Collective vs. self defence: a Romanian illusion of security

5 Feb , 2016 Op-Ed

One of the main arguments in any debate regarding the Defence budget is related to collective defense and the legal obligation of every NATO country to assist and intervene in defense of Romania, in the case of a third-party attack against our country. This argument has become so common-sensical in the Romanian public discourse, FP Romania even had recently a front-page article about the invulnerability of Romania because of our NATO membership and strategic partnership with the United States, that is usually taken for granted and as a certainty. But is it so? The national defense of Romania is guaranteed by the North-Atlantic Alliance? Is our national defense worthless, having the “American might” on our part? In this article, I’m gonna try to find some answers to this questions.

Firstly, Romania is a NATO member country, so it has a treaty obligation to ensure its military preparedness to the standards agreed by the allies in the Joint Chief of Staff and the Atlantic Council. We frequently forget that we are not only presumptively consumers of security but also presumptively providers of security and military assistance to other member countries of the Alliance. If Poland were to be attacked by a foreign power, the Romanian state would be bound by the Art. 5 of NATO treaty to offer military and other types of assistance. This means that we have an obligation to have our military in good shape not only for our own self-defense but also for the other NATO member states that could need our assistance. The main principle of any collective defense organization is to combine the military force of its members and so to discourage any potential military attack against the member states. If some of the member states are not respecting their obligations, the entire defense architecture and the fundamental principle of collective defense are broken.

Secondly, in the case of a surprise military attack (hybrid or not) against Romania, we will not be able to receive NATO military assistance in the first 48-64 hours. This means that in the first days we will be alone to defend our national territory and population. We must have enough forces to be able to resist, to keep a stable military front until the NATO military engine may start. And even after  NATO starts to act, we will be the ones responsible for the entire front, it is our country, after all. We will need to know how to use the military assistance that our allies offer us. This means that we must have a well prepared military personnel, adequated military infrastructure (airports, bases, for repair and supply) that can be used by the allied troops. Frankly, it means that we need to invest in military infrastructure and education, military equipment and innovation.

Thirdly, think about a country that is not able to defend itself for a few days. Would you want to be an ally and to have a mutual defense obligation towards a country that is not able to defend itself for a few days? What utility would such an alliance have?

You may think that nobody will have any interest in attacking Romania. You may be right! But are we really ready to risk it? The majority of the Ukrainian population never believed that Russia will attack Ukraine or that it will annexe Crimea. We should understand that the economic stability, development, and progress of any country is based on an environment that assures a proper defence level for society, transport and economic life. We should begin understanding the importance of a well-funded military for ourself and our allies stability.

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