Sunday, February 7, 2016

On The Eve Of The Romanian Revolution (VI) The July 1989 Warsaw Pact Summit

Warsaw Pact Leaders, June 1989
(MTI photo: Lajos Soos)

The extent to which Gorbachev and the “closely cooperating” partners borrowed from Romanian foreign and security policy initiatives, poorly understood in the West prior to the mid-1980s and increasingly negated thereafter, had been set into stark relief at the July 1989 Political Consultative Committee meeting in Bucharest.[i] The communiqué of that meeting reflected Romania’s success in all the major domains of its independent security policy advocacy within the Warsaw Pact over the previous three decades. For example, all of the Pact members now denounced continuing instances “of interference in the internal affairs of other states, and attempts to destabilize them,” and supported the strengthening of European security through disarmament and through “substantial reduction in armed forces, armaments, and military expenditure.”[ii] All formally acknowledged that “no universal socialist models exist” and that socialism was to be “implemented in each country in accordance with its conditions, traditions, and requirements.”[iii] And Romania’s previously singular insistence on sovereignty and non-interference was now reiterated in the call for respecting “the territorial and political realities which have taken shape, the inviolable nature of existing borders, the sovereignty, and the right of every people to freely determine their own destiny.”[iv]
            Instead of pressing for greater confrontation with NATO as had all Soviet leaders (including Gorbachev) prior to 1987, the 1989 communiqué called for the same sort of direct discussions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact with which Romania had threatened to block any renewal of the alliance during 1980-1985. At Bucharest all the Pact members expressed their unanimous support for “transferring relations between the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic alliance to an avenue of non-confrontation, setting up a constructive dialogue between them through political and military channels, and turning it into a factor of security and cooperation on the continent.”[v]
Although nearer the end of the communiqué, and despite the fact that Moscow and the other “closely cooperating” partners avoided mention of Romanian reform proposals for real power-sharing within the alliance (consistently pursued since the beginning of the 1960s), Bucharest was able to insert the admonition to “strengthen the Warsaw Pact's political – rather than military – nature and to further improve the cooperation mechanism within it on a democratic basis.”[vi] And, while Moscow sought to prevent any discussion of the Romanian proposal, the leadership in Bucharest managed to express the need for fundamental Pact reform and the desirability of establishing full equality through the rotation of all command posts.
A similar sea change was evident regarding the adoption of Romanian policy approaches to international relations more generally, with the other Pact members now echoing Bucharest’s April 1964 “declaration of independence” and expressing unanimous support for “settling, by peaceful means, regional conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Central America,” while setting negotiation and mediation as the standard of inter-state conflict resolution:

Life has confirmed that the path of negotiations is fruitful and that there is no sensible alternative to it. They will continue to actively promote the political resolution of crisis situations in the world and to further enhance the UN's role in this.[vii]

The Romanian imprint was particularly clear regarding policy in the Middle East, where the communiqué expressed the Warsaw Pact’s support for holding:

… an international conference as soon as possible on the Middle East under the UN aegis, with the participation of all the interested parties, including the PLO, [and] an all-embracing Middle East settlement on the basis of the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self determination, to the existence of an independent Palestinian state, just the same as the right to independence, sovereignty, and integrity of all the states of the region, including Israel.[viii]

The Pact members likewise rallied around a “just settlement of the situation” in Afghanistan that would leave it independent and free to determine its “fate without any sort of interference from outside” – again echoing Romanian calls.[ix]
One of the leitmotivs of the communiqué was the greatest possible use of the UN for making and maintaining peace, long-championed by Romania and in line with its calls for an increased independent role of small and medium sized states in international affairs by involving “all countries, irrespective of their size or social structure, in solving world problems.”[x]  Likewise, the Romanian call for a united effort with the “active participation of the United Nations” in addressing the “deepening rift between the developed and developing countries” and “establishing a new international economic order,” also appeared in the communiqué.[xi]
Romanian influence was especially profound in the sphere of defense policy where its long-held positions were now reflected in Moscow’s support for unilateral reductions, withdrawals, and confidence-building measures, and its recognition of a general parity of NATO and the Warsaw Pact strengths. Even more significantly, Soviet and Pact leaders now echoed Romanian calls for jettisoning their offensive strategic posture in favor of defensive structures and strategies as a means of avoiding international tensions, a shift strikingly illustrated at the Pact’s Defense Ministers meetings since 1987.[xii] Bucharest was equally unequivocal on weapons of mass destruction:

The fundamental issue in international relations is, above all else, after the issue of repudiating the modernization of nuclear weapons, the conclusion of a treaty as soon as possible between the Soviet Union and the United States of America to cut strategic nuclear missiles by half, and then a universal treaty by the year 2000 on the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons, to which all the nuclear powers and also the other states of the world interested in disarmament, peace and life on earth should become party. …
I would like to stress once again that nuclear disarmament and disarmament in general concern not only the Soviet Union and the United States of America, and not only the states possessing nuclear weapons, but all the states of the world. For the consequences from the use of nuclear weapons would be felt by all of humanity. All states in all continents have an interest in the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and must work actively to achieve this.[xiii]

Ceausescu likewise exhorted the participants to “work toward the signing of a treaty on the elimination of chemical weapons in close conjunction with the elimination of all nuclear weapons,” and to use “the Geneva disarmament conference as well as other meetings to eliminate chemical weapons and reduce conventional weapons to the minimal levels necessary for defense.”[xiv] Reiterating the policy his country had pursed for twenty-five years, he underscored that: “Romania resolutely insists that conflicts in the various parts of the world should be settled and problems resolved solely through negotiation, without exception.”[xv]
The unequivocal support for disengagement and disarmament, particularly for more radical reduction and destruction of all nuclear and chemical weapons, and for negotiation as the only legitimate form of conflict resolution, which authorities in Bucharest expressed during the July 7-8 Warsaw Pact summit was most problematic and potentially devastating for the “aggressive encampment” characterizations of Romania now disseminated through Pact-wide active measures. Measures had to be taken.

Welcoming Gyula Horn, Rezső Nyers and Miklós Németh, July 7, 1989
(MTI photo: Attila Kovacs)

On July 9, immediately after the concluding ceremonies of the summit and before leaving the Romanian capital, Hungarian officials described the event to reporters as something very different. According to them, the meeting was dominated by Budapest’s clash with Romania over the latter’s alleged abuse of minorities and by Bucharest’s demands for a Warsaw Pact invasion against Hungary, thus marking “the lowest point for relations between the two Warsaw Pact allies and neighbors since both fell under Soviet domination at the end of World War II.”[xvi] However, while Hungarian authorities publicly denounced Romania’s minority policies, they provided information as to Bucharest’s military aggressiveness only as background.
Gyula Horn underscored this “crisis” as the breaking news of the conference to Hungarian journalists before he left Bucharest. “In the political sphere,” he insisted, “we have reached a bottom point,” terminology that analysts described as the “most negative official assessment of relations between Warsaw Pact allies” ever employed.[xvii] Ironically, as Hungarian authorities had anticipated several months before, all of the other Pact members had also rejected Budapest’s extreme demands regarding minority policy.[xviii] The Bulgarian über-ally was particularly sensitive on this point given that it actually was carrying out the sort of forced assimilation policy for which Budapest blamed Bucharest. In 1989 alone, that policy was responsible for the dislocation of over 330,000 ethnic Turks from Bulgaria in what was then the largest dislocation of population since World War II.

Todor Zhivkov and Gorbachev
As Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov confirmed to Gorbachev only two weeks before the July 1989 Bucharest summit, his “country was interested in the expatriation of 200, 300 and even 500 thousand Moslems,” and would in no case “admit that the Moslems are of Turkish nationality.”[xix] Gorbachev did not take issue with Zhivkov’s policy in June nor could he back Budapest in July because he was already on record backing Zhivkov’s claim that criticism of Bulgarian treatment of ethnic Turks was an "imperialistic attack against Socialism.”[xx] Thus, the clash over this issue at the July 1989 PCC meeting, while noisy, was brief.
At his first news conference in Budapest following the Warsaw Pact summit, on July 10, Foreign Minister Gyula Horn also misrepresented Bucharest as fostering nuclear proliferation and confrontation – one hundred and eighty degrees opposite the positions that the Romanian regime had just advocated in Bucharest. The Hungarian Foreign Minister’s timing was propitious for successful propagation of that disinformation line since President George Bush, Sr. was scheduled to visit Budapest shortly thereafter. According to Horn, during the summit unidentified “high-level” Romanian officials “announced that their country was now capable of producing nuclear weapons and would soon make medium-range missiles.”[xxi]
Horn pressed this point in a series of interviews with the international media, in which he described the “aggressive military threats” allegedly emanating from Romania. In the version he related to an Italian journalist several days later, he claimed that the Hungarian delegation had “warned Ceauşescu at the recent Warsaw Pact summit in Bucharest that the threat of such missiles to European security ‘must not be underestimated,’ but that the Romanian leader gave them no reply.”[xxii] 
Prime Minister Miklos Németh told an American journalist that the Romanian leader demanded that the Warsaw Pact militarily intervene in his country:

Miklos Németh

As Ceausescu ranted on, calling for armed intervention in Hungary, Németh glanced across at the Soviet leader. Their eyes met, and Gorbachev winked. … It was as if Gorbachev were saying, “Don’t worry. These people are idiots. Pay no attention,” as Nemeth put it to me.[xxiii]
         Németh later stated to a Canadian journalist “that he had sent in dozens of agents to Romania” because of “Ceaușescu’s aggressive attitude to Hungary.”[xxiv] According to Németh, “Ceaușescu had asked Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev several times to invade Hungary and Poland because they were not properly following the Communist line.”[xxv]
At the time, this campaign, whose proponents included Foreign Minister (and future Prime Minister) Horn, Parliamentary speaker (and future President) Szűrös, Prime Minister Németh, International Department deputy Tabajdi (soon to be made responsible for minorities abroad), only partly achieved the goal of projecting Romania as an aggressive threat because its main elements were very quickly debunked after Western verification.[xxvi] Since then, East German, Czech, Bulgarian and Romanian documents on the July 1989 Pact meeting have become publicly available that also disprove those allegations.[xxvii] Ironically, within a decade of the December 1989 Revolution the same theme of Romanian military aggressiveness and nuclear irresponsibility was not only resuscitated, it even achieved the status of mainstream interpretation.[xxviii]

[i] There were solid policy reasons for the United States not to emphasize this in 1989; the primary one being that irritating Moscow (which support for Romanian invariably managed to do) would have been counterproductive to the overriding goal of ending the Cold War. Unfortunately, policy considerations rational at the time distorted political and historical analyses long afterwards. For example, at the start of the new millennium one analyst overlooked Gorbachev’s adoption of Romania’s long-held positions on arms and spending reductions, troop withdrawals, Middle East policy, and the approach to international relations more generally to claim that the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact was the “only Romanian postulate to be partly realized,” that “Romania always fell short of defying the most important Soviet policies,” admitting only that its positions “sometimes foreshadowed” – rather than inspired – “that of the other Warsaw Pact members.” Anna Locher, “Shaping the Policies of the Alliance: The Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Warsaw Pact, 1976-1990” May 2002, p. 18, in “Records of the Committee of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs,” pp. 14-15, in Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP),, by permission of the
Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network (hereafter: PHP). In contrast, the Israeli Ambassador to Romania in 1985-1989 noted that Gorbachev adopted “the political principles of Romania’s foreign policy, some of which were not acceptable to his predecessors.” See e.g. Yosef Govrin, Israeli-Romanian Relations at the End of the Ceausescu Era, New York, Routledge, 2002, p. 133, footnote 3.
[ii] Communique of the Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee Conference, 9 July 1989, pp. 2-3, PHP; Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Daily Report, Soviet Union, 10 July 1989, “Communist Relations,” pp. 12-15; Pravda, 9 July 1989.
[iii] Communique (1989), pp. 4-5. PHP.
[iv] Ibid, p. 3.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid, p. 5.
[vii] Ibid, p. 3.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid, pp. 3-4.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid, p. 4. As per established practice, very little of the positive elements that could be directly attributed Romania were reflected in “closely cooperating” reporting. See, e.g., the excerpted Information from the Bulgarian Foreign Minister (Mladenov) to the Politburo of the CC of the BCP regarding the Political Consultative Committee Meeting in Bucharest, 12 July 1989, pp. 1-5 in Jordan Baev and Anna Locher, “Belated Attempts at a Warsaw Pact Perestroika, 1987-1989,” 2000, PHP.
[xii] See, e.g., Possible Structural Reorientation of WP National Armed Forces Towards More Defensive Stance in the next Two to Three Years (Presentation), 17 December 1988, and Principles for Improving the UAF by the Year 2000 while Maintaining Basic Defense Capabilities (Summary), 27 November 1989 in Christian Nuenlist, “The End of the Cold War, 1985-1990,” 2001, PHP.
[xiii] Records of the PCC Meeting in Bucharest: Speech by the General Secretary of the PCR (Nicolae Ceauşescu), July 7, 1989, PHP, pp. 2-5
[xiv] Ibid, pp. 3-4, 8.
[xv] Ibid, p. 9.
[xvi] Interview of Hungarian Foreign Minister and forrner senior HWSP CC International Department official, Gyula Horn, by Henry Kamm, “Hungarian Accuses Rumania of Military Threats,” New York Times, 11 July 1989; Magyar Hirlap, 10 July 1989; MTI (Hungarian Telegraph Agency) in English, 10 July 1989.
[xvii] Ibid. The fact that so many observers were persuaded as to the unprecedented nature of “such a negative assessment of relations between Warsaw Pact allies” indicated the degree to which Soviet active measures managed to obscure the bitter clash between Romania and both the USSR and Hungary up to that point.
[xviii] Joint Memorandum of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of National Defense on the Future of the Warsaw Treaty, 6 March 1989, p. 10; Minutes of Meeting of the HSWP Political Committee on 16 May 1989-Excerpt on WP issues, 16 May 1989, in Csaba Békés and Anna Locher, “Hungary and the Warsaw Pact, 1954-1989: Documents on the Impact of a Small State within the Eastern Block,” October 2003, pp. 1-2, 4, 10, PHP.
[xix] Memorandum of Meeting between the General Secretary of the BCP (Todor Zhivkov) and the General Secretary of the CPSU (Mikhail Gorbachev), 23 June 1989, in Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (PHP),, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich and the National Security Archive at the George Washington University on behalf of the PHP network. See also See also Speech by the General Secretary of the BCP (Todor Zhivkov), July 7, 1989, PHP.
[xx] Jordan Baev, “The End of the Warsaw Pact, 1985-1991: Viewed from the Bulgarian Archives” in Baev and Locher (2000), PHP.
[xxi] Kamm (1989).
[xxii] Andrea Tarquini, “Ceauşescu is Buying Missiles to Aim at Hungary,” La Repubblica, 16/17 July 1989; MTI (Rome), 17 July 1989, p. 15; Douglas Clarke, “The Romanian Military Threat to Hungary,” RAD Background Report/130, Radio Free Europe Radio (RFER), 27 July 1989, Open Society Archives (OSA), Box 143, Folder 4, Report 53, p. 8.
[xxiii] Michael Meyer, The Year That Changed The World: The Untold Story Behind The Fall Of The Berlin Wall, New York, Scribner, 2009, pp. 92-93. Meyer, Newsweeks bureau chief for Germany and Eastern Europe, also “airlifted into Bucharest with the German Luftwaffe during the fighting that deposed [Ceaușescu] and watched his execution in the company of the secret police that did him in.” Ibid, p. x.
[xxiv] Arpad Szoczi, “Former Hungarian PM Reveals Role Of Hungarian Secret Service In Toppling Ceaușescu,” January 30, 2015,
[xxv] Ibid. See also Arpad Szoczi, Timisoara: The Real Story Behind The Romanian Revolution, Bloomington, iUniverse, 2013, pp. 315-316.
[xxvi] Interview of Csaba Tabajdi and Imre Poszgay by Guido Rampoldi, “Amici di Mosca, ma padroni del nostro esercito” [Friends of Moscow, but in Command of our Army], La Stampa, 14 June 1989; Interview of Hungarian Parliamentary spokesman and former HSWP CC International Department chief Szűrös by Nestor Ratesh in Michael Shafir, “Matyas Szűrös’s Interview with RFE’s Romanian Service,” RAD Background Report/127, RFER, 20 July 1989,  p. 5.
[xxvii] See “XXIII. Bucharest, 7-8 July 1989,” in “Records of the Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee, 1955-1990,” edited by Vojtech Mastny, Christian Nuenlist, Anna Locher, and Douglas Selvage, May 2001, PHP. The well over one thousand pages of Romanian documents regarding the 1989 Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee meeting in Bucharest were first made available in March 2015. See e.g. Romanian National Archives (Arhivele Naţionale ale României: ANR), Fond Tratatul de la Varsovia. Ministerul Afacerilor Externe, dosar 179/1989, 7 volumes; and dosar 185/1989, pp. 1-160.
[xxviii] See for example, Mark Kramer, Neo-Realism, Nuclear Proliferation and East-Central European Strategies, PONARS Working Paper 005, Washington, D.C., Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 15, 1998, pp. 16, 25. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

On The Eve Of The Romanian Revolution (V) Whose Military Preparations?

Aside from their insistence during the spring and summer of 1989 on allegedly “solid evidence” of “corpses floating on the rivers bordering the two countries,” and on Bucharest’s nuclear “blackmail” against Hungary, Szűrös, Tabadji and Horn also insisted that senior Romanian military leaders were laying claim to portions of Hungarian territory, threatening invasion, and mobilizing their troops along the Hungarian frontier in evident preparation for the same.[i] According to U.S. and NATO military intelligence sources there were in fact no redeployments of significant Romanian forces during the last half of the 1980s before the revolution. Romanian territorial defense plans did not require greater forward troop deployments even under the most threatening of conditions.

Soviet Tanks Withdrawing from Hungary
In contrast, and according to those same U.S. and NATO sources, significant Hungarian and Soviet military units had been redeploying from the western Hungarian border with Austria towards the eastern border with Romania since at least April 1989.[ii] With the help of the Bloc-wide active measures apparatus this movement was plausibly advertised as motivated purely by the desire to create a “zone of peace” with Austria and thus symbolizing the lack of any Hungarian, Soviet or Warsaw Pact threat towards the West. Even Western analysts who had underscored the greater likelihood of hostilities between Hungary and Warsaw Pact ally Romania than between Hungary and any NATO or neutral state as much as a decade earlier now thought it unlikely that either Moscow or Budapest could be redeploying their troops nearer the Romanian frontier for operational purposes.[iii]
General Ferenc Kárpáti
The first mild American suspicions regarding Budapest’s intentions were provoked by overly insistent denials that any Hungarian or Soviet troops had been or were being redeployed. For example, at the beginning of July 1989 Hungarian Defense Minister Ferenc Kárpáti declared that reports of Soviet troop redeployments from the border with Austria to the border “with Romania was ‘scare news’ that had no foundation whatsoever.”[iv] Such denials were counterproductive to the aim of concealing force redeployments given U.S. technical intelligence collection capabilities at the time, which monitored those very same troop movements. Only two weeks earlier a Soviet motorized rifle regiment had redeployed from Szombathely in western Hungary to Debrecen, less than 20 miles (31 km) from the Romanian border, where there was a long-established Soviet military presence.[v]
Of course, the Soviet military had proven adept at concealing significant force movements from the United States (using deception techniques termed maskirovka by the Russians). For example, Moscow and Budapest had successfully masked the influx of about 20,000 Soviet troops into Hungary during the 1980s such that, even in 1989, many Western analysts were undercounting Soviet forces deployed in that country by some two divisions.[vi] Officially, Hungary reported that there were 62,000 Soviet troops on Hungarian territory while NATO believed there to be 65,000.[vii] More accurate reports identified the presence of some 83,000 Soviet troops).[viii] In addition, the other Pact members routinely ran exercises specifically designed to mislead Western observers, especially NATO member military attachés posted to their countries, as to the true purpose of mobilizations and exercises.[ix]
Soviet Tanks on the move in Hungary, 1989
Certainly, the eastward redeployments in 1989 confirmed Hungary’s “zone of peace” with Austria. But they equally supported the force shift requirements of the new Hungarian defense doctrine, which identified Romania as the principal military threat. Concealing those force shifts from the public eye – regardless of whether they comprised Soviet or Hungarian troops – ran counter to Budapest’s (and Moscow’s) stated goal of diminishing confrontation. The lack of transparency regarding those redeployments also ran counter to the presumed goals of gaining prestige points for military disengagement, or even of intimidation and deterrence. Such purposes are best served not by concealing force relocations but by explicitly signaling them through noisy advertisement.
Applying Ockham’s Razor, the covert re-deployment of troops towards the Hungarian-Romanian border strongly suggested operational preparations that Budapest and Moscow wished to keep secret (although the Hungarians and the Soviets may well have differed over the reason for them). The Warsaw Pact’s Secretary General at the time, Ivan Aboimov, who headed the Soviet crisis group on Romania during the events of December 1989, later noted in an unguarded aside to a Russian journalist: “Hungary wanted us to interfere in Romania, because they hoped to solve the Transylvanian problem.”[x] While Aboimov did not specify whether the Soviet interference desired by Hungary was military, repeated failures to influence Romanian policy along political lines suggest that Budapest may have sought more coercive intervention.[xi] 
         Of course, by the end of December 1989 Gorbachev was not interested in military intervention, regardless of whatever contingency plans existed previously. Prior to that, however, the question of Kremlin intent was certainly an open one. And even in December 1989 the Soviet military and the KGB held many opinions at variance with those of their commander-in-chief.
Karoly Grosz and Ceauşescu, 1988
Hungarian party leader and Prime Minister Karoly Grosz also inadvertently revealed that Hungarian troop redeployments towards the southeastern border were operational measures intended to address the “Romanian threat.” When queried several months after those events about his expressed intention to employ military force against Hungary’s domestic opposition, Grosz misinterpreted the object of the question and 'astonished his interviewer with the following declaration:
At that time, our relations with Romania were very strained, due to the problems of the Hungarians in Transylvania. Having received nuclear threats from Ceauşescu  I had troops along the Austrian border transferred to the border with Romania. That troop movement may have been perceived by Western intelligence services as preparation for military action.[xii]

Thus, precisely at the time Budapest was accusing Bucharest of aggressive military preparations and deployments that had no basis in fact, Hungarian (and Soviet) forces were covertly re-deploying from the Austrian border to the Romanian frontier for purposes linked to the ethnic Hungarians on Romanian territory. There was nothing surprising in this. Various Hungarian authorities had gone on the public record with essentially the same story as much as a half a year earlier, only their comments were generally lost in the publicity given to the new Hungarian defense strategy, which was not only contrasted to the former more offensive footing of the “closely cooperating” partners within the Pact towards the West but was also presented as a policy completely “independent” of Moscow.[xiii]
If there was one set of issues that the United States verified seriously and in a consistent manner throughout the Cold War, it was the movement of significant Warsaw Pact military forces and any preparations for military conflict undertaken within the Soviet Bloc. Indeed, the principal U.S. preoccupation during the Cold War was averting a military confrontation, regardless of whether it began between the USA and the USSR directly or whether it came about catalytically, in consequence of escalating conflict between lesser allies. Given that the effectiveness of any disinformation is dependent on the lack of serious verification by the target audience, and that it cannot long survive close scrutiny, Soviet deception and disinformation operations regarding military preparations were among the most difficult to maintain.[xiv] 
            Ordinarily, close scrutiny can be avoided if disinformation comes in confirmation of existing cognitive biases; if it conforms to patterns of previous behavior; if it falls within the current logic of the situation; and/or if it echoes similar developments elsewhere in the region. As noted, there is a general human tendency not to scrutinize closely information confirming what is ‘known’ to be true already. However, no matter what misperceptions regarding Romanian aggressiveness may have existed within the U.S. analytical community at the end of the 1980s, reports of preparations for a military confrontation were bound to draw exactly the sorts of close scrutiny that were fatal to disinformation.
            Thus, for example, when Horn and Szűrös accused an unnamed “Romanian Army Chief of Staff” of demanding Hungarian territory and were subsequently pressed for “more details” as to the precise identity of that Chief of Staff and the exact phrasing of his demand, they lamely referred their interlocutors to a “military” publication of 1988 which they were “unable to identify” further.[xv] U.S. analysts then tracked down the 1988 publication, which did reference Romanian-speaking islands on the Hungarian side of the frontier after World War I. However, the article was authored by a civilian, made no pretense to military authority, referenced no Romanian military personnel, and made no claims on Hungarian territory.[xvi] 
John Reed
Moreover, the author cited a wartime publication by an American journalist, Milton Lehrer, as source for the existence of those Romanian-speaking islands.[xvii] Interestingly, the American journalist John Reed – no admirer of the Romanians – had made the same observation in the midst of World War I, describing from first-hand observation how one could travel from Transylvania “across Hungary as far as Buda-Pesth and beyond without speaking any language but Romanian.”[xviii]
            Szűrös tried to misdirect attention from the Hungarian source of the allegations by citing “reports in the western media about [Romanian] military reinforcements on Romania’s border with Hungary.”[xix] However, closer scrutiny proved 
Szűrös and Gorbachev, 1989
unable to turn up “any such Western press reports or any evidence of Romanian military reinforcements” beyond Western coverage of the original allegations made by Tabajdi, Poszgay, Horn, and by Szűrös himself.[xx]  When western interlocutors pointed out that while political officials in Budapest frequently discussed the growing “possibility of military conflict” with Romania in the Hungarian press, such prognostications were not at all reflected in the Romanian media, Szűrös fell back on the active measures theme that no information provided by Bucharest was credible and that “what the Romanian press wrote was ‘irrelevant’” because, he claimed, Budapest was uniquely able to “find out Romanian intentions from other sources.”[xxi]
The startling nature and superficiality of these allegations recalled some of the more inventive humor from the deep freeze of the Cold War invoking the authority of Radio Yerevan. Following the standard introduction “Армянское радио спрашивает… – “Armenian Radio says…” the joke confirmed the absolute veracity of a sensational report and then added, as apparent afterthought, a list of fundamental modifications until it was evident that the original claims had virtually no relationship to the reality whatsoever. By the spring of 1989 the international media was inundated with reports of an increasingly aggressive Romanian military. Hungarian officials persistently alleged that: (1) Romania’s Chief of Staff made claims on Hungarian territory and demanded border changes in Romania’s favor[xxii]; (2) the Romanian Army was preparing to launch unprovoked military operations against Hungary[xxiii]; and (3) Ceauşescu was threatening Hungary with a nuclear attack seeking to acquire the means to launch it.[xxiv]
In verifying these accusations Western analysts discovered that:

·         The issue of Romanian-speaking islands existing in Hungary after the First World War had indeed been raised. Only not by any Romanian Chief of Staff but by an American journalist.[xxv] And not in 1989 but in 1944. And no Hungarian territory was claimed or borders questioned. Meanwhile, some senior Hungarian officials were campaigning for portions of Romania to be made autonomous from it.[xxvi]

·      Troop re-deployments towards the Hungarian-Romanian frontier were indeed observed during 1989. But they came not from within Romania.[xxvii] On the contrary, and denials from Budapest notwithstanding, both Hungarian and Soviet troops were being redeployed to the Hungarian border with Romania.[xxviii]

·      Nuclear weapons indeed had been proliferated to Eastern Europe, only not to Romania. Ceauşescu’s repeated declarations of an ability to “produce anything, even nuclear devices” since the 1970s (notably in 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1989) were uniformly completed with restatements of Romanian policy “firmly opposed to nuclear weapons.”[xxix] Although Budapest portrayed Romania as a nuclear threat, it was Hungary and not Romania that actually had nuclear weapons on its territory.[xxx]

Pointing out that it was “not Hungary’s military leaders who are expressing concern, but its civilian party leaders” – and its reformist leaders at that – one Radio Free Europe analyst suggested that the leadership in Budapest may have been motivated to make allegations of such “questionable pertinence and even accuracy” either “as a means of discrediting Ceauşescu further” or “in an attempt to overcome division in Hungarian society and gain popular support on nationalist grounds” by manufacturing a Romanian threat.[xxxi] Not considered was the possibility that the projection of Romania as an imminent threat to Hungarian and European security would also serve to justify pre-emptive military operations against it, and pre-judge subsequent violence and military action in the area as of Romanian inspiration and provocation.[xxxii]
The tendency to analyze military developments around Romanian frontiers with little or no regard to Romania itself steadily became the norm at the end of the Cold War, usually based on arguments of strategic inconsequence and lack of Soviet concern. Thus, for example, the building of a Soviet wide-gauge railway in eastern Hungary during the mid 1980s hardly raised eyebrows in the West and (based on declassified assessments as of this writing) was never analyzed in reference to its possible impact on Romanian security.[xxxiii] Whether or not it was intended as such, the wide-gauge railway permitted rapid deployments directly from the USSR to areas near the Hungarian-Romanian border without requiring any mobilization of the Soviet Southern Group of Forces already stationed in Hungary, which were closely monitored by U.S. technical means.[xxxiv] And Moscow would not have had to force a crossing of the Soviet-Romanian frontier if it had deemed an intervention necessary. 
         Western analysts remained dismissive of any operational intent behind troop movements and re-deployments within Hungary, viewing them almost exclusively as an artifact of rapprochement with Austria, with which Budapest’s relations had been excellent for more than a decade.[xxxv]  Nor was the possibility seriously considered that the ostentatious nature of the “zone of peace” campaign may have been designed, in part, to distract attention from other developments damaging to the Pact-wide portrayal of Romania as a dangerous rogue state.

Foreign Ministers Gyula Horn and Alois Mock cutting the
barbed wire at the Austro-Hungarian border, June 1989

[i] Szűrös interview by Ratesh in Shafir (1989a), pp. 5-6; Douglas Clarke, “The Romanian Military Threat to Hungary,” RAD Background Report/130, RFER, 27 July 1989b, OSA, Box 143, Folder 4, Report 53, pp. 1-6; Devlin (1989), pp. 1-2; Clarke (1989b), pp. 1-8.
[ii] Soviet troops formally began their partial withdrawal from Hungary on 25 April 1989 in view of invited foreign journalists and “Hungarian-born representative of the Italian parliament, Ilona Staller.” Jeremy King, “The Partial Soviet Troop Withdrawal From Hungary,” RAD Background Report/166, RFER, 11 September 1989, p. 3. Of passing interest regarding this orchestration, Staller, an adult film star better known as “Cicciolina,” claims to have been recruited by Hungarian intelligence. APN New Archives, 29 January 1998,
[iii] Writing in January 1989, one analyst noted that: “In reality, the chance of Hungary coming to blows with its socialist ally and neighbor Romania is greater today” than any offensive against Austria, Yugoslavia or NATO. David Clarke, “The USSR Cannot Expect Greater Military Efforts from Hungary,” RAD Background Report/13, RFER, 27 January 1989a, OSA, Box 120, Folder 2, Report 135, p. 2. At the start of the decade another analyst noted that the Hungarian Army would be most enthusiastic in a fight against Romania, and that the most likely scenario for the employment of the Hungarian army in an East-West conflict was “against Romania as a pressure point and a threat vis-à-vis Transylvania.” Istvan Volgyes, “Hungary,” in Daniel N. Nelson, editor, Soviet Allies: The Warsaw Pact and the Issue of Reliability, Boulder, Westview, 1984, p. 214.
[iv] See General Kárpáti’s interview on Radio Budapest, 0645 hrs, 1 July 1989; Clarke (1989a), p. 8.
[v] See e.g. MTI in English, 12 June 1989; Clarke (1989a), p. 8, footnote 15; Jeremy King (1989), p. 3.
[vi] Zoltan D. Barany, Soldiers and Politics in Eastern Europe, 1945-90: The Case of Hungary, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, p. 145. Many of those troops were deployed to the Eastern half of Hungary, towards Romania. Budapest and Moscow were similarly good at masking Soviet nuclear missile deployments in Hungary, of which only a handful of Hungarian Communist leaders were informed.
[vii] Douglas Clarke, “The USSR Cannot Expect Greater Military Efforts from Hungary,” RAD Background Report/13, RFER, 27 January 1989, OSA, Box 120, Folder 2, Report 135, p. 1.
[viii] Ibid. For the more accurate reports see e.g. David C. Isby, Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, 2nd edition, London, Jane’s Publishing, 1988, pp. 124-129.
[ix] See e.g. the Bulgarian intelligence report on the successful misleading of Western attachés through a counterintelligence Operation THUNDERBOLT (MULNIA) during the massive RHODOPE (RHODOPI) exercises near the Romanian border in 1967 in Jordan Baev, “The Communist Balkans Against NATO In The Eastern Mediterranean Area. 1949-1969,” paper presented at the conference, “The Cold War in the Mediterranean,” Cortona, 5-6 October 2001, pp. 9-10, Journal of History, International Relations and Security,; Bulgarian Archive of the Ministry of Interior (AMVR), Fond 1, Opis 10, File 258, pp. 112-138.
[x] Aboimov interview with Marina Kalashnikova, “The Country’s Leadership Regarded the GDR as Self-Supporting Unit,” Vlast (Moscow), 26 April 2005, See also “Communique Published” in JPRS ARMS CONTROL, JPRS-TAC-89-029, 19 July 1989, p. 14; Pravda, 9 July 1989. Hungarian President Mátyás Szűrös’s announcement of his country’s support for the “autonomy” and “independence” of Transylvania in the midst of the revolution appears to confirm Aboimov. Arpad Zengo interview with Szűrös on Budapest domestic radio, 20 December 1989, 0545 hrs GMT, in FBIS-EEU-89-243, 20 December 1989, p. 47.
[xi] Aboimov was a Hungarian specialist when named to the post of Warsaw Pact Secretary General in 1989 and afterwards served as Soviet/Russian ambassador to Hungary (and later, to Ukraine). Interestingly, the first professional Soviet diplomat appointed ambassador to post-revolution Romania was also a non-Romanian speaking Hungarian specialist who served with Aboimov in Budapest during the late 1970s. “New Soviet Ambassadors Profiled,” New Times (Moscow), no. 16, 1-7 May 1990, pp. 44-45 in JPRS-UIA-90-009, 5 June 1990, pp. 1-2.
[xii] Jacques Levesque, The Enigma of 1989: The USSR and the Liberation of Eastern Europe, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997, p. 133.
[xiii] Likewise, on 1 December 1989, Hungarian Prime Minster Miklos Nemeth publicly announced that “a major proportion of the armed forces is to be regrouped from the western part of the country,” which suggested, as one RFE analyst noted, “that troops will be transferred to the Romanian border.” Zoltan Barany, “Major Reorganization of Hungary’s Military Establishment,” RAD Background Report/230, RFER, 28 December 1989, p. 5, OSA, Box 37, Folder 6, Report 191. The same analyst noted that over “the last two years, Hungarians have been concerned not about potential invasion from the West but about a conflict in the southeast,” with Romania. Op. cit., p. 4.
[xiv] The partial exceptions being short-term deception during tactical operations and long-term incremental deception such as the slow concealed build-up of forces. For a detailed discussion of this see Cynthia M. Grabo, “Soviet Deception in the Czechoslovak Crisis: A Study in Perspective,” Studies in Intelligence, vol. 14, no. 1 (Spring 1970), pp. 20-21. See also Cynthia M. Grabo, Anticipating Surprise: Analysis of Strategic Warning, Washington D.C., Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, National Intelligence University, 2002, chapter 7.
[xv] Clarke (1989b), p. 3.
[xvi] See the article of Ion Ardelean in Lupta Intregului Popor (Bucharest), no. 4, 1988. The ethnic Romanian presence in Hungary diminished from an official 160,000 after the war to some 22,000 by the 1970s, with no corresponding out-migration to account for that decline.
[xvii] The article cited the observation that Romanian settlements “were left on Hungary’s territory” from a 1944 publication by American journalist Milton Lehrer, Ardealul: Pământ Românescu (Problema ardealului văzuta de un American) [Transylvania: A Romanian Land (The Problem of Transylvania as Seen by an American)], Bucharest, 1944. See also, Milton Lehrer, Transylvania: History and Reality, Silver Springs, MD, Bartelby Press, 1986. See also Clarke (1989b), p. 3.
[xviii] John Reed, The War in Eastern Europe, New York, Charles Scribner & Sons, 1916, pp. 302-308.
[xix] Szűrös interview by Ratesh in Shafir (1989a), p. 5.
[xx] Ibid.
[xxi] Ibid; Clarke (1989b), p. 7. Szűrös likewise stressed “that Romanian troops had been in Budapest twice in this century, whereas Hungarian troops had never been in Bucharest,” and that “the first time Romanian troops entered Budapest, they were helping ‘suppress’ the Hungarian Soviet Republic” of Bela Kun (an action of which Szűrös evidently disapproved). According to Szűrös, the Romanians were dangerously unpredictable in their international behavior such that “anything is possible.”  In point of fact, Hungarian military personnel belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Army had been in Bucharest along with German forces – as part of the Central Power alliance against the Entente – during the two-year occupation of most of Romania in the First World War.
[xxii] Kamm (1989); Clarke (1989b), p. 3. Gyula Horn reiterated these claims on Radio Budapest, 0645 hrs, 26 July 1989.
[xxiii] Clarke (1989b), pp. 1-6 and Devlin (1989), pp. 1-2.
[xxiv] Szűrös interview by Ratesh in Shafir (1989a), pp. 5-6; Clarke (1989b), OSA, Box 143, Folder 4, Report 53, pp. 1-6; Devlin (1989), pp. 1-2. Douglas Clarke examined each of the military threat allegations and found them baseless. Clarke (1989b), pp. 1-8. It is noteworthy that these accusations were made publicly by the leaders of reform in Hungary. Thus, they were made by persons of the highest credibility, enjoying the greatest access to senior leadership in the United States and Western Europe (i.e. Mátyás Szűrös, Gyula Horn, Imre Poszgay and Csaba Tabadji). Szűrös, Horn and Tabadji all worked in the HSWP CC International Department at the time. In the late 1990s, shortly before Hungary's NATO accession, Szűrös and Horn were forced to resign from government service because of inappropriate ties with the (presumably Soviet) intelligence services. See Zsofia Szilagyi, "Ex-Judge: Top Hungarian Socialist Leaders Were Former 'Agents'," RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 1, no. 188, part II, September 27, 1996; M.S.Z., "Hungarian Screening Panel Calls for Speaker's Resignation," RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 1, no. 164, part II,  November 20, 1997; and M.S.Z., "Hungarian Socialist Deputy Urged to Resign," RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 1, no. 168, part II, November 26, 1997
[xxv] Indeed, the only military connection was that the 1988 journal was published by the defense ministry.
[xxvi] Szűrös interview by Ratesh in Shafir (1989a), p. 5. See also the Szűrös interview by Arpad Zengo on Budapest domestic radio, 20 December 1989, 0545 hrs GMT, in FBIS-EEU-89-243, 20 December 1989, p. 47
[xxvii] King (1989), p. 3; Clarke (1989c), p. 2.
[xxviii] For Hungarian denials see Radio Budapest, 0645 hrs, 1 July 1989; General Kárpáti’s interview on Radio Budapest, 0645 hrs, 1 July 1989; Clarke (1989a), p. 8 and footnote 15; MTI (Budapest) in English, 12 June 1989. As noted, the possibility of a Hungarian-Romanian military clash was openly discussed in the international media by the beginning of 1989. Clarke (1989a), p. 2. See also Barany (1989), p. 4.
[xxix] Radio Bucharest, 14 April 1989, 9:00 P.M. See also Romania Situation Report/4, Radio Free Europe Research, 4 May 1989, item 4; Clarke (1989b), p. 3.
[xxx] Douglas Clarke, “Hungary Proposes Border Security Zones,” RAD Background Report/181, RFER, 27 September 1989c, pp. 3-4, OSA, Box 37, Folder 6, Report 146; Henry Kamm, “Hungary Cites Military Threat from Romania,” The New York Times, 11 July 1989; Socor (1989), item 4. Szűrös’s claim that Ceauşescu was engaging in nuclear “blackmail” was hardly credible given Romania’s lack of nuclear weapons. See Szűrös interview by Ratesh in Shafir (1989a), p. 5. For allegations of the Romanian nuclear “threat” in 1988 see Mátyás Szűrös in Reuter (Budapest), 15 November 1988 and Istvan Csurka in Hitel (Budapest), December 14, 1988.
[xxxi] Clarke (1989b), p. 6. Clarke noted that the frequent comments by Hungarian authorities ostentatiously insisting on downplaying or denying any Romanian threat in fact served the opposite purpose of emphasizing it, using a “of course…but then…” approach. As Clarke noted, “none of the three threats enumerated by Horn” during his July 10, July 15 and July 26 public statements were “very convincing,” nor were they any more convincing when Imre Poszgay and Csaba Tabajdi made them in mid-June, or when Mátyás Szűrös repeated them on 19 July. Clarke (1989b), pp. 5-6.
[xxxii] During the 1930s the Soviet Front Bessarabian Societies had as one of their primary missions that of persuading American and European public opinion that Romania was an “aggressive encampment” and that Soviet military intervention against it would also serve humanitarian purposes. The 1970s and 1980s campaign falsely depicting Romania as engaged in “ethnocide” and “cultural genocide” also served this purpose, although the solution advocated was international (i.e. UN or Warsaw Pact) rather than purely Hungarian intervention.
[xxxiii] King (1989), p. 7. For the Soviet military railroad in Eastern Hungary see Allgemeine Schweizerische Militärzeitschrift, September 1984, p. 483; and Österrelchische Militärische Zeitschrift, May 1984, p. 473.
[xxxiv] King (1989), p. 7.
[xxxv] As one analyst phrased it, “some Soviet troops are redeploying from Hungary’s Austrian frontier to bases near Romania, but the changes hardly seem connected with any Romanian threat, in line with the creation of a so-called ‘zone of peace’ along the Austrian border.” See e.g. Clarke (1989a), p. 8, footnote 15. Another analyst noted that the declaration of the Hungarian Prime Minister that troops would re-deploy from the Austrian border suggested “that troops will be transferred to the Romanian border,” but concluded that “it is more likely that the remark is a sign of friendship toward Austria.” Barany (1989), p. 5.  Vienna, which had long-standing and profound ties to Hungary, also had arguably better relations with Moscow and the Soviet loyalist allies than did Bucharest.