATO, it is not indifferent to these concerns, which have increased with the Russia-Ukraine War. In particular, the condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Danube river ports by [vi] Romanian Foreign Minister Luminiţa Odobescu proves the pro-Ukrainian attitude of the Bucharest administration. In this context, it can be argued that the relations between Romania and Ukraine have deepened through “anti-Russian sentiment”. As a matter of fact, the agreement made during the meeting between Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and his Romanian counterpart Marcel Ciolacu to increase Kiev’s grain exports through Romania shows [vii] the cooperation between the two actors. However, Ukraine is not the only actor with which the Bucharest administration has developed relations. The Bucharest administration, which stands out with the initiative it took especially on the grain issue, is highly sought after by the West due to this attitude. It can be said that Romania, which aims to become a diplomatic center in the region, has been successful in its strategy. This success is demonstrated by hosting the Three Seas Initiative Summit and Business Forum on 6-7 September 2023. [viii] .
As a result, the Russia-Ukraine War has caused serious security concerns in the region. Romania took the initiative to solve Europe’s grain problem during the grain embargo against Ukraine. The Bucharest administration shapes its relations with both the West and the Kiev administration through anti-Russian sentiment. The steps taken by Romania, which stands out due to its geopolitical position, are welcomed by the West. Although this situation facilitates integration in Romanian-European relations, security concerns remain. NATO comes to the fore in addressing these concerns
[i] “Romania Is Europe’s Largest Grain Hub, President Says”, Romania Insider, https://www.romania-insider.com/romania-largest-grain-hub-europe-iohannis, (Erişim Tarihi: 08.09.2023).
[ii] “Heads of EU Commission, Parliament Advocate for Romania’s Inclusion into Schengen.”, Romania Insider, https://www.romania-insider.com/heads-eu-commission-parliament-advocate-romania-schengen-2023, (Erişim Tarihi: 13.09.2023).
[iii] “NATO Member Romania Says It Has Found Drone Pieces from Russian Attacks İn Ukraine on Its Territory”, The Associated Press, https://apnews.com/article/romania-danube-ukraine-drone-russia-49d7c2f087d19cd0363dc24b8b121f8d, (Erişim Tarihi: 07.09.2023).
[iv] “Russia-Ukraine War Updates: No Sign Of İntentional Attack on Romania – NATO”, Aljazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/9/7/russia-ukraine-war-live-news-drone-attacks-on-izmail-damage-port, (Erişim Tarihi: 07.09.2023).
[v] “NATO Deputy Secretary General Geoană Assures Russia Not Targeting Romania”, Romania Insider, https://www.romania-insider.com/nato-geoana-assures-russia-not-targeting-romania-2023, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).
[vi] “Romanian Foreign Minister Condemns Russian Attacks on Ukraine’s Danube Ports”, Romania Insider, https://www.romania-insider.com/romanian-foreign-minister-condemns-russian-attacks-ukraine-danube-ports, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.08.2023).
[vii] “Neighbors Ukraine and Romania Sign Accord to Boost Kyiv’s Grain Exports Through Romanian Territory”, The Associated Press, https://apnews.com/article/romania-ukraine-grain-russia-df00726985d2920110a187bf974cdc93, (Erişim Tarihi: 18.08.2023).
[viii] “Romania Hosts Summit to Boost Ties Between 12 EU Countries and Partners”, The Associated Press, https://apnews.com/article/romania-summit-bucharest-three-seas-initiative-a0dcf3b5bf963810a05a37e682c4e554, (Erişim Tarihi: 06.09.2023).