Romania and the Soviet Union 1965-1989
Among the Eastern European states which were under the sway of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Romania was quite unique. Especially during the period 1965-1989, when it was lead by a dictator under the name of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania held a special position, one that may seem paradoxical at first. Romania`s independent foreign policy which enabled it for a while to maintain friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the United States, China and most of the 3rd World all at once, made Ceausescu appear as somewhat of a maverick, at least to western eyes. One would ask therefore the question of how the Soviet Union would allow Romania to get into that position. What was the exact nature of Soviet-Romanian relations and why was Romania able to become a “maverick”? The answer is quite complex and this essay will attempt to explain it. To begin, one would have to have a brief overview of Romania’s recent history prior to Ceausescu’s ascendance, and Romania’s relative position in the geo-strategic framework of the Warsaw Pact. The internal situation in Romania, in particular the communist party’s ideology and control over the population will also have to be considered. Minorities such as the Hungarian minority in Romania and the Romanian minority in the Soviet Union have undoubtedly played a certain role in defining Romania’s relationship with the Soviets. The larger political context, including Romania’s manipulation of the Sino-Soviet split, as well as the nature of Romania’s relationship with non-socialist and socialist countries alike needs to be examined as well. And last but not least, one would have to look at Romania’s role in international espionage and the way it has used information gained through espionage as bargaining chips and to gain leverage in its relations to the superpower lurking just beyond its eastern border, the Soviet Union.
Geographical and Historical Background
Romania is a country about the size of Great Britain, which occupies the north of the Balkan Peninsula. During the Cold War, it shared a long border to the east and the north with the Soviet Union, Hungary and Yugoslavia to the west, Bulgaria to the south, and also possessed a small coastline on the Black Sea. It is a country inhabited mostly by Romanians: a people speaking a Latin language and practising a Christian Orthodox faith, and it also has (or had) quite sizeable Hungarian, German, Gypsy and Jewish minorities. During the Middle Ages, it had consisted of three principalities, which were usually contested by one of the great powers of the region: the Ottoman Turks, Hungary, Poland, and later on Russia and Austria. The modern state was founded in 1859, but several large areas inhabited by Romanians remained under foreign control: Transylvania under the Hungarians and Bessarabia under the Russians. After the end of World War One, Romania incorporated all of these territories, but the aforementioned countries still maintained a claim on those territories. A satellite of Nazi Germany until 1944, Romania was forced to concede a large portion of Transylvania to Hungary and Bessarabia back to Russia as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Transylvania was eventually recovered after the war and relations with Hungary remained tense until very recently, over territorial claims and the fate of the large Hungarian minority in the region. Bessarabia was transformed in the Soviet Republic of Moldova and also remained a point of contention and tension between Romania and the Soviet Union.
Romania switched sides in the war at the eleventh hour, in August 1944. Even though it was an ally of the Soviet Union for a while, it was treated as a hostile defeated country, and was under Soviet occupation. By 1947, the old monarchy was overthrown, and a new communist regime was to control the country until 1989. Romania’s first attempts at greater freedom from the Soviets came under the leadership of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, and resulted in the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in 1958 . From then on, Gheorghiu-Dej followed an increasingly able and independent foreign policy until his death in 1965. He was succeeded after a Byzantine power struggle within the Communist Party by a relatively young, apparently unpromising Nicolae Ceausescu. He was very short, and his only job before becoming a Communist had been an apprentice shoemaker; thus he was maliciously referred to as “the little shoemaker”. He was very ambitious and wily however and he surprised everyone with the speed with which he managed to eliminate his rivals. He seemed to be a reformer during his first few years in office. Again, appearances were misleading, as Ceausescu instituted a brutal repressive regime, and created a personality cult around himself which is quite unique in European history. His internal policies are reminiscent of George Orwell, and his economic policies were an abject failure, resulting in the Romanian population’s intense hatred of the regime. However, his foreign policy was if anything very successful. Romania, a small country of 20 million was quite independent of its giant Soviet neighbour and pursued a foreign policy which promoted its national interests in a way that most other countries behind the Iron Curtain could only dream of. It is the period when Ceausescu was leading Romania that we shall be examining, and the reasons for the success of his foreign policy, as well as indirectly the reasons for the failure of his internal policies.
Romania within the Warsaw Pact
Romania’s position in the Warsaw pact was quite different from those of other Eastern European communist countries who attempted to challenge the Soviet Union. Unlike East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which together with Poland were part of what was called the Northern Tier of the Warsaw Pact, Romania was part of the Southern Tier. Northern Tier countries, from the Soviet Perspective, were much more vital strategically in case of a war with NATO; it was expected that in the case of a war, most of the action would take place in the Northern Tier countries, which shared a border or were very close to the enemy. By contrast, Romania had a buffer of communist countries around it and was expected to play a minor role in a potential conflict. In consequence, the Soviets were more lenient to countries in the Southern Tier, as far as their independence was concerned. Romania could therefore pursue foreign policies which would have been off limits to a country such as Czechoslovakia .
This position also enabled Romania to only field an army of about 150,000 troops, relatively small by the standards of the Warsaw Pact countries, without undue pressure from the Soviet Union to contribute large numbers of troops in case of war . This was a double-edged sword however. On the one hand, this was beneficial for Romania’s economy, by reducing the military budget. On the other hand, as the Hungarian and Czechoslovak experiences have shown, the Soviets were ready to invade Warsaw Pact members which would step too much out of line. Usually they would follow a certain strategy before the invasion, by claiming western interference, emitting veiled threats, and lulling the other country in a false sense of security. This could be useful in predicting if and when a Soviet invasion would take place . Even with prior warning though, Romania’s small army could not pose much of a resistance to a potential Soviet invasion. To counter this, starting from 1962, a program to train a large army of guerrillas, formed out of civilians, was put in place. This army, called the Patriotic Guards, was expected to be composed of 700,000 guerrillas, and there were plans to increase this number to about 3 million. The idea was that in the case of an invasion, Romania was not expected to have much of a chance defending against the Soviets in a conventional war. The Romanian army was expected to provide some resistance, delaying the Soviets enough to enable the Patriotic Guards to arm themselves and occupy positions in the Carpathian Mountains and the large hilly areas surrounding them. The Romanian government was thus hoping to duplicate the Yugoslav Partisan resistance to the German invasion during the Second World War. This plan expected the invasion to come from the North and the East of the country, where the Soviet border lay, and also from the North-West (the Hungarian border) .
Due to tensions between the two countries, Hungary was certainly expected to allow Soviet troops to cross its soil at the very least, and probably to contribute troops as well. In order to secure his other borders, Ceausescu attempted to establish good relations with his other neighbours: Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Throughout the communist period, Romania and Yugoslavia maintained very good relations. At one point, the Soviet fear was that Romania, Yugoslavia and Albania might form a “Southern Alliance”, which would have been supported by China, and challenge the Soviet supremacy in the region. This did not happen, but in case of an invasion, Ceausescu could count on Yugoslavia being at worst neutral and at best a potential ally . Bulgaria was considered to be a more difficult ally to recruit, due to its traditional strong ties to Russia and the Soviets. Even so, Romanian diplomats actively worked to maintain a relationship which was to be as harmonious as possible with its southern neighbour. They expected that Bulgaria would only contribute a token force in the case of an invasion . Overall, Romania therefore was determined to create some deterrents against a Soviet invasion, by adopting a strategy which would make a potential invasion get bogged down in a lengthy affair, which ideally would have been as costly and embarrassing as possible for the Soviets. The Soviets knew this as well, and so they preferred to express their displeasure by performing large-scale military maneuvers near the Romanian border. For example, large military maneuvers were performed in 1969 before President Nixon’s visit to Romania, and again in 1971, when Ceausescu was visiting China.
Control over the population and the ideology
Another deterrent which Ceausescu and the Romanian Communist Party were counting on was the lack of a proper pretext for a Soviet invasion. Whatever Romania’s foreign policies were, the ideology of the Romanian Communist Party, as well as the government’s control over the economy and the population had to be irreproachable. The lessons drawn from Hungary in 1956 and from Czechoslovakia in 1968 had shown that the Soviets were first and foremost concerned with reforms within the local Communist party and the economy. The Romanian Communists actively pursued a policy of asserting their independence from the Soviet Union, by interpreting various works of Marx, Engels and Lenin to justify that nationalist policies were not incompatible with communism. Prominent Romanian communists would cite these works at international communist conferences, and the Romanian Communist Party’s newspaper, Scinteia, would publish thoroughly researched articles which would attempt to reconcile Soviet and traditional communist ideology with Romania’s policies.
Another important consideration was the control over the Romanian population: embarrassing episodes involving dissent publicized by Western media were especially damaging to the Romanian regime’s reputation and by extension to the entire communist world. To remove dissent from the Communist Party and the population at large, Ceausescu instituted a system of control and repression which has few parallels in world history. The Romanian internal police, the Securitate, was a huge organization, with active employees numbering in the hundreds of thousands. In addition, the Securitate employed blackmail and promises of material gains to recruit informers in every institution, club and workplace. According to Ion Pacepa, the head of the Romanian intelligence agency who defected to the US in 1978, about one in every 15 Romanians was an informer for the Securitate. Prominent communists and regular individuals alike were closely monitored using various surveillance equipment. All phone sets had to be standard and contained microphones which could be activated at will by the Securitate . All employees had to submit a hand-written autobiography which was used to get writing samples in case any compromising letters to Western propaganda media such as Radio Free Europe were intercepted. In addition, all typewriters had to be registered with the police in order to track any subversive letters or manifestos . Any talk with a foreigner, especially a westerner, by a Romanian resident, had to be reported to the police. Particularly troublesome individuals would often disappear or lose their jobs, be confined to house arrest, or be blackmailed using elements of their personal life . One’s career success largely depended on how clean one’s Securitate file was. The population was aware of most of these measures of control, and thus there was very little political dissent throughout the reign of Ceausescu, at least compared to other Eastern European communist countries.
In addition to these measures, Romania never took any measures which could be construed as attempts to reform the economy and bring it closer to a Western-style market economy. As we shall see later, Ceausescu was counting on other factors, such as rapid demographic growth, arms manufacturing and exporting, industrial espionage from the West, and economic concessions obtained through diplomatic means to boost the Romanian economy. The centrally planned economy, the very tight level of control of the population and the care which the Romanian Communist Party took to keep their official ideology acceptable to the Soviet Union, all went a long way in reassuring the Soviets that whatever Romania’s foreign policies were, it could be counted on continuing to be a socialist country which was never in any danger of abandoning the “path to communism”. Therefore, despite Romania’s rapprochement with countries such as the US, West Germany and France during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, the Soviets probably never really saw it as a credible potential ally of the West.
The Role of Minorities in Foreign Policy
As mentioned before, there were some large minorities within Romania, and a somewhat large Romanian minority in the Soviet Union: a majority in fact in the Soviet Republic of Moldova. These minorities played an important role in Romania’s foreign policy, and its relationship with the Soviet Union.
Two of these minorities: the Germans and the Jews, which each numbered around two hundred thousand, were used by Ceausescu’s government to obtain badly needed foreign capital. In exchange for letting a German or a Jew emigrate to West Germany and Israel respectively, the governments of these countries had to pay a sizeable sum, usually around $20,000 US a person to the Romanian government, most of which money ended up in Ceausescu’s private account. This policy constituted both a point of contention and of leverage with the West German and the Israeli governments, leading to an uneasily close relationship, which Ceausescu used to sometimes act as a medium between the Soviets and those two governments.
The largest of Romania’s minorities, the Hungarians, numbered almost 2 million people, most of which formed a pocket close to the middle of the country, and far from the Hungarian border. A part of Transylvania which included this pocket but also a large corridor populated mostly by Romanians, had been given to Hungary by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Though this territory was returned after the war, the issue of it and the Hungarian minority were to play the determining role between Hungary and Romania. The Romanian government feared that the Soviet Union would use this precedent to blackmail Romania if the Soviets felt that they had lost too much control. In addition, the issue of the Hungarians was seen as a counterbalance to Romanian demands for Bessarabia. As early as 1962, once the Soviet troops had withdrawn, Romania started making demands for the return of those territories which were part of the Soviet Union and were inhabited mostly by Romanians. Most, but not all of these territories, were part of the Soviet Republic of Moldova; the Soviets had given some of the Romanian territories (Northern Bukovina and the Budjak in the south) to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine, and had attached to the Republic of Moldova a strip of land east of the Dniester river, which was mostly inhabited by Russians and Ukrainians. The result was that the Republic of Moldova had a very sizeable non-Romanian minority which impeded Romanian demands for territory. Nevertheless, Romania made attempts to raise the issue, first by publishing an obscure work of Marx which condemned the annexation of Bessarabia by Russia in the 19th century . Until the early 1970s, the Romanian government pushed the issue by promoting cultural exchanges with Moldova, encouraging writers to write historical novels involving the region, and usually raising the issue as a token during diplomatic exchanges with the Soviet Union . Probably because it constituted an unnecessary tension point between the two countries, Romania gradually eased on the rhetoric of Bessarabia after that period. Though not central to the relationship between Romania and the Soviet Union during our period, the question of minorities and disputed territories was certainly important and further complicated the relationship between the two countries. Another important point to mention is that this question created a personal animosity between Brezhnev and Ceausescu as the latter ordered an investigation into Brezhnev’s post-war behaviour as first secretary of the Soviet Republic of Moldavia. Apparently Brezhnev had been a harsh overlord on the Romanian population.
The International Context
The Sino-Soviet Split
Even before Ceausescu`s ascension, Romania had made attempts to exploit the Sino-Soviet split to further its own policies. This was visible as early as 1962, when Romania`s so-called “Independence Declaration” ostensibly denounced the polemics between the Soviets and the Chinese, but also most importantly refused to take part in the Socialist division of labour . Ceausescu continued this policy, by signing a trade agreement with China in 1964, and exporting oil to China. From the Chinese perspective, Romania represented in many ways their window to the world, since the Soviets had attempted to isolate it. Romania could present the Chinese point of view at international Socialist conferences as well as in the UN. Albania, China’s other European ally, was too small and insignificant, and so the Chinese offered help to Romania whenever the latter needed it. For example, China was the largest contributor to the relief effort, after the catastrophic floods of 1970 in Romania, and it continued to support Romania financially throughout the 1960’s. China also provided moral support to Romania whenever the latter was in opposition to the Soviets, like after the 1968 Czechoslovak crisis. The increased trade with China enabled Romania to attenuate the Soviet economic pressures, thus improving its autonomy towards the Soviet Union .
This honeymoon did not last long however. China’s improving relations with the West virtually eliminated their need for an intermediary. The shift in Chinese attitudes is nowhere better expressed as in the discourses of Chou En Lai. In 1966, when Brezhnev called for greater unity and cohesion in the Socialist Bloc, Chou En Lai declared during his visit to Romania that “the Chinese people resolutely support your just struggle”. By contrast in 1971, Chou En Lai cryptically remarked that “distant waters do not quench local fires”: a statement which was generally interpreted as a sign of the weakening of the Romanian-Chinese relationship . Overall, Romania can be seen as exploiting the Sino-Soviet split during the late 1960s, in order to obtain a greater political and especially economic autonomy.
The 3rd World and Romania’s economy
Once the relationship with China had somewhat cooled off, Romania saw a need for new economic partners. The rapid industrialization of the 1950s and 60s had resulted in several huge steel and machinery plants which needed huge amounts of raw resources, such as iron ore, coal and especially oil. In addition, Romanian products were not competitive on the Western market and the Socialist market was tightly controlled by the Soviets. The answer for Romania both in obtaining raw resources and markets for its products had to be the 3rd World countries . Ceausescu thus formed very close relationships with Middle-Eastern, African and Asian countries. Arab countries in particular became some of Romania’s closest economic partners, chief among those Gadhafi’s Libya, upon which Romania quickly came to depend for its oil supply. In exchange, Romania provided machinery, technology which was often stolen from the West, as well as intelligence. According to Pacepa, Ceausescu’s fondest dream was to win a Nobel Peace Prize . He became a regular globe-trotter, visiting dozens of countries a year, signing economic agreements and attempting to act as a mediator in peace processes, most notably between Israel and Palestine. A thorough examination of Ceausescu’s foreign policies is beyond the scope of this essay. It suffices to say that building upon the economic independence enabled by the exploitation of the Sino-Soviet split, Romania had developed economic ties with a large number of countries in the whole world, and had become somewhat independent economically of the Soviet Union. This is not to say that Romania’s economy was a success story. Several catastrophes, such as the 1970 floods, the 1977 massive earthquake and a series of bad crop years in between had put pressure on the Romanian economy. The massive investments in inefficient heavy industry in the 1950s and 1960s had resulted in a large foreign debt which was a heavy drag on the economy. The 1973 and 1978 oil crises had compounded the problems which Romania already had. In addition, Romanian industrial products, just like those of the rest of the communist bloc, were inferior and produced at higher prices than western ones . Not wanting to duplicate the example of the other Socialist countries, which had borrowed even more heavily to overcome this economic crisis, Ceausescu decided instead to embark on a program of economic austerity in order to pay the debt. This goal was accomplished in 1988, with the result of terrible hardships and privations on the Romanian population . Ceausescu had achieved economic independence from the Soviets, at the price of alienating his whole population.
The Relationship with the West
Very telling in showing just how pronounced this independence was, are Romania’s relations with the West, and with the United States in particular. De Gaulle, who visited Romania in 1968, called on Bucharest to set an example of friendly cooperation with France and to work toward the “union of our continent”. Having a leader who was as influential as De Gaulle was in Moscow was an asset for Romania during the Czechoslovak crisis. When Willy Brandt, then West Germany’s foreign minister, declared after the invasion of Czechoslovakia that he could not exclude the possibility of a Soviet invasion of Romania, this could well may have served to deprive the Soviet leadership of any element of surprise or the ability to present a fait accompli to the West, in the case such a move was contemplated. Nixon’s visit to Romania in 1969, and Gerald Ford’s visit in 1975 served to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that the United States was not prepared completely to abandon Romania to the Soviet influence, and moreover, that an intervention into Romania would put very severe strains on the new Soviet-American relations of détente. By the late 1970s however, Romania was increasingly retrograde compared to other East European countries such as Poland and Hungary. During the 1980s, Ceausescu was no longer seen as a potential valuable ally, but rather as a ruthless dictator, and relations with the West grew increasingly colder .
Romania had therefore successfully walked a tightrope during the 1960s and 70s in attempting to develop an economic and political independence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. By the 1980s however, Romania had lost support from powerful allies such as China, the United States, France or West Germany. While it still maintained an economic autonomy thanks to its links in the 3rd World, the political bargaining chips which it had used to keep the Soviets from its affairs had largely vanished. The story of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 is complex and has not been satisfactorily explained to this day. It is also beyond the scope of this essay. The most plausible version is that a group of Communists took advantage of popular unrest to put into action a plan to overthrow Ceausescu. This group contained individuals which were known to have been in close contact with Moscow. Ion Iliescu, a Moscow-schooled communist and the man who would become president after the revolution, had in fact been Ceausescu’s heir apparent until 1971 . Another, Silviu Brucan, a prominent member of the post-Revolution interim government, had actually gotten in trouble with the Securitate, but he was known to be under Soviet protection . Apparently also, Gorbachev disliked Ceausescu and had expressed a desire for the latter to be removed from power. Gorbachev’s speeches on glasnost and perestroika were widely interpreted by Romanians as Soviet displeasure with Ceausescu’s tight-fisted policies . This has lead many to speculate that in the end, the Soviets may have had a hand in the downfall of Ceausescu, by supporting or at least tacitly approving of the dissident group.
The Role of Espionage
An alternative view on Romania’s foreign policies and its relationship with the Soviet Union in particular, has been offered by Ion Pacepa, who has already been mentioned, as the ex-chief of the Romanian intelligence services. He advanced the idea that Romania used its position of friendly relations with Western countries and the 3rd world, in order to conduct espionage, primarily of an industrial and technological nature. It then used the various technologies acquired at the bargain table with the Soviet Union in order to secure certain freedoms. These technologies were also used in securing economic deals with 3rd World countries. Pacepa relates how the blueprints for the construction of an engine used in German Leopard tanks as well as mobile drilling units, was used to get Libya to build an oil refinery in Romania and sell the resulting refined oil to Romania . This practice of exchanging intelligence goes back to Ceausescu’s predecessor, Gheorghiu-Dej. Apparently, according to Pacepa, even something as important as the retreat of Soviet troops from Romania in 1958, was obtained by exchanging American-developed ultra-hard alloys to be used in next-generation rockets and missiles, to the Soviets .
Ceausescu placed a very high premium on espionage in certain critical sectors, which ordinarily demanded huge amounts of capital invested in research. Chief among those were weapons, weapons systems, microelectronics, but also nuclear power, biotechnology and industrial equipment. Ceausescu dreamed of making Romania a large arms exporter, using almost exclusively technology stolen from the West . In order to acquire these technologies, the Romanian espionage service infiltrated Romanian professionals, usually engineers or scientists, in American or West European companies . Another practice involved singling out key male western employees in the midst of a mid-life crisis, use female Securitate agents to seduce them, and then blackmail them in exchange for information . Ceausescu saw espionage as a duty of Communist countries, a means to let the Imperialist countries pay for the Communist countries welfare . Last but not least, a service that Romania performed for the Soviets was handling difficult and potentially embarrassing situations with which the Soviets did not want to be associated. For example, Pacepa recounts how Imre Nagy was secretly taken to Romania, interrogated and eventually disposed of .
Although Pacepa does not explicitly mention it, he suggests that the Soviets actively encouraged or simply allowed Romania to become independent in order to allow it to have easier access to Western technology. The continuing Romanian autonomy was thus dependant upon Romania continually supplying military and economic intelligence to the Soviet Union. The apparent strained relations and the rhetoric involved were at least in part justified by the need to make Romania appear as independent as possible and thus make Romanian advances to the West more credible, and ease Romanian espionage infiltration. At one point in Pacepa’s book, Ceausescu is supposed to have exclaimed: “Do you think I like hiding when I go to Moscow to meet with Brezhnev?”  This theory finds some support in other sources. During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Ceausescu made a famous public speech in which he announced that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was a great mistake and that Romania would not cooperate in it. At this point, many Western observers expected a possible invasion of Romania. However, a western journalist surveyed the Romanian-Soviet border at this time and he found it to be extremely tranquil. There was no sign of any alert on the Romanian side, which might have been expected had the Romanian government been in the least apprehensive of a potential Soviet invasion . The lack of any activity would seem to suggest that the Romanian government was on the contrary very confident that the Soviets would not invade, which would be indicative of some sort of prior arrangement with the Soviets. Indeed, this might have been the perfect opportunity for the Soviets to promote Romania as the maverick of the Socialist bloc, and allow Romania to slide into a position where it could easily supply the Soviet Union with intelligence.
On the other hand, it is difficult to establish that this is indeed what happened. These events are relatively recent and much relevant intelligence still a matter of national security, whether to Romania, Russia or Western countries. Pacepa’s book was written in 1987 in the United States, and was more than likely reviewed by the CIA before its publication, due to the sensitive subject matter. It is very difficult to establish which information was accurate, inaccurate, propaganda or simply lies. In the author’s opinion, espionage and the exchange of information certainly played a role in Soviet-Romanian relations; however they may not necessarily have been the determining factor in them, but simply one of many.
Romania during the Ceausescu era continued a policy of pursuing autonomy from the Soviet Union, which had been started by Ceausescu’s predecessor, Gheorghiu-Dej. It accomplished this by using a variety of means, most important of which was probably using skilful diplomacy in order to achieve economic and foreign policy independence from the Soviets. A variety of deterrents were created in order to discourage the Soviets from entertaining the idea of invading Romania, if ever they decided that a change was needed in their would-be satellite. These deterrents included close relations with China and then with Western countries, the creation of a plan for massive mobilization leading to guerrilla warfare in case of invasion, tight control over the population and the ideology of the Romanian Communist Party. The question of minorities was not central to the Soviet-Romanian relationship, but served instead as another piece in the complex balancing game which occurred between the two countries. It is very possible that the Soviets accepted Romania’s autonomy because in the end they were benefiting from it as well, by way of information which the Romanians derived from industrial espionage which was much eased by Romania’s position on the international stage. While Romania’s policy of seeking autonomy was very successful in the 1960s and 1970s, by the 1980s, it proved to be a failure. Nearing the end of his “reign”, Ceausescu had lost many of his most influential allies. His foreign policies had proved insufficient to truly compensate for the weakness of the economy and his repressive policies and hardship imposed upon the Romanian population had made him extremely unpopular. With the end of the Cold War in sight, Ceausescu had lost his usefulness, both to the West and to the Soviet Union. It is quite likely that his overthrow was at the very least approved by Moscow, if not planned by it. Still, for better or for worse, the story of the Soviet-Romanian relationship during the period 1965-1989 is quite remarkable.