joi, 17 februarie 2011

The Kingdom of Romania between the Great Powers during the First World War

This study deals with the relations between Romania and the two belligerent alliances during the First World Conflagration, especially with Entente. The Romanian state and the Romanian diplomacy attempted to adopt a certain behaviour in the international relations. Romania had to perform as an independent and appreciated actor on the international stage. Each of the two belligerent blocks, namely the Entente (France, England and Russia) and the Central Empires (Germany and Austria-Hungary) tried to obtain Romania’s support in the war in order to fulfill their own objectives.
Until the ' 70 s of the XIX - th century, France has been the traditional ally and friend of Romania. But after that, in 1871, France was defeated by Prussia. The treaty of Frankfurt signed on 10 th Mai 1871 granted the provinces of Alsacia and Lorena to Germany. This failure leaded to the isolation of France. That is why the statemen from Bucharest looked for an alliance with the new main political and military power of the Europe, Germany. France could not offer an aid to Romania during the war of independence of 1877-1878 because its policy was to preserve the integrity of the Turkish Empire.
After the treaty of Frankfurt we can see a regrouping of the Great Powers from Europe, which tried to create alliances. They were aware that they had not been able to fulfill by themselves the purposes of foreign policy. The aim of Germany was to make continuous the isolation of France. This is the reason for which it built up a system of alliances. The first was the Alliance of the three emperors, a defensive alliance promoted in 1873 by the chancellor Otto von Bismark. This alliance was made up by Germany, Austria and Russia. Then, the military block of Central Empires will be constituted. But Russia was not a member of this block. After an agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary, concluded in 1879, Italy joined this alliance three years later.
France was not able to help directly and efficaciously Romanian Kingdom. The Romanians feared Russian Empire of tsars. So, Romania searched for security and protection. In 1883, the authorities from Bucharest signed a treaty with the military block of Central Empires. The German origin of the sovereign of Romania, Carol Hohenzollern, was also important. But Romanian foreign policy did not change irremediably after this moment. There are a few evidences: financial, industrial and banking progresses due to French diplomatic representatives from Bucharest. However, the German capital remained superior to French and English capital. This situation is natural because the country had good relations with Germany.
At the end of the XIX- th century, the isolated France approached to England and to Empire of tsars. Between 1891 and 1893, France and Russia signed some agreements concerning the reciprocal military aid if Central Empires attacked one of them. In 1904, England and France constituted the so-called Cordial Entente. Three years later, Russia and England concluded an agreement dividing their spheres of interests in Asia. So, the second group of the main European powers, namely Entente was made up. The members of Entente were France, England and Russia.
The Balkanic wars caused an indirect confrontation between Entente and Central Empires. The policies of the France and Austria-Hungary were different concerning the Romanian military involvement into the second conflict, of the year 1913. At the beginning, Entente asked for neutrality but then its authorities agreed Romanian intervention in favour of Serbia and Greece. The result of this intervention was the defeat of Bulgaria. On the other hand the decision of the Romanian government was condemned by Central Empires especially by Double Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which protected the Southern neighbour of Romania. Austria-Hungary perceived the Romanian action as an offence to its power. After the peace concluded in Bucharest on 10 th August 1913, Romania became the greatest power of the region. France consented to this peace and persuaded Russia to accept it. The Bulgarians were very uncontent because of the treaty of peace signed at Bucharest. This treaty offered Southern Dobrogea to Romania and after that the relations between Bucharest and Sophia became worse and worse.
Although Romania had concluded a treaty with Central Empires, the Romanian government has never given up economic, cultural and even political relations with the countries of Entente. Entente hoped to join Romania. England and France asked that Romania should improve their relations with Russian Empire. There was an essential condition of the Romania’s entry in the alliance. On 14 th June 1914, the tsar Nicholas 2nd visited Constanţa, a proof of the diplomatic approach between Sankt Petersburg and Bucharest.
The First World War broke out on 28th July 1914. The officials from Bucharest preferred to decide the neutrality of the country on 21st July/ 3 rd August. The treaty with Central Powers was not applied. In fact this treaty stipulated casus foederis, the obligation of Romanian Kingdom to help Central Powers only if one of their members had been attacked by a third power. But Austria-Hungary commited the aggression, not Serbia.
France, England and Russia considered the neutrality of Romania a real success. After that, the both belligerent groups increased their efforts and diplomatic pressures to obtain Romania’s entry in the conflagration.
The authorities from Bucharest were aware that a permanent neutrality had been impossible. They desired national unity and the territories of Double Monarchy inhabited by Romanian population. Although Romania had declared its neutrality, the government leaded by the prime-minister Ion I. C. Brătianu negotiated with the both belligerents, Entente and Central Empires. France and England were the great powers which could help Romania to get desired territories. Central Empires did not make any promise concerning the cession of Transylvania and Bukovina. They promised only autonomy for Transylvania and a boundary rectification for the latter. During the early months of the First World War, another former ally of Central Empires, namely Italy also declared its neutrality. Romania and Italy signed an agreement concerning the keeping of the neutrality. The two countries had to announce one each other eight days before they left the neutrality. The agreement will be renew at the beginning of 1915. When we talk about the approach between Romania and Italy we have to take into account the similarity of their interests. The both states wanted territories of Austria – Hungary : Romania aimed at obtaining Transylvania, Banat and Bukovina and Italy aimed at getting Southern Tyrol, Trentin and Trieste.
In 1914, 1915 and at the beginning of 1916 there was a real diplomatic competition between the two belligerent blocks. England, France and Russia wanted to attract the neutral countries, the former allies of Germany: Romania, Italy and Bulgaria. Entente used the principle divide et impera to weaken the rival group of powers.
Entente and Central Empires as well had military, strategic,economic, material and demographic reasons to attract Romania. The military effort of Entente would have been reduced. The enemy would have moved important troops from the Western front to the East. France was the state of Entente that desired the most the Romanian co-operation. France and Romania had territorial aspirations, the first concerning Alsacia and Lorena, the latter concerning Transylvania, Banat and Bukovina.
If France represented a great power, the most important international actor of the Entente, its decisions being often adopted by the whole alliance, Romania was considered by the two great groups of rival powers as a pawn in their unforeseeable and complicated vested interests. The points of view of France and England were almost the same relating to necessity of Romanian intervention. This was indispensable to strengthen the alliance. However, Russia sought to fulfill its own expansionist objectives and to subordinate Romanian intervention to its purposes. France and England, on one hand, and Russia on the other hand had cross purpose.
France and Russia wanted to obtain the support of all neutral states from South-Eastern Europe and Balkans: Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. The diplomacy of Entente tried to persuade the cabinets from Bucharest and Sophia that they should make war against Double Monarchy and Germany. France and Russia attempted to create a block of Balkanic states under the control and authority of Entente. Romania, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria were the countries which had to constitute the Balkanic alliance. This alliance would have been an important blow for the interests of Central Empires especially if we think of the strategic importance of the zone. In fact there was a challenge for London, Paris and Petrograd. But in order to guarantee the success of block of Balkanic countries, every government had to make a few territorial concessions in favour of its neighbours. For instance, Romanian Kingdom had to improve its relations with Bulgaria. But the condition of a modus vivendi between of the authorities of the two countries was the cession of Cadrilater ( Southern Dobrogea) to Sophia. Bulgaria worked out to revise the treaty of 1913, unjust from its point of view. On the other hand there were misunderstandings concerning Macedonia that separated Bulgaria and Serbia, and also Greece and Bulgaria. The diplomatic representative of Romanian government in Paris, Alexandru Emil Lahovary proposed a classic way to maintain the balance of powers in the Balkanic region: the granting of territorial compensations. Thus, Romania had to give up Cadrilater, Greece had to offer Cavalla to Bulgarians and Serbia was to give up a part of Macedonia. In exchange, Romania would receive Transylvania, Greece would obtain the biggest part of Epir and Serbia would receive Bosnia and Herţegovina. Neither Romania, nor Greece and Serbia agreed the concessions in favour of Bulgaria. Despite the diplomatic efforts of Entente, the plan for resurrection of the block of Balkanic states failed. It is obvious that national interests of every power prevailed over the collective aims and objectives. The national interest was more important than the interests of the sub-system, the Balkans and than the interests of the system, Entente. The government from Bucharest did not want to be the only one who made territorial concessions.
Romania has always tried to preserve the freedom of the actions concerning its relations with Entente and with Central Empires and Balkanic countries as well. Romania adopted this policy because King Ferdinand I and his government aimed at establishing the priorities of foreign policy without any interference of Great Powers. In exchange, Romania had to abandon its neutrality and enter the war against Austria – Hungary. A political and military agreement in this respect was to be drawn up. The territories desired by Romania were Transylvania, Maramureş, Banat and Bukovina (as far as the river Pruth).
The Romanian authorities adopted a similar policy in the problem of guarantees referring to future frontiers of Romanian Kingdom. There were many contradictions between the opposite points of view of Romanians and Russians on this issue. France successfuly played the role of mediator. Finaly, Russia had to acknowledge the territorial rights of Romanians.
During their negotiations with Romanian government, Central Empires have never promised to offer Basarabia.We can wander what happened if they did. Probably, the government from Bucharest would decline the offering because they considered Transylvania much more important. This province was richer and had an intense economic and cultural life. There was a powerful Romanian elite. Basarabia, the region between Pruth and Nistru, taken by force from Romania in 1812, constituted one of the reasons of misunderstanding between Russia and Romania. The Congress from Paris of 1856 decided to give to Romania the south of Basarabia (the districts of Bolgrad, Cahul and Ismail). The protectorate of Russia, ( inaugurated by the Convention from Akerman of 1826 and strengthened by the treaty from Adrianopole of 1829) was also replaced by the collective protectorate of the seven European powers. After the Congress from Berlin of 1878, Basarabia was again completely under tsarist rule. In 1878, Russian troops tried to occupy parts of the Romanian territory. The moment of Romanian intervention was delayed because of the aversion and mistrust for the Russians. During the XIX-th century, at the beginning of XX-th century and during the First World War, Russia assumed the authority of protector of all ortodox peoples from Balkans but it only wished to conceal its expansionist tendencies. The objectives of Empire of tsars was the domination over Straits Bosfor and Dardanele and over the city of Constantinopole. Romania had to prevent the Russian march to the Straits and to defend its interests.There was a rumour concerning an agreement between England and Russia on this subject. Then Romanian government found out that only the Northern part of Bosfor had been promised to Russia while Constantinopole would become neutral. Russian purposes of war represented a real threat for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Romanian state. This is the reason for which at the end of 1915, the royal government of Romania refused to allow Russian troops to cross its territory. They were to go to offer a military aid to Serbia.
The Romanian government tried as much as possible to keep the secret on the negotiations with Entente. It desired to remove the suspicions of the rival group of powers. That is why Romania decided to conclude a trade agreement with Germany.
Entente and Romania perceived differently the necessity of military involvement of the latter. Entente needed Romanian aid to improve its situation on the front. On the other hand, Romanian army was not prepared to fight for a long timeand needed war materials and supplies. This is one of the reasons for which Romanian authorities delayed the moment of military intervention. Romania did not enter the war in Mai 1915, when Italy signed the protocol of London and became a member of Entente. The Romanian authorities tactfully negotiated the details of political convention and military convention with Entente. Entente acknowledged territorial Romanian rights.
The Romanian government insisted that Political Convention concluded with Entente should stipulate the obligation for Romania and for the powers of Entente to make general or separate peace only together and the same time. Romania also received the equality in rights with the Great Powers at the general Conference of peace. But despite these commitments, just before the conclusion of the alliance between Romania and Entente, Russia managed to obtain France’s agreement relating to a new analysis of the promises. The Great Powers did not desire to take into account and to respect the interests and the aims of small states.
Entente did not repect a few of the obligations it assumed and Romania’s situation became very difficult at the end of 1916.Wanting to preserve the independance of its decisions in the relations with the Great Powers during the First World War, the Romanian government refused the Russian proposal concerning the reorganization of the Romanian army in the Southern Russia at the beginning of 1917. The Romanian statemen rejected any tendency of the Russians who wished to impose their point of view and to subordinate royal army.
The king and the Romanian government did their best to continue the fight against Central Powers at the end of 1917 and at the beginning of 1918 but the exterior events made impossible any resistance. These events were the conclusion of the armistice and the peace of Brest – Litovsk by Soviet Russia and the invasion of Ukraine by the troops of Central Empires. Ukraine had been a buffer – zone for Romanian state. The continuation of the military resistance meaned an act of suicide. However, France, England, Italy and United States of America insisted for the keeping of belligerence. The peace of Buftea – Bucharest concluded with Central Powers offered to Allies the pretext to give up their commitments. It is true that Romania did not respect the article concerning the separate peace, but the Great Powers did not take into consideration the critical situation of the country, without offering extenuating circumstances.
But on 10th November 1918, Romania re-entered the conflagration. Thus, it was a winner state and consequently its national and territorial rights were guaranteed as Entente promised in August 1916.


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Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Français, Série Guerre, Sous – Série Roumanie
Arhivele Naţionale ale României Fond Diamandi.

A.M. A. E. F. – Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Français
A. N. R. – Arhivele Naţionale ale României