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Romania's challenge

Adrian Pop examines the challenge facing Romania for the country to become an effective contributor to the Alliance.

On international duty: More than 1,000 Romanian soldiers are currently deployed abroad (© SFOR)

Romania's invitation to begin NATO accession talks together with six other Central and Eastern European countries has been hailed as a national triumph. However, Bucharest has its work cut out if it is to be prepared for membership by May 2004 and an effective contributor to the Alliance from day one.

To be sure, Romanian membership of NATO will provide the Alliance with certain immediate benefits. Together with Bulgaria, Romania will help re-enforce the Alliance's southern flank by creating a land bridge between Hungary and Turkey; improve NATO access to its Balkan peacekeeping operations; and enhance regional cooperation and stability in Southeastern Europe. Bulgarian and Romanian membership of NATO also bolsters the Alliance's presence around the Black Sea.

Having been the first country to join the Partnership for Peace in January 1994, Romania has effectively been preparing for NATO membership for the best part of a decade. In this way, Bucharest endorses the Alliance's comprehensive approach to security outlined in its Strategic Concept and is committed to the Alliance's efforts to reduce the dangers arising from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery.

The period between now and May 2004, when the ratification process is scheduled to be completed, will be especially critical for Romania's NATO preparations. The decision to invite Romania to begin NATO accession talks at the Prague Summit has already provided a major boost to national self-confidence and the positive energy that this has unleashed must be channelled into further military reform. In this respect, particular attention will have to be devoted to defence planning, legal issues, civil-emergency planning, and security of information, transforming the defence industry into a security and defence industry, and adapting it to the new security environment.

Ongoing restructuring

Romania's Armed Forces have to continue their restructuring in accordance with ongoing programmes — Programme Force 2003 and Objective Force 2007 — to become more operational and efficient. The future force structure will try to balance forces with financial resources and will comprise active and territorial forces. It will allow for a rapid reaction capability in a possible future conflict, which will secure the time needed for augmenting the territorial forces and the intervention of the Allies. Emphasis will be placed on operational mountain troops, paratroopers, aviation, artillery, navy and infantry.

In the Membership Action Plan (MAP), Romania has focused on increasing the interoperability, deployability and sustainability of its forces earmarked for peace-support operations and Article 5 missions. Priority has been given to training, including operational language training, and operational readiness to comply with NATO standards.

In this way, Romania has earmarked a number of units for collective-defence operations and other Alliance missions ranging from peace-support and crisis-response to combat operations. All forces earmarked for collective-defence or Partnership-for-Peace operations are also available, as required, for operations in or outside Romanian territory on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, Romania is determined to participate in all NATO's new force structures, including the NATO Response Force.

From the force package made available for peace-support operations, Romania already has the capacity to sustain in theatre two battalions for a period of six months and is making great efforts to increase this capability. Indeed, as a result of Romania's involvement in the international campaign against terrorism and the deployment of Romanian troops in Afghanistan, this level has already been surpassed. More than 1,000 troops are currently deployed abroad without counting Romania's contribution to the SFOR/KFOR Strategic Reserve. Moreover, by the end of this year, Romania should be in a position to deploy and sustain 1,500 troops in operations abroad. That said, the Romanian military still needs to focus its contribution to NATO in terms of niche capabilities — alpine units, military police, de-mining and military intelligence sub-units — and infrastructure facilities for air, sea and land operations.

Concerning defence planning, Romania already has a NATO-compatible system and is now taking steps to prepare for the rigours of NATO force planning. This involves improving decision-making explicitly to link Romania's Alliance responsibilities with the country's limited resources. In this way, the country's defence budget is now pegged to GDP forecasts and based on the government's commitment to ensure a proper level of defence spending.

As soon as Romania becomes a fully-fledged Alliance member, the country will want and be expected to have an effective national representation at NATO and to fill a number of posts in Alliance structures, both civilian and military. Identifying personnel with the appropriate language skills, experience and qualifications for these tasks is a major undertaking. As a result, a commission has been set up within the defence ministry to coordinate this process and select a pool of civil servants, military officers and non-commissioned officers with the necessary backgrounds.

The decision to invite Romania to begin NATO accession talks has provided a major boost to national self-confidence

In addition, since January this year, the National School for Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest has been organising a Senior Executive NATO Programme in cooperation with the NATO Defense College and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. This course offers tailored training for civil servants and military personnel to prepare them for posts linked to NATO and positions within the Alliance itself. Lecturers include government officials, foreign scholars and Romanian academics as well as members of the National School's faculty.

Nevertheless, human resource management in the Romanian Armed Forces needs to be revamped to bring it in line with best NATO practice. This will require improving military career structures, reforming recruitment and training systems and offering greater professional opportunities to non-commissioned officers. A considerable reduction of central structures will be achieved by eliminating unnecessary signal, logistics and administrative support units, as well as by eliminating redundant installations, depots and training facilities, reorganising Romania's military education and reducing the current infrastructure.

Preparing for NATO membership is an intergovernmental, interdepartmental and interdisciplinary matter. As a result, establishing horizontal contacts between governmental officials and various security agencies is critical. Unfortunately, there have been many cases when departments in the same ministry were unaware of their respective duties and activities; when different ministries charged with security and defence issues have given different messages on topics of common concern; and when the presidential administration and the government conveyed contradictory signals on key domestic political issues.

The issues which threatened to undermine Romania's NATO candidature — corruption, a weak economy and the residual influence of Communist-era secret police in security agencies — remain real. Bucharest needs to combat corruption more convincingly and not simply to make grand gestures for foreign consumption. For their part, Western countries should reconsider the tendency to tolerate corruption among individuals in positions of authority as long as they appear to be moving matters in the right direction. Unless Romania improves its economic performance, it will not be able to sustain either existing military reforms or current levels of defence expenditure. And the issue of remaining Securitate in positions of authority has to be tackled for Allies to have confidence in Romania's ability to handle sensitive information.

Since NATO membership concerns the whole of Romanian society, civil society has a major role to play in maintaining momentum for Romania's Euro-Atlantic integration. As independent players, grass-roots, non-governmental organisations have to put pressure on the authorities to accelerate the pace of defence reform, flag problems that might occur in the process, monitor how different NATO-related programmes are being implemented and help build and maintain informed support for NATO membership.

For their part, the authorities should work together with security-oriented, non-governmental organisations, informing them of government initiatives, consulting with them and contracting out research to them, as well as actively involving them in promoting Euro-Atlantic integration. The forging of a new security culture based on a genuine partnership between government and civil society will likely create a new awareness on the part of the population of the need for active involvement in countering the new security threats.

This is important because a public debate on the significance of NATO accession and the changing security environment has yet to take place. Issues such as the restructuring of armed forces in terms of the impact of their downsizing, modernisation and professionalisation need to be properly aired. Reform of the defence industry in general and its relationship with business must be discussed. And appreciation among the general public for Romania's contribution to peace-support operations, the status of implementation of NATO integration programmes and the opportunities arising from NATO membership is necessary to maintain long-term commitments.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington of 11 September 2001 have significantly changed perceptions of the world and, among other things, have heightened awareness of the complexity of the new security environment. Since the new threats and especially that of terrorism have blurred the boundaries between internal and external security, Romania — in common with many countries — needs to launch a wide-ranging review of the division of labour between law-enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as between the domestic and foreign branches of the latter. And it must actively promote inter-agency security cooperation and effect changes in defence research and development, with priority given to high-tech intelligence systems.

Contemporary security threats — terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons, drugs and nuclear material trafficking, illegal immigration, corruption, money laundering, natural hazards, water, oil and gas depletion — clearly cannot be properly addressed without effective cooperation between military and civilian institutions. Moreover, only a proper partnership between public and private sectors can effectively address issues such as border management, transportation safety, safeguarding public order and civil strife prevention, civil defence and disaster-relief preparedness.

The need for such a partnership is even more evident when it comes to combating terrorism. Indeed, the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to terrorist acts virtually requires the creation of a private sector task force comprising financial experts, computer analysts, scientists, bio-chemists, physicians and other highly trained specialists ready to work together with the increasingly numerous private security firms to prevent the repeat of the kind of event that took place on 11 September 2001. Devising and implementing an effective public-private partnership and promoting it at both governmental and non-governmental levels should, therefore, also be a post-Prague priority.

Cooperating with the neighbours

In the run-up to the Prague Summit, Bulgaria and Romania succeeded in persuading Greece and Turkey to support their membership candidatures and lobby with other member states on their behalf. They did this by convincing Ankara and Athens that Bulgarian and Romanian membership of the Alliance, the resulting consolidation of NATO's southern flank and the defusing of bilateral regional tensions were both in their best interests and those of NATO as a whole.

Cooperation both between Bulgaria and Romania and all four countries should not stop now that membership invitations have been issued. Instead, it should be intensified. Bulgaria and Romania should take their military cooperation to a new level and work together in areas such as developing joint capabilities and promoting regional cooperation. Even before considering role specialisation and niche capabilities within a NATO context, the two countries should start developing common NATO assets. Such cooperation could also include deeper involvement in crisis-management operations, including joint initiatives in Southeastern Europe and the linking of the air surveillance systems of the two countries. In this way, Bucharest and Sofia would be able to demonstrate that together they can help improve the security environment in what was Europe's most volatile region during the 1990s.

Promoting possible joint Greek-Turkish oil and gas pipeline projects from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe could enhance cooperation between Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey. Such pipelines would likely transit Bulgaria and Romania as well and would, in this way, introduce a new dimension — energy security — into quadrilateral relations.

Having worked so hard for so long to obtain an invitation to begin NATO accession talks at the Prague Summit, Romania risks becoming complacent. However, the ratification process must not be taken for granted. In the months ahead, the country's progress in dealing with outstanding problems and reforming structures in line with NATO's own transformation to be better prepared to deal with the new security threats will come under further scrutiny. From the latter perspective, setting up specialised military units that can contribute to overall Euro-Atlantic security and forging a genuine public-private partnership in security should greatly increase Romania's chances not only of becoming a fully-fledged NATO member, but an active and responsible one, too.

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