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Michele Famis, French Ambassador to Romania
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Missile shield consensus shows chronic foreign policy indifference

The installation of 24 American anti-ballistic missiles on Romanian soil in the next five years was greeted by the country with a shrug

March 2010 - From the Print Edition

While in The Netherlands a disagreement between coalition parties over when the country should pull troops out of Afghanistan splits apart a Government, in Romania a similar dilemma unites the opposition and the parties in power.
The bitterly divided political movements in Romania have all agreed to host a US shield – indicating that politicians in this country disagree on every issue except defence and foreign policy.
The country has seen no public protest and few commentators making an informed case against the proposal. Prime Minister Emil Boc gave the most emotive account of why the country should support the shield. He stated that, after 65 years, the USA had finally arrived to defend Romania. Although many Romanians welcomed these comments, they were surprised to suddenly find themselves under attack.
There is no real debate over whether the installation of this system increases the security of Romania, instead society seems to swallow the line given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this missile shield makes Romania safer. And the reason? This is a large American weapon pointed in the right direction.
There is no public poll or consultation, nor is there a demand for a referendum - other than from ex-President Ion Iliescu. In Poland and the Czech Republic there was an active and popular campaign against the Bush proposal for a missile shield and a radar in their countries. Here there is silence.
Maybe even the USA is shocked at the ease at which the Romanian public has accepted the prospect of their country giving its land to Americans to launch missiles against potential nuclear weapons.
One problem was that, in general, the media did not report this news as an issue with pros and cons, but as a fait accompli.
It only lasted one news cycle and was replaced by wall-to-wall coverage on the opposition Social Democratic Party elections for its president.
To debate whether there is a threat to Romania from Iran requires media friendly experts in Arabic affairs who speak Farsi and Romanian, NGOs who can elaborate the allegations of human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic, physicists on the potential nuclear threat and strategists on how this issue relates to Israel, Turkey and the Balkans. Romanian TV stations cannot afford to send correspondents to the Middle East or monitor Iranian media - therefore they give up - and broadcast ten more hours of fat old men talking about other fat old men in the Social Democratic Party.
Romanians love to argue, they are great explorers and have exceptional language skills, and they will give an opinion on every tiny policy change taken by their leadership - from magistrates’ pensions to the Minister of Regional Development and Tourism’s choice of skiing boots. But on foreign affairs they are reluctant to make a judgement. What is most frightening about the readiness with which this missile shield looks set to pass through Parliament is that the Romanian Government seems able to lead its people into any foreign policy decision it wants.
That is not to say that post-1989 Government have made bad calls on international affairs. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which Romania supported, could be defensible. The installation of the new anti-ballistic missile shield in Romania has many merits. But who will be there, inside Romania, to tell the leadership when it does make a wrong decision? Where will public protests be when they are needed?
Romania is owed an informed debate on every aspect of this issue because, over the next five years, this is the foreign policy initiative likely to define Romania in the global consciousness.



COMMENTS
There is 1 comment:

kamadeva: on 2010-03-02 18:43:04
whilst i agree there should be a debate on this, why would ordinary people protest if no social group of any kind voiced concerns to rally them.sheep need leading.


 
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