This study envisages the analysis of Romania’s foreign policy between 1918 and 1975 from the perspective of dichotomy Realism versus Idealism. During this period, Romania’s foreign policy has passed through pronounced stages of „idealism” and pronounced stages of „realism”. The terms „realism” and „idealism” are used from two main perspectives. In general, idealism is attributed to any aim, objective, action which is considered not to be practical, while “realism” is attributed to those aims, objectives and actions which are considered to work according to realities and to practical rationalities. In a more narrow sense, in the field of International Relations the two terms define theories which explain the relations between states, each with its assumptions. (Peter Wilson, ‘Idealism in International Relations’, in Keith M. Dowding (ed.), Encyclopedia of power, Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2011, 331-332).
One of the main propositions of idealism is that reason has the power to ‘overcome the prejudice and counteract the machinations of sinister forces’. Idealists ‘believe that education and democracy – including increasing democratic control of foreign policy – will empower world public opinion and make it a powerful force that no government can resist. Idealists view war as a disease of the international body politic, contrary to the interests’ of majority. Idealists insist on the role of international organizations such as the UNO in organizing the world peace and public opinion, to eliminate war from the international affairs, ‘substituting research, reason and discussion in place of national armies and navies’. In addition, idealists ‘stress the existence of a natural harmony of interests between all people’. Regardless ethnic, social, cultural or religious differences, ‘all human beings desire the same things in terms of security, welfare, recognition and respect (Peter Wilson, ‘Idealism in International Relations’, in Keith M. Dowding (ed.), Encyclopedia of power, Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2011, 331-332).
Criticizing the predominance of idealists within the British post-Cold War International Relations field, John Mearsheimer noted in 2005 that ‘today’s idealists share the same basic goal as the interwar idealists’, namely to ‘change to world’ ‘for the better’, ‘to transform international politics so that states no longer care about power and no longer engage in security competition, but instead are content to live together in harmony.’ In this new world, the states would ‘worry about the welfare of all people, not just their own citizens’, would ‘act ethically and respect not only international law, but each other as well.’ Thus, ‘the idealist enterprise remains normative and dovish at its core’. There is a main difference, however, between the interwar idealists and the post-cold War idealists, Mearsheimer contends: the interwar ones believed that they had reason and the best argument on their side, while today’s idealists argue that ‘behavior follows from beliefs’, and therefore discourse is the ‘master causal variable’ in changing the world.
The main assumption of the realist approach is that the states are the primary actors of the world politics. For realists it is the state and not their leaders, citizens, business corporations or international organizations that are the key actors determining what happens in the world. Another assumption of realism is that states act to pursue their interest defined as power. State interests rather than their values or ideology are the reasons behind the state’s actions. In other words, states act in order to maintain, preserve or increase their power in relations to other states. For realists the pursuit of power and state interests are separated from any other sphere of human activity (economic, moral, cultural etc.) According to realism, it is that the distribution of the balance of power (especially military power) that is the main concern for states, while the state responses to another state’s actions is determined not by the domestic politics, but by the states relations (Juliet Kaarbo, James Ray, Global Politics, Boston, MA : Cengage Learning, Tenth edition, 2010, 4-7). From this perspective, states’ foreign policy is dominated by conflict; states act to maximize their power, especially military power, they look suspiciously the activities of the other states.
An idealist approach instead argues that the state is only one actor among others; values rather than interests shape the state’s foreign policy; social and economic values are also important factors next to the military distribution of power factor; the general international context should dominate the foreign policy thinking and not the states relations . As McCormick contended, according to the idealist approach, ‘foreign policy should be a cooperative process between states and groups, with joint efforts undertaken to address the problem facing humankind, whether political, military, economic or social.’ (James M. McCormick, American foreign policy and process, Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010, 102-103). While realists oppose giving moral concerns priority in foreign policy, idealists advocate world peace and other moral concerns.
Applying these definitions, this study identifies the periods in which Romania’s foreign policy has acknowledged idealist, realist approaches or common idealist and realist stages. Which were the principles on which these approaches have been drawn, in what circumstances and from what reasons was decided the adoption of a “realist line” or an “idealist line” are questions which this research will approach. The project envisages, consequently, the thematic and chronological analysis of Romania’s foreign and security policies during the 1930s in the way this can be interpreted from the study of the formal and informal documents which guided it, of the hypothesis and presumptions regarding the international political and security landscape and the domestic capabilities drawn during this decade, the ability to understand and operate with their basic principles, as well as capacity of this country to put at work and maximize the domestic and foreign potentialities in order to achieve the fundamental scopes defined by the Romanian government. They will be interpreted by studying the relevant Romanian and foreign archival documents identified by the members of the team of research, as well as by comparing our conclusions with the points of view expressed in the historiography regarding these issues.