Dispatch: Romania's Role in Europe's Geopolitical Trends
MIN READAug 24, 2011 | 18:56 GMT
On his way to Romania, analyst Eugene Chausovsky explains Romania's important role in three different Central European geopolitical trends.
STRATFOR is currently following three major geopolitical trends in Central Europe. One country that serves as an insightful case to look into these trends is Romania, where I am traveling to next. The first trend that we are following is growing pressures on two key European institutions: the EU and NATO. The EU continues to be mired by weak economic growth as a result of the ongoing European financial crisis. Two of the leading EU economies, Germany and France, posted little to no growth in the second quarter of this year. Romania, which relies on these countries, particularly Germany, as a market for its exports, grew only 0.2 percent in the second quarter. Meanwhile, NATO has been showing early signs of devolution into regional blocs. The biggest divergence between NATO members is a camp that is willing and happy to work with the Russians and a second camp that is more concerned with a growing Russian resurgence. Romania is firmly in the latter camp as it has contentious issues with Russia over Moldova, and it is concerned over a Russian buildup in the Black Sea. The second trend that we are following is Russia taking advantage of these growing pressures on the EU and NATO. Russia has been building its relationship with major Western European countries like Italy, France and especially Germany. Moscow is using these growing relationships to leverage its position in Central Europe. For example, Russia and Germany are currently in talks for Russia to acquire energy utility companies, many of which have assets in Central Europe. Russia has also begun to purchase stakes in some of Austria's banks, which are quite active in Central Europe. These developments are of concern to Romania. The third trend is an intensifying geopolitical competition over Central Europe between the U.S. and Russia. Due to the growing relationship of Russia and some of the key Western European countries, the United States has pledged to increase its cooperation with many of the Central European states. One key aspect of this is the U.S. ballistic missile defense, or BMD, which is said to become operational by 2015, and Romania is one of the sites of such a system. However, given that the U.S. has already changed some of its BMD plans and security plans in the face of a resurgent Russia, Romani and the other central European countries are nervous that these U.S. security commitments to them are not set in stone. Therefore, Romania is directly impacted by all three developing trends in central Europe and will serve as an important bellwether of how these trends play out in the coming months and years.