How does the geography of Romania affect its political relationships?
With central European nations like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Austria to its northwest, the Balkan states to its southwest, Greece to its south, and Ukraine to its northeast, Romania has long been surrounded by other former Soviet satellite states, whose economies and political systems are rife with corruption and fragile at best. All of these countries, including Romania, have historically been under the sway of Russia, and before that, the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Romania, like Poland to its north, suffered immensely under brutal puppet-dictatorships imposed by the USSR, and to this day, like its northern counterparts, Romania cannot escape the economic and geographic reality of being in both Russia and Turkey's shadow.
Because of its proximity to and reliance on trade with Russia and Turkey, as well as the Balkan states, Romania cannot too wholeheartedly embrace western political influences without causing Russia and Turkey to become alarmed. Romanians know all too well the danger of angering Russia or making the Russian government worry about where Romania's allegiances really lie. Look at what has happened to Ukraine and Croatia when those countries have tried to forge stronger ties with the west: Russian invasion.
Although Romania is not landlocked like Serbia or Hungary (it borders the Black Sea on its southeastern coast), the Black Sea itself is dominated by Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey, and Romania has no direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. So by necessity, Romania must stay on good terms with its powerful neighbors to the east. That said, Romania is currently trying to wean itself off Russian oil and natural gas. If Romania and its neighbors in eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria) can accomplish that goal, then in theory, Romania can become more independent from Putin's Russia, and more able to chart its own political course with regard to foreign relations.
Still, Romania will always have to stay on good terms with Turkey, which is becoming harder to do as the migrant crisis stemming from the Syrian Civil War drags on. Also of concern is the increasingly militaristic government of Turkey led by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğa. As Turkey continues to assert itself and demand concessions from the European Union, Putin’s Russia remains unpredictable and aggressive. This ensures that Romania’s balancing act between pleasing the West and the East will continue to be particularly difficult.
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