Thursday, July 7, 2011

SETimes: Romania, Russia Exchange Strident Messages

By Paul Ciocoiu

Russia’s foreign ministry reacted with indignation on its website to Romanian President Traian Basescu’s WWII-related comments.

In a televised interview, Basescu said he agreed with Marshal Ion Antonescu, who declared war on the Soviet Union in 1941. The president added that he would have done the same.

“Russia is outraged by Romanian President Traian Basescu’s recent remarks that ‘in place of Marshal Ion Antonescu in 1941, he too would have ordered Romanian soldiers to cross the Prut River,’ to participate in the aggression of Hitler’s Germany against the USSR,” Moscow responded.

“Such a statement, made all the more so on the sad day of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Great Patriotic War, during which our people lost 27 million lives, is impossible to explain,” it said in an official statement.

“It is absolutely obvious that such shameless bravado, justifying the fascist aggression and desecrating the memory of the millions of Nazi victims, is intolerable and should get an adequate assessment from civilised Europe,” it concluded.

Bucharest reacted quickly, issuing a statement of its own, saying the Romanian Foreign Ministry considered Moscow’s language “absolutely inappropriate”.

It decried “the use of commentaries about events 70 years ago that were tragic for both the Romanian and Russian people; their being assigned political significance for the present”.

“We consider as regrettable and groundless such a public response, launched in an unacceptably violent language and without thorough information and minimal prior interaction on a diplomatic level,” the statement read.

Basescu defended his remarks, saying that “some get touchy when it comes to history” and adding that the Soviet Union “doesn’t exist anymore”.

He argued that his position is in line with the country’s official one, since the Romanian parliament condemned the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. That was the treaty of non-aggression signed between the USSR and Germany in August of 1939. Nearly two years later, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

According to analysts, the flap demonstrations ongoing tension in Russian-Romanian relations.

“President Basescu has stood out over the past years with an overtly hostile rhetoric against Russia which also ignores the difference in proportions between the two actors,” Marius Fratila, political editor with the newswire Agerpres, told SETimes.

“Furthermore, the two countries confront each other on the Republic of Moldova’s terrain, which has become a complicated crossroads of Romania’s national and historical claims and Russia’s interests,” Fratila added.

He said that regardless of these tensions, Moscow’s reaction “exceeded the usual diplomatic framework”.

“The Russian reaction to President Basescu’s statements is overblown if we take into consideration the historical facts, the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement and the 1939 USSR ultimatum which addressed Romania to cede Bessarabia,” Victor Lupu, deputy chief editor with the English language daily Nine o’clock , told SETimes.

He also found the president’s remarks perplexing.

“Traian Basescu’s statements are far from embracing the realpolitik criteria. Why dig up issues over 70 years old? One answer could be … because he wants to prove his patriotic feelings while his popularity is dropping day by day,” Lupu said.

With bilateral ties cooling in recent years, “after this recent episode we might say they are almost frozen. Moscow is extremely sensitive to WWII issues and does not forget easily,” he concluded.

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