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Romania Security Policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Romania Security Policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis
Romania Security Policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis


CWIHP e-Dossier No. 38


Translated into English for the first time, the following ten documents have appeared in publications sponsored by the Romanian Academy of Sciences, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Romanian National Archives. In all but two cases, the documents were discovered by individuals directly involved with the incidents or present at the meetings whose transcripts are herein reproduced – the Romanian-Chinese discussions by Romulus Ioan Budura, who served at the time of the crisis at the foreign ministry in Bucharest and later became Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China [Documents 1, 3, 4, 6, 9], and Vasile Buga, a diplomat and Soviet specialist often involved in Soviet-Romanian discussions and who later served for many years in the Romanian Embassy in Moscow [Documents 5, 7, 8]. One of the two remaining documents appears in its original German-language version on the website of the Parallel History Project on Security Cooperation [Document 10]. The last is an excerpt regarding the crisis from an interview with Romania’s foreign minister at the time, which has previously appeared in Romanian [Document 2]. 

Romania played almost no role whatsoever in the Cuban missile crisis. Yet that crisis was critical in reorienting Romanian foreign and security policies in a manner that caused significant shifts in the nature of the Cold War regionally and globally – for example, as attested by its subsequent campaign for nuclear disarmament and confidence-building measures within the Warsaw Pact, and its central role in the Sino-American rapprochement and in the mediation of Egyptian-Israeli relations. Indeed, the Cuban missile crisis constituted one of the turning points that determined the character of Romanian independent policy for the rest of the Cold War.

 Bucharest’s early independent initiatives were poorly understood in Washington during the first half of the 1950s and for almost a decade thereafter.[i] Initially, such initiatives were dismissed, ignored or assimilated into prevailing paradigms dominated by a cognitive bias dating from the 1940s that Romania was the “least able” or likely to challenge Soviet domination.[ii] It was not until 1963 that the ostentatious nature of that defiance finally (if only temporarily) overrode US intelligence doubts.[iii] Given the hesitation and delay with which Romanian policy reorientation was recognized in the US, a decade after its first manifestations, it is hardly surprising that the even more consequential transformation following the Cuban Missile, during 1963 especially, also escaped notice by the US intelligence and academic communities. Within a year of that crisis Romanian policy experienced a tectonic shift from the mere reassertion of national control over institutions and policies to the containment of Soviet military might regionally and globally.[iv]

A Troubled Relationship: 1954-1961


Within 48 hours of Stalin’s death, on 5 March 1953, Romania leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej told the Politburo of the Romanian Worker’s Party Central Committee that the Soviet advisors who ran the economy “must hand over the functions they have held up to this point to representatives of our own country.”[v] Concurrently, he lobbied Moscow insistently for the closure of the Soviet-Romanian joint ventures (SOVROMs), describing them as purely exploitive and “no better” than capitalist institutions, an opinion which had gotten him into serious trouble in 1947.[vi] [Documents 4, 5] As Khrushchev rightly observed, “for Romanians, ‘SOVROM’ was a curse word.”[vii]

By the end of 1953, Gheorghiu Dej had approached the (extremely skeptical) West offering to settle outstanding claims with the United States, having more success with Great Britain a year later.[viii] Gheorghiu-Dej adopted a rather more direct approach at the November 1955 Yugoslav national day celebration in Bucharest, where he “stressed to American minister [Robert] Thayer the need to build up close cultural and economic relations between Romania and the United States” and “promised Romanian cooperation in removing the retaliatory measures which have been set up in the past.”[ix] The strength of the cognitive bias existing within the US intelligence community was such that, when not dismissed outright, these Romanian outreach efforts continued to be assimilated into current interpretational paradigms, making Washington very slow to respond.[x]

These biases were intentionally exploited – and reinforced – by targeted Soviet disinformation. For example, within two months of Gheorghiu-Dej’s extraordinary approach to Minister Thayer, the US legation in Bucharest received intelligence that the entire Romanian approach was part of an elaborate Soviet plan to subvert the West, with Bucharest acting as Moscow’s Trojan horse.[xi] As formulated by the US attaché reporting it, any increase in the reputation or “prestige” of Romania in the West actually served interests noxious to the US.

Interestingly, the Soviet Ambassador to Romania at the time, General A. A. Epishev, had been the deputy chairman of the Soviet security apparatus prior to his appointment to Bucharest.[xii] Moreover, after a career having nothing to do with diplomacy, Yepishev had been hurriedly assigned to the top diplomatic post in Bucharest immediately followed Gheorghiu-Dej’s first request in August 1955 for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Evaluating the information on Romania’s role in the Soviet conspiracy to undermine the West as an intelligence “coup,” Thayer advised Washington not to respond to Bucharest’s outreach by concluding any economic arrangements with it during the rest of his tenure.[xiii]

In consequence, Romanian actions were regularly discounted in US intelligence assessments by questioning their motivation and intent. For example, a US National Intelligence Estimate of February 1958 acknowledged that:

Since the Hungarian revolt, the Romanian regime has in some ways gone farther than the other orthodox satellites in the general direction of post-Stalin reform. It appears, for example, to be making sizeable efforts to improve living standards and to increase trade with the West. Further, Romania’s relations with Yugoslavia have consistently been better than those of other orthodox satellites and it has renewed its pre-Hungary campaign to improve relations with the US.[xiv]

Despite this, the same Estimate then continued by asserting that:

These developments have prompted some optimistic Yugoslav and Polish observers to suggest that Rumania is gradually attempting on its own initiative to move toward autonomy. We believe that the factors cited here can be explained more satisfactorily in other terms… that if, in fact, the Rumanian regime is to gain notably greater autonomy, this would be accomplished slowly and cautiously and under Moscow’s auspices.[xv]

Although a shift in perception regarding Romania was clearly evident in the US State Department at the end of the 1950s and start of the 1960s, it was not until the arrival of William Crawford as US Minister at the beginning of 1962 that Washington began engaging closely with Bucharest.[xvi] Appointed by President John F. Kennedy, Crawford had previously served as head of Sino-Soviet assessment and Director of Research and Analysis for the US State Department (1955-1961). This was an all-encompassing analytical body that was subsequently divvied up after Crawford’s departure, with most of it transferred to the CIA and the rest remaining with the State Department. Crawford, as one of the US government’s top experts on the communist world at the time of his appointment to the US Legation in Bucharest, was thus uniquely qualified to judge Romanian developments within the Bloc-wide context.[xvii]

Describing the impact of cognitive biases formed at the end of World War II and during the Stalinist period, Crawford noted that the greatest obstacles to US-Romanian communication and cooperation arose from the US side rather than from the Romanians.[xviii] As Crawford explained:

It’s awfully easy back in the Department to recall the situation in a country as it was when you were there, and especially in the case of a Communist country where things usually move very slowly, and are unlikely to change much. If you had served in Romania, for example, in the mid-fifties in the climate of the deep freeze, you’d find it extremely hard to imagine that any significant changes could be really occurring.[xix]

Rough Passage and the Moscow Surprise: 23-24 October


On 8 October 1962 the most senior Romanian leadership – Party Secretary General Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Prime Minister (and foreign policy guru) Ion Gheorghe Maurer, former Prime Minister Chivu Stoica, Deputy Prime Minister (and military and security guru) Emil Bodnăraş, and Foreign Minister Corneliu Mănescu – set off on a two-week visit to Indonesia, Burma and India. Romanian leaders were obliged to travel with Soviet planes and crews since World War II, when the USSR not only confiscated all Romanian aircraft but also prohibited vanquished Romania from acquiring or producing aircraft, except what Moscow had deemed necessary for its military.[xx]

Bucharest had been prompted to start preparing an independent air transport capability after July 1957, when the Soviet aircraft carrying Romanian leaders – minus Gheorghiu-Dej, who had withdrawn from the flight at the last moment – crashed on landing at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, killing one member of the delegation and injuring several others, including Nicolae Ceauşescu.[xxi] Although there was no overt political backlash following the crash, few in the RCP leadership believed it to be completely accidental.[xxii] As of October 1962, however, Soviet crews and equipment were still responsible for transporting Romanian leaders during international excursions.

This created a serious problem when Soviet authorities requested approval on 21 October 1962 for the party to overfly Chinese territory from India in order to briefly visit Moscow on their return a day later. [Document 1] On the one hand, the request was made only 24 hours before the flight was to take place. On the other, China and India were then engaged in hostile military operations, including air operations, against one another, making the passage risky even if given escort (given the difficulties of arranging a secure corridor on such short notice).

Romanian authorities immediately checked with the Chinese Embassy in Bucharest which, although willing to grant political approval specified that they could not give technical approval because of the military conflict and the presence of Indian military aircraft in the area.[xxiii] Aboard the aircraft, the Soviet crew chief overrode Gheorghiu-Dej’s instruction to return to Delhi against spirited Romanian protest and proceeded with the flight.[xxiv] [Document 2] Apparently, after a number of frantic, last-minute exchanges, Beijing did extend its approval along a specific route at a specific altitude. [Documents 1, 2]

Interestingly, Soviet authorities at the delegation’s first port of call in the USSR deliberately misled the Romanians into believing that the Chinese had never approved the over-flight. Although possibly intended to drive a wedge between Bucharest and Beijing, and while it was believed by the delegation members, that bit of Soviet disinformation had the unintended consequence of fully persuading the Romanian leadership that the Kremlin had orchestrated the incident in order to achieve their physical elimination. After arriving back in Bucharest, Gheorghiu-Dej bitterly remarked that the incident was “just what Khrushchev needed to show the world that he was in the right regarding China; my corpse.”[xxv] [Document 2]

 The passengers on what would prove to be the last flight that any Romanian Communist leader boarded with a Soviet crew thus arrived in Moscow deeply shaken by what they perceived as a purposeful attempt on their lives. Their suspicions seemed to be partially confirmed because of Khrushchev’s completely out-of-character apologetic efforts to explain the scandal created by his placement of missiles in Cuba, without admitting that he had done so or that he had lied to the Romanians about it. Gheorghiu-Dej took the opportunity to castigate Khrushchev indirectly by pretending to continue to believe earlier Soviet negations and characterizing such international media allegations of missile deployments in Cuba as completely crazy. [Document 2]

In subsequent meetings Khrushchev repeatedly apologized to the Romanian leadership, even while employing other prevarications, for example, by defending the necessity of secrecy and stating that neither all of his Politburo nor any of the other Pact members had been informed (a stance he later contradicted).[xxvi] [Document 5] Khrushchev admitted in further attempts to excuse his failure to notify Bucharest that he had told Ulbricht, Gomułka, Novotny and Husak beforehand (even if their diplomatic representatives in Havana remained as much in the dark as their Romanian colleagues.)[xxvii] [Document 8]

Along with the conviction with which the Romanian delegation left Moscow on 24 October 1962 – that Khrushchev was trying to kill them and that he was provoking a war into which Romania would be drawn unawares, and possibly a nuclear one at that – Bucharest had two very major problems. First, Khrushchev had informed them that in the light of President Kennedy’s ultimatum and announcement of the blockade, Moscow felt it necessary to order the Soviet Army and those of the Warsaw Pact member states to undertake preparations to increase readiness for a possible US military action.[xxviii] The Romanian Party and state leadership, accessible by radio – that of the Soviet air crew – during its entire two-week tour, had not been consulted regarding those preparations nor even informed of the instructions issued by Soviet military leaders to the Romanian general staff to place the Romanian Armed Forces on alert.[xxix] [Document 7]

This skirting of the national party leadership in order to directly command the national armies of its erstwhile allies had been the practice and evident intention of Moscow ever since it created the Warsaw Pact.[xxx] Moreover, Soviet authorities had committed virtually the same transgression during the Berlin Crisis in 1961, directly ordering the army on alert without consulting the Romanian leadership. That action had prompted Bucharest to end the practice of sending its senior military (and intelligence) officers to Soviet academies for “training” that same year.[xxxi]

Romanian officials would make bitter reference to this Soviet tendency to avoid any consultation, especially but not only regarding Cuba, in discussions with Soviet leaders, at meetings of Romanian Communist Party members and in conversation with the Chinese and Americans throughout the rest of the 1960s. [Documents 2, 4, 6, 7, 9] For example, Romanian leaders underscored to their counterparts in the PRC over the next few years that, despite their direct interest in the problem, Bucharest was simply not consulted “regarding the placement of missiles in Cuba.” [Documents 4, 9] Likewise, Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Mauer explained to Romanian party activists that the Soviet missiles were placed in Cuba without Romania’s knowledge while the Soviet command of the Warsaw Pact had ordered the Romanian Armed Forces “placed in a state of alert”:

There is an article 3 in the Warsaw Treaty text binding all signatory countries to mutual consultation regarding important international political issues. I ask you, would not these problems require such consultation? Or at least, would not the order to place member state armies on alert status require prior consultation? …The orders were given, the actions implemented, and no one consulted. At least, we were not.[xxxii]

As US Ambassador Crawford later recalled, in expressing the Romanian perspective Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej used the illustration of “a contest between two big bulls on which they hadn’t been consulted and in which they had no desire to become involved”:

In our subsequent discussions with high Romanian officials it became clearer than ever that they had not been taken into the confidence of the Russians nor been given any inkling of their plans to install missiles in Cuba. They had soon recognized that they were merely pawns in a Soviet power play, if you will. I think this rude awakening greatly strengthened the nationalist tendency they were already manifesting, and as they thought back upon it, they grew increasingly determined not to get themselves involved in this kind of a situation again if they possibly could.

… [T]hey had not been consulted and probably believed the Russian claims when first made about no missile emplacements in Cuba. When they found that the Russians were playing a nasty game with their own destiny, I think they felt betrayed: first, by not being privy to their confidence, and second, by seeing the Russians acting so irresponsibly in risking the fate of the whole world, including Romania.[xxxiii]

Henceforth, Romania would redouble its efforts to exclude any inappropriate contacts between its senior military leadership and Soviet officers. That effort would include the creation of legal and constitutional barriers to any assertion of command over its armed forces by foreign or foreign-controlled domestic entities. Subsequently, Bucharest allowed no Warsaw Pact troop exercises on its territory.

The Strange Case of the Tanker “Bucharest”: 25 October


The second major problem had to do with an event that occurred the day after the Romanian delegation returned home from the discussions in Moscow; an event which set Khrushchev’s surprising mea culpa in a very cynical light indeed. Bucharest was deeply offended that Moscow lied regarding its deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and seriously concerned about its possible implications, both of which confirmed their own biases regarding Soviet behavior locally and globally. Romanian leaders were also extremely unhappy with this new demonstration of Soviet ability to command the Romanian military behind its back, especially after having so vigorously protested a similar demonstration the year before.

But what most horrified Gheorghiu-Dej and his colleagues on their arrival back in Bucharest was Moscow’s apparent decision to try to break through the US blockade with a ship clearly meant to imply Romanian involvement in Khrushchev’s “adventure.”[xxxiv] Given what had transpired first with the Soviet crew regarding the over-flight of Chinese territory and then with Khrushchev’s half-hearted admissions in Moscow, the discovery on their return to the Romanian capital that the very first ship that the Kremlin sent to challenge the US blockade was named the “Bucharest” left many in the capital for which it was named believing that the USSR sought to make them the target of a US nuclear strike.[xxxv]

In the absence of Soviet documentation regarding Kremlin motivations for choosing the “Bucharest” (which had supposedly set sail for Cuba from the Black Sea) one can only speculate on the reasoning behind it. It is apparent, however, that Moscow desired to place the US “off-side” should it act forcefully by providing it with targets unconnected with the missile deployments, and which suggested broader multinational (or at least Warsaw Pact) support for his actions in the Caribbean. Confirmation of this came a few hours after the Bucharest was allowed to pass through the quarantine line, when it was followed by the East German passenger liner Völker Freundschaft (People’s Friendship), carrying East German students and Czechoslovak technicians.

Further confirmation, at least in Romanian leadership opinion, was provided in the persistent mention of the Soviet tanker Bucharest by name on Romanian-language Radio Moscow broadcasts during the 25th and 26th of October.[xxxvi] That the top party and state leadership had been cut off from most of this drama during their travels only reinforced these suspicions. Indeed, given their frosty relationship with Moscow since 1958 especially, Romanian leaders found it impossible to believe that the string of Soviet-inspired decisions and events that led to their being among the least informed of the crisis within the Bloc and yet the most publicly implicated in it (after the USSR) could be purely coincidental. As Khrushchev later admitted, he had informed Polish, Bulgarian, Czechoslovak and East German leaders of the deployments, and he had requested those party leaders to place their armies on alert – rather than issuing Soviet orders directly to their military commanders as he did in the Romanian case.[xxxvii] [Document 7] Romania was in fact the only Soviet ally with a blue water navy (merchant marine) that had not been informed of the missile deployments before they became public.

While it does not appear that Washington was ever misled into associating Romania with the Soviet tanker despite its name, the Bucharest did indeed come close to becoming the first test of the blockade and the center of the first intentional US-Soviet shooting incident in the Cold War. In the morning of 25 October, as the CIA reported that fourteen Soviet ships had reversed course, eight continued onwards (five tankers and three dry cargo ships) but were still a distance from the quarantine line; one vessel, the Soviet tanker Bucharest, had reached that line and was being challenged by the US aircraft carrier Essex.[xxxviii] To JFK’s question as to the implications of letting Bucharest through the line (especially regarding the impression it would create in the Kremlin), Robert McNamara chose to respond by underscoring that its main impact would be that of “avoiding a shooting incident over a ship that appears to the public to be an obvious example of a ship not carrying prohibited weapons.”[xxxix]

Facing the possibility of provoking a violent reaction from Khrushchev or losing the stare-down with the USSR and thereby undermining US credibility, as well as a potential public relations disaster, Kennedy and the members of his administration went round and round on what to do about the Soviet tanker. Initially, the main debates were whether or not to board the Bucharest; on whether to board her right-away, just before she reached Havana, or on her return; and on how to immobilize her.[xl] However, any decision regarding the obviously non-missile-bearing vessel became highly controversial and much less attractive once the chief of naval operations outlined his plan to stop the ship by using “a shot to the rudder.”[xli] The Bucharest subsequently dropped out of the discussion of possible test cases in favor of either a Soviet ship actually carrying missile components (none of which ever approached the quarantine line) or a vessel from a non-Soviet bloc country (the Lebanese freighter Marcula was boarded later that day).

Romanian Reaction: Taking “Deviance” in a Whole New Direction


After recovering from their initial horror, the Romanian leadership set about developing approaches to encumber the USSR from capricious use of its military power in ways that might provoke war, especially of the nuclear variety, into which Romania might be drawn. [Document 2] Over the next year, the authorities in Romania created a set of mutually complementary policies designed to constrain the exercise of Soviet military power – at least when directly implicating the other Warsaw Pact members. The first plank in this policy was the identification of mediation and negotiation as the only legitimate way of resolving international tensions and as Romania’s “sacred obligation” (and the obligation of all states, including those of small and medium-size).[xlii] Although Bucharest had been involved in mediations since the mid-1950s this was the first time it was announced as Romanian policy.[xliii] [Document 3]

Clearly, the obligatory consultations stipulated in the Warsaw Pact had proven themselves insufficient. Repeated Soviet failure to consult with its allies on important policy issues now became a constant complaint of Bucharest – both within the alliance and outside of it – throughout the rest of the Cold War.[xliv] [Documents 2, 3, 4, 6, 7] As partial remedy, the RCP leadership now sought to reform the Warsaw Pact into a genuinely egalitarian coalition.[xlv] Up to that point Bucharest had been battling Soviet efforts to give the Pact a supra-state character or to expand it from a purely defensive alliance against military aggression in Europe into an instrument of Soviet power projection.

Thus, Romania was responsible (rather than Poland, as is sometimes stated) for blocking Mongolia’s admission into the alliance – sponsored by the USSR – in July 1963.[xlvi] [Document 6] Although Bucharest circulated its objections to Mongolia’s admission in letters sent to all the other Pact members several days before, not one of them supported the Romanian position at the summit meeting.[xlvii] Moscow quickly withdrew its support for Mongolian admission in the face of Romania’s singular opposition.[xlviii] During marathon discussions with the Romanian leaders in July 1964, then-head of the CPSU CC Department for Liaison with Ruling Socialist Parties, Yuri Andropov, acknowledged that Romanian opposition persuaded Moscow to drop its proposal for Mongolian admission a year earlier. [Document 7]

Although implied in the original treaty, Moscow began seeking to create a permanent organ that would grant it centralized control over the foreign contacts and policies of its lesser allies only at the beginning of the 1960s. Romania saw this as a revivification of the Comintern and, in April 1964, expressed quite clearly that it would have nothing to do with such a project.[xlix] [Documents 4, 7, 8, 9] Despite supportive murmurings from second tier leaderships elsewhere, within Warsaw Pact councils all of the other Bloc leaders consistently lined up with the USSR against Romania on this point.[l]

 From 1962 until sometime in the second half of the 1960s Romanian advocacy of Warsaw Pact reform was accompanied by efforts to assert an Eastern European voice over Soviet nuclear policy in order to encumber Soviet capriciousness in the deployment (and employment) of its missiles that might result in nuclear war. Explicitly referring to the precedent set in the North Atlantic alliance, Bucharest advocated a “two-key arrangement” of the sort that NATO employed, whereby US nuclear weapons deployed on the territory of another NATO member could not be fired without their approval, as part of this reform.[li] As explained to The New York Times by a Romanian diplomat in May 1966, his country sought “to avoid a situation like the Cuban crisis of 1962 in which foreign missiles could be fired from our territory without our consent.”[lii]

Given the unlikelihood that Moscow would relinquish sole control over its weapons under any circumstances, much less a crisis or combat situation, Bucharest also developed policies to change the environment in which Soviet security policy was made. First announced by Prime Minister Maurer in the journal of the socialist community in November 1963, it was reaffirmed in what has become known as Romania’s “declaration of independence” (actually a statement against Sino-Soviet polemics) in April 1964.[liii] [Document 3] Eventually, Bucharest named this policy “military disengagement and disarmament.” That policy was formally announced by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej at the alliance’s January 1965 summit meeting.[liv] In response to Soviet calls for a military build-up to answer escalation in the US and NATO, and in particular to the Multilateral Nuclear Force (MNF) initiative that would station nuclear missiles in West Germany for the first time, the Romanian leader counter-proposed a policy of disarmament, including unilateral reductions.[lv]

Henceforth, Romania would clash with the Soviet Union, and with all the other Pact members that followed the Moscow line, whenever Soviet leaders called for strengthening the alliance, increasing the military effort, and engaging in military competition with the US and NATO.[lvi] As one analyst has noted, the January 1965 summit was a “turning point in the Eastern alliance” because Romania institutionalized its role as “serious obstacle to any coordination of policy.”[lvii]  Bucharest did not do this because it was mindlessly obstructionist or (merely) anti-Soviet. It did so because of a specific policy agenda against military build-up, escalation or competition with the US and NATO; one that had been set in motion in significant part by the Cuban missile crisis and reflected Romania desire to avoid being drawn into a war of Soviet making.

The fundamental lack of trust between the two sides is well-reflected in the repeated Soviet expressions of concern that Romania might leave the Warsaw Pact; the constant battle over the creation of supra-state organs within the Warsaw Pact – repeatedly blocked by Bucharest; and Romania’s relentless campaign to remove Soviet espionage networks from Romania (and the rest of the bloc), whose existence was first admitted by Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership in 1962 and then denied by that same leadership in 1964. [Documents 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] In regard to this latter contest, senior officers of other bloc state security services confirm that the Romanian-Soviet and Romanian-Warsaw Pact intelligence cooperation began breaking down in 1962 and became essentially non-existent by the end of that decade.[lviii] As Podgorny underscored in their 11 July 1964 session:

Abnormal phenomena began appearing in Romania even from the end of 1962. This has been manifest in the first place through the limitation of contacts with Soviet institutions in Romania, something that was certainly observed by us. … Beginning in 1963, the Romanian intelligence organs had in fact ended any sort of collaboration with our intelligence organs. This is the factual state of affairs. [Document 7]

The Gheorghiu-Dej Letter to Kennedy and Ceauşescu’s Postscript


            The formal launch of Romania’s new policy of military disengagement and disarmament was preceded by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej’s now famous message to President John F. Kennedy, actually presented by Romanian Foreign Minister Mănescu to US Secretary of State Dean Rusk, on 4 October 1963.[lix] [Document 2] There were four principal points to the message: (1) that Romania had not been informed and did not approve of the Soviet missile deployments; (2) that Romania would not participate in an offensive war against the US provoked by the Soviet Union, and that it would appreciate this fact being taken into account in US targeting policy; (3) that Romanian Armed Forces were fully under national control and should not be considered an adjunct of Soviet military power; and (4) that Romania did not host Soviet nuclear weapons on its territory and that the US was welcome to conduct on-sight inspections to satisfy itself of the same.[lx] Romanian leaders raised point (1) with several other foreign interlocutors as well, and the full set of issues may have been shared with Moscow in what Gheorghiu-Dej characterized as a “very harsh” letter sent to Kremlin authorities after Cuba.  [Documents 4, 6]

In the autumn of 1983, almost twenty years to the day of the 1963 original, Nicolae Ceauşescu may have tried to invoke the Gheorghiu-Dej – Kennedy message with one of his own to President Ronald Reagan during the Euromissile crisis.[lxi] [Document 10] Unfortunately, Ceauşescu’s letter, which he handed to Vice President George Bush, Sr. during the latter’s visit to Bucharest in September 1983, has not yet been published.[lxii] However, the Romanians did brief the other Pact allies about it shortly thereafter; and then formally presented at least an approximation of its contents at the October 1983 alliance summit. The Ceauşescu – Reagan letter underscored that: (1) Romania did not approve of the Soviet missile deployments; (2) noted that Romania would only participate in defense operations, and specified that it would carefully consider the nature of the call for assistance by fellow alliance members before sending its troops outside of Romanian territory; (3) stressed that the Romanian Armed Forces were fully under national control, giving several specific details on how this was guaranteed; and (4) explicitly noted that Romania did not and would not ever host nuclear missiles on its territory, whether from the Soviet Union or the United States. [Document 10]

Ironically, even if Ceauşescu had meant to invoke Gheorghiu-Dej’s earlier letter to President Kennedy – and to invoke the beginning of the “golden era” of Romania’s now increasingly troubled relationship with the US along with it – the probability that officials in Washington could have made the connection was not very great. As Raymond Garthoff pointed out, the 1963 letter was held so closely that news of its existence did not leak until he wrote of it thirty years later, and it may never have been filed, archived or even committed to paper.[lxiii] If no hardcopy was consigned to a specific data base then it is doubtful that knowledge of the message would have survived the ensuing twenty years, four alternations of power, and six administration changes into Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Having been unaware of the original tectonic shift in Romanian security policy sparked by the Cuban missile crisis, US authorities were unlikely to perceive any echoes of it twenty years later, especially during a trend of collapsing US-Romanian relations.

Larry L. Watts is a professor in the Master’s Program in Security Studies and Intelligence Analysis run jointly by the University of Bucharest and the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). He served as security sector reform advisor to Romania’s Presidential Counselor for National Security and to the Romanian Defense Ministry during 1991-2004. He is the author of With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010), which was published in Romanian translation in 2011. Most recently, he has an upcoming book Extorting Peace: Romanian-Warsaw Pact Relations During 1978-1989 and the End of the Cold War, which will be published in Romanian in 2013, and followed by publication in English.  



Translated by Larry L. Watts


23 October 1962

Note Regarding Audience of Dumitru Gheorghiu, Romanian Ambassador to Beijing, to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the People’s Republic of China Referring to the Over-Flight of Chinese Territory by the Aircraft Transporting Members of the Romanian Delegation Led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

[Source: AMAE, fond China, problema 20F/1962, unpaginated; Document 198 in Ambassador Romulus Ioan Budura, coordinator, Relaţiile Româno-Chineze 1880-1974: Documente [Romanian-Chinese Relations 1880-1974: Documents], Bucureşti, Ministerul Afacerilor Externe [Foreign Affairs Ministry], Arhivele Naţionale [National Archves], 2005, pp. 407-408.] 




Excerpt from Interview with Former Romanian Foreign Minister, Corneliu Mănescu, Regarding the Romanian Delegation’s Over-Flight of China and Visit to Moscow During the Cuban Missile Crisis, 22-23 October 1962

[Source: “Convorbiri neterminate cu Corneliu Mănescu” [Unfinished Conversations with Corneliu Mănescu] in Lavinia Betea, Partea lor de adevar [Their Side of the Truth], Bucharest, Compania, 2008, pp. 499-501.]



November 1962

 “The Unshakeable Foundation of the Unity of the International Communist Movement," by Ion Gheorghe Maurer, President of the Council of Ministers of the People’s Republic of Romania, Problems of Peace and Socialism/World Marxist Review (Prague, November 1963)

[Source: Document 6 in Budura (2008), pp. 104-118; Ion Gheorghe Maurer, “Temelia de neclintit a unitatii miscarii comunist international” [The Unshakeable Foundation of the Unity of the International Communist Movement], Problemy Mira i Sotsializma [Problems of Peace and Socialism/World Marxist Review], vol. 4, no. 11 (November 1963), pp. 11-22.]


3-10 March 1964

Transcript of Conversations between Delegations of the Central Committee of the Romanian Workers’ Party and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Beijing (Excerpts)

[Source: ANIC, fond C.C. al P.C.R. – Secţia Relaţii Externe, dosar 29/1964, f. 1-124; Document 8 in Ambassador Romulus Ioan Burdura, coordinator, Politica Independenţă a României şi Relaţiile Româno-Chineze 1954-1975: Documente [Romania’s Policy of Independence and Romanian-Chinese Relations 1954-1975: Documents], Bucureşti, Ministerul Afacerilor Externe, Arhivele Naţionale, 2008, pp. 134, 151-152.]



15 March 1964

Transcript of Conversations between the Delegation of the Central Committee of the Romanian Workers Party and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Pitsunda (Excerpt)

[Source: ANIC, fond C.C. al P.C.R. – Secţia Relaţii Externe, dosar 29/1964, f. 172-238; Document 11 in Budura (2008), p. 247.]



5 June 1964

Note Regarding Conversations between Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, First Secretary of the RWP CC, President of the Council of Ministers of the Romanian P. R., and Liu Fang, Ambassador of the Chinese P. R. in Bucharest, Referring to Bilateral Relations and the Soviet-Chinese Ideological Conflict, Snagov (Excerpts)

[Source: ANIC, fond C.C. al P.C.R. – Secţia Relaţii Externe – China, dosar 5/1964, f. 28-53; Document 219 in Budura (2005), pp. 463-483.]



July 1964

Transcript of Conversations Between Delegations of the RWP CC and the CPSU CC, Moscow (Excerpts)

[Source: ANIC, Fond C.C. al P.C.R., Secţia Relaţii Externe, dosar 35/1964, vol. II, filele 1-237; Document No. 4 in Vasile Buga, O vară fierbinte în relaţiile româno-sovietice: Convorbirile de la Moscova din iulie 1964 [A Hot Summer in Romanian-Soviet Relations: Conversations in Moscow during July 1964], Bucharest, Romanian Academy, National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism, 2012, pp. 4-197.]



17 July 1964

Note Referring to Meeting of Romanian Delegation with First Secretary of the CPSU CC, Nikita Khrushchev, Moscow (Excerpts)

[Source: ANIC, fond C.C. al P.C.R. – Secţia Relaţii Externe, dosar 36/1964, filele 190-211; Document 5 in Vasile Buga, O vară fierbinte în relaţiile româno-sovietice: Convorbirile de la Moscova din iulie 1964 [A Hot Summer in Romanian-Soviet Relations: Conversations in Moscow during July 1964], Bucharest, Romanian Academy, National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism, 2012, pp. 198-212.]



12 May 1966

Transcript of Conversations Between Emil Bodnăraş, Party and Government Delegation Leader, Who Visited the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and Zhou Enlai, Prime Minister of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China, Beijing (Excerpts)

[Source: ANIC, fond C.C. al P.C.R. – Secţia Relaţii Externe – China, dosar 71/1966, f. 2-46; Document 12 in Budura (2008), pp. 284-285.]



14 October 1983

Telex from the GDR Embassy in the Socialist Republic of Romania, Bucharest

[Source: “Warsaw Pact Records,” “Defense Ministers,” “Euromissiles Meeting, 20 October 1983,” at Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP),]



[i] This error continues in secondary works. In one recent example the analyst states that “the Romanian ‘trend’ of conducting a deviant policy” appeared “as early as 1958 and was officially acknowledged in 1964.” Csaba Békés1 and Melinda Kalmár, “Hungary and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Selected Documents, 1961-63,” CWIHP Bulletin, p. 413. Gheorghiu-Dej adopted an apparently nationally-oriented stance defending Romania’s continued existence as an independent state already in 1945, a precursor to later conflicts over independence and subordination to the Soviet center.  NARA, Modern Military Branch, RG 319, 336 Rumania/section VI, Operations Division, Report of General Schuyler on 6.VI.45 cabinet meeting, 14.VI.45. Likewise, Soviet-loyal officers were being purged, and redundant nationally-oriented officers reactivated, by the first half of the 1950s. Ithiel de Sola Poole with the collaboration of George K. Schueller, Satellite Generals: A Study of Military Elites in the Soviet Sphere, Hoover Institute Studies, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1955, p. 87.

[ii] See e.g. Intelligence Memorandum No. 248: Satellite Relations with the USSR and the West, 7 November 1949, CIA, pp. 14-15; National Intelligence Estimate (NIE-33): Soviet Control of the European Satellites and Their Economic and Military Contributions to Soviet Power, Through Mid-1953, 7 November 1951, pp. 1-11. See also Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume IV, Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956, p. 1230.

[iii] See e.g. Rumania: The Crack in the CEMA [CMEA], 17 May 1963, CIA; Memorandum for the Director, [from] Sherman Kent, Chair Bureau of National Estimates, to John McCone, 15 January 1964, pp. 4-5, CIA; Memorandum: Rumania’s Position Within the Bloc, 22 April 1964, CIA.

[iv] In one very rare exception, the head of the CIA’s Bureau of National Estimates observed that Romanian “arguments” were “potentially explosive; they are ultimately concerned not with the degree of Soviet control and the degree of popular freedom, as in 1956. On the contrary, the purport of the Romanian experiment is the termination of Soviet control.” Abbot Smith, Chairman, Board of National Estimates, Special Memorandum 6-68: The USSR and Eastern Europe, CIA Board of National Estimates coordinated with Office of Current Intelligence, 21 March 1968, p. 5, CIA.

[v] ANIC, Bucharest, Romania, fond CC al PCR/Cancelarie, dosar nr. 20/1953, f. 2; Mihai Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring: Romanian Foreign Policy and the Crisis in Czechoslovakia, 1968, Iaşi, Center for Romanian Studies, 2000, p. 18. The Romanian Worker’s Party was renamed the Romanian Communist Party in 1965.

[vi] Florin Şperlea, De la armata regală la armata populară: Sovietizarea armatei române (1948-1955) [From the Royal Army to the Popular Army: The Sovietization of the Romanian Army], Bucharest, Ziua, 2003, p. 183; Tatiana V. Volokitina, Tofik M. Islamov, Galina P. Murashko, Albina F. Noskova and L. A. Rogovaia, editors, Vostochnaia Evropa v Dokumentakh Rossiiskikh Arkhivov, 1944-1953 gg. Tom 1, 1944-1948 [Eastern Europe in the Documents of the Russian Archives 1944-1953, Vol. 1, 1944-1948], Moskva-Novosibirsk, Sibirskii Khronograf, 1997, pp. 636-641.

[vii] Sergei Khrushchev, editor, Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman, 1953-1964, Volume 3, Philadelphia, Penn State Press, 2007, p. 389. By mid-1954 Romania was the first member of the Bloc that ‘repurchased’ its SOVROMs (with most transferred back to the Romanians during 1955, except for the oil and uranium extraction SOVROMS that Moscow held on to until 1957).

[viii] See e.g. NARA, NND 862903, Box 1854, File: 411/6631/17-1554, p. 1; Joseph F. Harrington, “American-Romanian Relations, 1952-1965,” paper presented at Conference of American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Chicago, 2 November 1989. See also Joseph F. Harrington and Bruce J. Courtney, Tweaking the Nose of the Russians: Fifty Years of American-Romanian Relations, New York, Columbia University Press, 1990. Bucharest put out its first feeler to Washington in 1953 but received no response. Dan Cătănuş, “O săptămână fără precedent în istoria relaţiilor SUA cu România: 4-11 august 1963” [A Week Without Precedent in the History of US Relations with Romania: 4-11 August 1963], Academia România [The Romanian Academy of Sciences], Institutul de Istoria “Nicolae Iorga” [The Nicolae Iorga Institute of History], Studii şi materiale de istorie contemporană [Studies and Materials of Contemporary History], seria nouă [new series], p. 257.

[ix] As the CIA reported, “Soviet Ambassador Yepishev’s efforts to break up the two-hour conversation were ignored by the Romanians.” “Romanian Leader Promises Co-operation to Improve Relations with US” in Current Intelligence Bulletin, 4 December 1955. The CIA commented that while this “apparent lack of respect” for Yepishev “seems unusual, similar instances have been noted previously by Western diplomats in conjunction with his predecessor.” See also Telegram From the Legation in Romania to the Department of State, Bucharest, December 1, 1955, 3 p.m., Document No. 40 in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Volume XXV, Eastern Europe. Thayer reported that the Romanian prime minister and foreign minister were also present at his discussion with Gheorghiu-Dej. The prime minister had made a similar approach and offer the previous month. Telegram From the Legation in Romania to the Department of State, Bucharest, November 20, 1955, 9 a.m., Document No. 38 in FRUS, 1955-1957, Volume XXV, Eastern Europe. The US did not pursue relations with Romania before the end of the decade.

[x] See e.g. Intelligence Memorandum No. 248: Satellite Relations with the USSR and the West, 7 November 1949, CIA, pp. 14-15; National Intelligence Estimate (NIE-33): Soviet Control of the European Satellites and Their Economic and Military Contributions to Soviet Power, Through Mid-1953, 7 November 1951, pp. 1-11. See also Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume IV, Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956, p. 1230.

[xi] NARA, Record Group 59, Decimal File 766.00/2-1456, No. 233, AmLegation, Bucharest, to Department of State, 14 February 1956;  Sergiu Verona, Military Occupation and Diplomacy: Soviet Troops in Romania 1944-1958, Durham, Duke University Press, 1992, p. 149.

[xii] Epishev had been deputy chairman of the predecessor to the KGB (the MGB) during 1950-1953. A former head of the Czechoslovak party’s military and intelligence committee and its Warsaw Pact liaison described Epishev not only as “sinister” and “uncompromising” but as “the most frightening Russian I ever came across.” Jan Sejna, We Will Bury You, London, Sedgwick and Jackson, 1982, p. 42. For a more benign description that also conveys Epishev’s influence in Romania see Verona (1992), pp. 135-137

[xiii]Despatch From the Legation in Romania to the Department of State, Bucharest, October 9, 1957, Document No. 268 in FRUS, 1955-1957, Volume XXV, Eastern Europe. According to Thayer, it was “naïve” to believe Romania was acting independently of Moscow because “the Soviets exert a far greater control and direction on Romanian affairs than appears on the surface.” Thus, he “saw no reason why the United States should assist the Romanians in achieving their objective of presenting this false façade” by reaching any agreements with it. Thayer’s assessment carried considerable weight in the US intelligence community as Thayer was a career intelligence officer rather than a diplomat when Eisenhower appointed him to the legation. He had formerly served as CIA station chief in Paris. The general tenor of Thayer’s reports and particularly his concern that Romania would gain in “prestige” by reaching an agreement with the US seem to indicate that he was influenced by the “Trojan horse” active measures theme first reported under his watch in February 1956.

[xiv]Outlook For Stability In The Eastern European Satellites (NIE 12-58), 4 February 1958 (declassified 22 September 1993), pp. 6-7, CIA.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] The State Department’s Office of Policy Coordination especially noted that Romania appeared the best candidate for furthering developing US ties and influence in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1950s. See e.g. point 24 in Statement of US Policy Toward The Soviet-Dominated Nations In Eastern Europe, National Security Council Report (NSC 5811/1), Washington D.C., 24 May 1958 in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) 1958-1960, Vol. X, Part 1 (Eastern Europe, Soviet Union and Cyprus). In 1959, the State Department directed its representatives in Bucharest to “make every effort to maintain close and continuous contact with the Romanian Government” at the highest possible level “even when the situation is such that there is little or no immediate bilateral business to be discussed.” Point 59 in Operations Plan For The Soviet-Dominated Nations In Eastern Europe, Operations Coordinating Board Report, Washington D.C., 2 July 1959, FRUS 1958-1960, Vol. X, Part I (Eastern Europe, Soviet Union and Cyprus). Given resistance elsewhere in the State Department and especially in the US intelligence community, this stance was neither universally shared nor uncontroversial.

[xvii] Crawford went on to become the chief advisor on international relations to the Commander of the Supreme Allied Command in Europe (SACEUR), General Lyman Leminitz, during 1965-1971.

[xviii] According to Crawford, “about two thirds” of his time was spent convincing the US State Department “that things really were changing, and that the Romanians really were carrying on this kind of resistance to Soviet pressures and attempting to assert their own independence,” and “that somebody wasn’t just pulling marionettes by a string for optical effect.” William A. Crawford, recorded interview by William W. Moss, 12 March 1971, p. 12, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History.

[xix] Op. cit., pp. 15-16, Crawford’s remark regarding the “freeze” of the mid-1950s also reflected cognitive bias in US analyses at the time. Smack dab in the middle of the 1950s – in August 1955 - Bucharest requested the withdrawal of Soviet troops and Gheorghiu-Dej had made his public approach to Minister Thayer in November1955 (with less public approaches having been made in November 1954 and in 1953).

[xx] The stipulation actually prohibited the production of German-designed aircraft, the only type the Romanian air industry was producing at the end of the war. Romania’s entire civilian air fleet had been confiscated as “war booty”, as had its largely German-designed military air fleet. See e.g. the Treaty of Peace with Romania ,signed on 10 February 1947. Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949, Volume 4, Compiled under the direction of Charles I. Bevans LL.B., Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1969. Romania was reduced to the status of defeated enemy because its co-belligerency had been vetoed by the USSR despite its contribution of 548,000 troops (and 169,000 casualties) to the Allied cause in the last eight months of the war. This point of contention provoked run-ins between the “native” Communists and Soviet authorities ever since 1944. It became an open issue in the bilateral relationship by 1955, when Bucharest began publicly addressing the topic. For this background see Max Axworthy, Cornel Scafeş, and Cristian Craciunoiu, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941-1944, London, Arms and Armour, 1995, pp. 185-218.

[xxi] Soviet authorities reported the crew killed as well. The delegation member killed was Romania’s foreign minister, George Preoteasa. Preoteasa was in Moscow’s bad graces for promising International Red Cross access to former Hungarian leader Imre Nagy while he was being held under Soviet guard in Romania after the 1956 revolt. Soviet authorities compelled the Romanians not to honor that pledge.

[xxii] Along with the concurrent dispute over economic policy, the July 1957 plane crash came in the midst of Romania’s campaign for Soviet troop withdrawal (achieved a year later, in July 1958) and at the start of its effort to persuade Khrushchev to withdraw all Soviet military and intelligence advisors as well (finally achieved in 1963). See e.g. Larry L. Watts, With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania, Bucharest, Military Publishing House, 2010, chapters 7 “Dismantling the Mechanisms of Soviet Control 1953-1959” and 8 “Shutting Down Soviet Intelligence Networks 1956-1963”, especially.

[xxiii] Romanian diplomat – later Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China – Romulus Budura was sent to the Chinese Embassy in Bucharest with this request. Having returned to the Romanian Foreign Ministry with political approval the Chinese Embassy called him back in order to inform Romanian authorities that technical approval could not be granted. Communication of Ambassador Romulus Budura at the Conference “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis” co-sponsored by the Titulescu Institute and the Association for International Law and International Relations (ADIRI), Titulescu House, Bucharest, 23 October 2012 (hereafter: Titulescu House (2012). The conference brought together members of Romania’s UN delegation at the time of the crisis (including their representative to the Security Council during 1962); diplomats working at the Romanian Foreign Ministry at the time; and members of the entourage that accompanied Gheorghiu-Dej to Indonesia, Burma, India, and then to Moscow, before returning to Romania.

[xxiv] For example, Foreign Minister Mănescu, well aware that his predecessor had been killed in a Soviet aircraft “accident” three years earlier, cursed the Soviet crew chief in good Russian (using the standard formula: “твою матъ…” i.e., “your mother…”). Communications of former interpreter Ion Avram, who was on the aircraft, and of Ambassador Budura, who was at the foreign ministry in Bucharest, during the conference at Titulescu House (2012). See also the interview with then-Foreign Minister Corneliu Mănescu by Lavinia Betea, “Conexiunea moscovită a problemei transilvane,” Magazin Istoric, no. 12, December 2000,

[xxv] See the interview of Corneliu Mănescu in Betea (2000).

[xxvi]Report on Talk between Nicolae Ceauşescu and Nikita Khrushchev, Moscow, 8 June 1963 (excerpt) 8 June 1963, Moscow in “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Nuclear Warheads for Romania? Documents obtained, translated, and introduced by Petre Opris,” CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), p. 520; C.H.N.A., the Central Committee of Romanian Communist Party – Foreign Relations Department Collection, file 17U/1963, p. 46.

[xxvii]Report on Talk between Nicolae Ceauşescu and Nikita Khrushchev, Moscow, 8 June 1963 in Opris (2012), p. 520. Khrushchev stressed that he told Ulbricht “in his ear,” thus, personally.

[xxviii] “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Nuclear Warheads for Romania? Documents obtained, translated, and introduced by Petre Opris,” CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), p. 515.

[xxix] The official requests to Polish, German, Bulgaria, Hungarian and Czechoslovak party leaders to place their armies on alert are reproduced in the various chapters of CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012).

[xxx] US intelligence erroneously believed that Soviet command of all Pact forces was an accomplished fact with the creation of the Warsaw Pact. For example, the National Intelligence Estimate of 8 January 1964 stated that “Soviet and European Satellite forces have been part of a unified military command established under the Warsaw Pact” since May 1955, while noting that the command functions “were evidently handled almost exclusively by Soviet staff officers,” and that “in wartime, European satellite forces would be under the ultimate control of the Soviet High Command.”  National Intelligence Estimate: Capabilities of the Soviet General Purpose Forces (NIE 11-14-63), 8 January 1964, CIA. This was never true for Romania and was fully accomplished for the other Pact members only in 1980.

[xxxi] See e.g. Scânteia (Bucharest), 7-19 December 1961; Ghita Ionescu, Communism in Rumania 1944-1962, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 333-4. See also Alex Alexiev, Romania and the Warsaw Pact: The Defence Policy of a Reluctant Ally, P6270, Santa Monica, RAND Corporation, 1979, p. 17.

[xxxii] Alexandru Oşca and Vasile Popa, Romania: O fereastră în Cortina de Fier [Romania: A Window on the Iron Curtain], Focşani, Vrantop, 1997, pp. 167-168.

[xxxiii] Former US Ambassador to Romania (1961-1965) William A. Crawford, recorded interview by William W. Moss, 12 March 1971, pp. 31-32, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History.

[xxxiv] Khrushchev himself referred to the deployment as his “adventure,” even claiming that he pressed the idea on Fidel Castro. See “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Nuclear Warheads for Romania? Documents obtained, translated, and introduced by Petre Opris,” CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), pp. 520-521. Oddly, Khrushchev later complained to the Romanians when the Chinese called the undertaking an “adventure.” See e.g. Document 3 in this collection.

[xxxv] That the US never mistook the “Bucharest” for anything other than a Soviet vessel was less meaningful (and unknown at the time) to Romanian officials than Moscow’s peculiar linkage of Romania to the crisis. Romania was the only sea-faring member of the Warsaw Pact that did not in fact have any of its ships in the area of, or heading to Cuba at the time. East Germany, Poland and Bulgaria did. Less than a year later Moscow was publicly reported by Western observers as engaged in efforts to rid itself of the Gheorghiu-Dej leadership by any means necessary, which Bucharest officials interpreted as yet another, post facto, confirmation of Soviet intentions in October 1962. For the 1963 reports see e.g. Paul Lendvai, Eagles in Cobwebs: Nationalism and Communism in the Balkans, Garden City, NY, Doubleday and Company, 1969, pp. 305-306; Intelligence Report on attempt on life of Georgiu Dej [sic.] and Soviet-Romanian relations, 1965, FO 371/182729, Foreign Office, Political Departments: General Correspondence for 1906-1966, Northern, Romania (NR), PRO. British MI6 reported on three such attempts. See references to the same in Instability and Change in Soviet-Dominated Eastern Europe: An Intelligence Assessment (EUR 82-10124), 1 December 1982 (declassified 29 January 2001), pp. 8, 19, CIA.

[xxxvi] Ambassador Mircea Maliţa at Titulescu House  (2012). Pravda’s intentional emphasis on the fact that Khrushchev and the Romanian leadership were attending the opera together in Moscow at the time was likewise considered evidence that they were being “set up” by the Soviets. See e.g. Telegram from Polish Embassy in Moscow (Paszkowski), 24 October 1962, reproduced in “Poland, Cuba, and the Missile Crisis, 1962: Ciphered Telegrams from the Foreign Ministry Archives in Warsaw,” Documents obtained and introduced by James G. Hershberg, and translated by Margaret K. Gnoinska, CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), p. 480.

[xxxvii]Report on Talk between Nicolae Ceauşescu and Nikita Khrushchev, Moscow, 8 June 1963 (excerpt) 8 June 1963, Moscow in “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Nuclear Warheads for Romania? Documents obtained, translated, and introduced by Petre Opris,” CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), p. 520; C.H.N.A., the Central Committee of Romanian Communist Party – Foreign Relations Department Collection, file 17U/1963, p. 46.

[xxxviii] Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Laos, Cuba and Vietnam, New York, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 198. See also Chief of Naval Operations, Report on the Naval Quarantine of Cuba, Operational Archives Branch, Post 46 Command File, Box 10, Washington, DC.

[xxxix] Sheldon M. Stern, The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2005, p. 124.

[xl] Op. cit., pp. 124, 126, 128.

[xli] Freedman (2002), p. 198.

[xlii]Scânteia, 23 April 1964.

[xliii] Romanian mediation efforts in the Sino-Soviet conflict were well known by the early 1960s. Israel contacted the Romanian embassy in Warsaw in 1956 to request mediation with Egypt one week after Bucharest had offered peacekeeping forces to the UN following the Suez crisis. MAE, fond Telegrame Varsovia, dosar no. 25/1956, telegram no. 29017, 15 November 1956; Retegan (2000), p. 25. Romania also began a mediation effort with North Vietnam at US request in 1965, first seeking to persuade the People’s Republic of China that US-North Vietnamese contacts were to be desired. For an inside description of some of these efforts see Paul Niculescu-Mizil, România şi Războiul Americano-vietnamez [Romania and the American-Vietnamese War], Bucharest, Editura Roza Vânturilor, 2008.

[xliv] Max Frankel, “Rumanians Widen Independent Line: Seek ‘Spiritual’ Tie to West – Even Hint at Claim to a Soviet Border Area,” New York Times, 19 December 1964, pages 1, 4.

[xlv] See e.g. Max Frankel, “Hint of Warsaw Pact Split Is Seen in Rumanian Stand,” The New York Times, 14 May 1966, pp. 1, 4, 5.

[xlvi] As Hungarian leader János Kádár noted: “The only negative reaction to it was by the Romanians.” Excerpts of Report to the Hungarian Politburo on the PCC Meeting by the First Secretary of the MSzMP (János Kádár), 31 July 1963, PHP. Another first-hand observer, former East German Military Attaché Col. Joachim Schröter, likewise credited Romania with blocking Mongolia’s admission. Xiaoyuan Liu and Vojtech Mastny (eds.), China and Eastern Europe, 1960s-1980s, Beijing, 24-26 March 2004, Zurich, Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research, ETH Zurich, November 2004, p. 140, “Reviewing Relations Between China and East European Countries: From the 1960s to the 1980s,” at Nuenlist and Locher (2004), “Global Cold War,” PHP.

[xlvii] The Hungarians, for instance, characterized the Romanian position as “vague and useless,” and the same characterization of Romanian vagueness is repeated in the editorial note introducing the documents of the 1963 Warsaw Pact summit where the admission of Mongolia was proposed on the website of the Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security. See Vojtech Mastny, “Editorial Note: VI. Meeting of the PCC, Moscow, 26 July 1963,” PHP. Mastny’s assertion that it was not the Romanians, “but the Soviets themselves who killed the idea that they had originally supported,” while true enough, is mistaken in its implication that Romanian opposition was not primarily responsible for blocking Mongolia’s admission. See Document 5 in this collection.

[xlviii] The existence of a written Polish position echoing Bucharest’s objections has led many analysts to believe that Warsaw played a role in blocking Mongolia’s admission (and some to believe that it played the main role.) However, the Polish delegation never raised any of the points in their written position at the meeting nor was that position circulated to other Pact members prior to it. In contrast, Romania’s objections were circulated beforehand (and the Polish position paper seems to refer to them) and the Romanian delegation also raised its pointed questions during the discussion. For affirmations of a central Polish role in blocking Mongolian admission see Vojtech Mastny, Learning from the Enemy: NATO as a Model for the Warsaw Pact?, Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung no. 58, Zurich, Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research, ETH Zurich, 2001, p. 15; Csaba Békés and Melinda Kalmár, “Hungary and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Selected Documents, 1961-63,” CWIHP Bulletin, p. 413.

[xlix] The Romanians minced no words when condemning the Comintern as, basically, an evil institution in its April 1964 declaration. Bucharest went further in attacking the Comintern in May 1966, and again in May 1967, decrying the Comintern’s order to halt to all actions against Hitler during the period of Hitler-Stalin alliance and to refocus all communist efforts against France and Great Britain, causing the destruction of the Romanian Communist Party. Max Frankel, “Hint That Rumania May Be Preparing to Quit the Warsaw Pact Seen by Officials in U.S.,” The New York Times, 14 May 1966, p. 5. This is a continuation of the front-page story by Frankel entitled “Hint of Warsaw Pact Split Is Seen in Rumanian Stand,” The New York Times, 14 May 1966. See also Scânteia, 6 May 1966; “Excerpts from Rumanian Chief’s Talk on Independent Line,” The New York Times, 14 May 1966, p. 4; and Telegram From the Department of State (Rusk) to the Embassy in Romania, Washington, May 16, 1966, 4:16 p.m., Document 152 in FRUS, 1964-1968, Volume XVII, Eastern Europe.

[l] Some analysts maintain that Kádár’s 1963 proposal for a permanent Foreign Ministers Committee had the “clear objective” of increasing East European input into Pact decision-making. See e.g. Békés and Kalmár (2012), p. 413. This is certainly possible if Moscow was entertaining the prospect at the time. However, within less than two years Kádár supported Moscow’s position favoring more centralized control wholeheartedly. At the January 1965 summit, Gomułka repeatedly stressed that “All of the comrades present” – thus, including Kádár – “are in favor. Only the Romanian comrades are not.” Gheorghiu-Dej replied, “We do not nor will we agree to the creation of new organs of the Warsaw Pact. We can hold consultations without a permanent organ.” Romanian Minutes of the PCC Meeting, 20 January 1965, pp. 15-16, PHP; Polish Minutes of the Discussion at the PCC Meeting in Warsaw, 20 January 1965, PHP. Hungarian foreign policy had been described by Ferenc Münnich, Kádár’s co-leader in 1956 and prime minister until 1961, as a “prerogative of the Soviet Union”; an attitude that rendered improbable any initiative from Budapest for democratizing the alliance without prior Soviet approval. László Borhi, “Kádár and the United States in the 1960s” in ” in Ansii Halmesvirta, editor, Kádár’s Hungary – Kekkonen’s Finland, Hungarologische Beiträge, vol. 14, Jyväskylä, Finland, University of Jyväskylä , 2002, p. 64. According to at least one analyst, Kádár “never intended” to oppose Moscow, and “always made sure to inform the Kremlin about policy changes,” even in domestic policy. Andrew Felkay, “Hungary and the Soviet Union in the Kádár Era, 1956-1988,” in Ignác Romsics, editor, 20th Century Hungary and the Great Powers, Boulder, Social Science Monographs, 1995, pp. 276-282.

[li] Peter Grosse, “Rumania Opposes Soviet on Control of Armies,” The New York Times, 18 May 1966. Romanian officials confirmed their “demand that the use of nuclear arms from the territory of a member state be subject to the country’s consent,” emphasizing that the “principle of unanimity should prevail in all Warsaw Pact decisions.” Henry Kamm, “Bucharest Denies It Seeks Pact’s End,” The New York Times, 19 May 1966, p. 15.

[lii] Peter Grosse, “Rumania Opposes Soviet on Control of Armies,” The New York Times, 18 May 1966, p. 2.

[liii]Scânteia, 23 April 1964; William E. Griffith, Sino-Soviet Relations, 1964-1965, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1967, pp. 32, 269-296.

[liv]Speech by the Romanian Head of State (Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej), 19 January 1965, PHP.

[lv] Ibid.

[lvi] As Soviet Premier Kosygin pointed out to Polish interlocutors in February 1965, although the emergency “meeting of the Political Consultative Committee unanimously called for taking necessary measures along the line of the Warsaw Pact Treaty” in response to MNF, and “a proposal was discussed there about setting up a Warsaw Pact Command Center that would be in charge of a permanent build-up of defenses,” the “carrying out of this measure” was prevented by the “negative position of the Romanian delegation,” which also proposed “abolishing all pacts, including the Warsaw Pact.” Record of a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador in the DPRK Comrade V.P. Moskovsky about the negotiations between the Soviet delega­tion, led by the USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Kosygin, and the governing body of the Korean Workers Party, which took place at the USSR Embassy in Pyongyang on 16 February 1965, Document 2 in James F. Person, “The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Origins of North Korea’s Policy of Self-Reliance in National Defense,” CWIHP Bulletin, vol. no. 17-18 (2012), pp. 124-125.

[lvii] Douglas Selvage, The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Non-Proliferation 1963-1965, April 2001, Cold War International History Project, Working Paper Series, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, p. 21

[lviii] See e.g. Ladislav Bittman, The Deception Game: Czechoslovak Intelligence in Soviet Political Warfare, Syracuse, Syracuse University Research Center, 1972, pp. 146-147; Jan Sejna, We Will Bury You, London, Sedgwick and Jackson, 1982, pp. 66-67, 75-76; Ladislav Bittman, The KGB and Soviet Disinformation: An Insider’s View, Washington, Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1985, pp. 32-33; Josef Frolik testimony before U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Communist Bloc Intelligence Activities in the United States, Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975; Richelson (1986), p. 210.  Bittman, Sejna and Frolik all defected from Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring or immediately after the Soviet-led invasion in 1968. Stasi records also note that Romania shut down cooperation with it by 1963. Markus Wolf, Conversation with the [Soviet] Committee for State Security that took place between 3-6 April 1967 in Moscow, BStU, MfS, SdM 1432, S. 2, 8; Herbstritt and Olaru (2005), p. 94

[lix] Raymond L. Garthoff, “When and Why Romania Distanced Itself from the Warsaw Pact” in Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Spring 1995), p. 111. Garthoff was informed of the message at the time, while working in the US State Department and the National Security Council, by Secretary Rusk. In 1990 he reconfirmed the details with Dean Rusk. The message was also confirmed by Corneliu Mănescu in several interviews, although Mănescu would not provide any further detail. Garthoff suggested that no written record may ever have been deposited in administration archives given the extreme sensitivity of the matter. It certainly made no impact on CIA or community-wide intelligence analyses, which presumed from 1963 until 1990 that Romania would participate in a Soviet offensive against the West.

[lx] Ibid. See also “Romania and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Nuclear Warheads for Romania? Documents obtained, translated, and introduced by Petre Opris,” CWIHP Bulletin 17-18 (2012), p. 514.

[lxi] Mănescu first sought to meet with US administration officials at the end of September 1963 but scheduling difficulties delayed the meeting until 4 October. Vice President George Bush, Sr., was handed Ceauşescu’s letter on 23 September 1983. Some sources misplace the letter to August 1983, although it is quite possible that other, less formal, messages on the same topic were sent that month as well. See e.g. F. Stephen Larrabee, The Challenge to Soviet Interests in Eastern Europe: Romania, Hungary, East Germany, R-3190-AF, RAND Corporation, December 1984, pp. 54-55.

[lxii] Ceauşescu sent a number of letters regarding nuclear missiles in Europe to both Reagan and Andropov during 1981-1983,none of which has been published to date. See e.g. E. F. E., “Reagan envía al presidente rumano una carta sobre los euromisiles” [Romanian President Sends Reagan Letter on Euromissiles], El Pais, 19 September 1983.

[lxiii] Garthoff (1995), p. 111.


About the Author

Larry Watts

Former Short-Term Scholar;
Former Adviser, Romanian Defense Ministry; Visiting Professor, Security Studies and Intelligence Analysis, University of Bucharest
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