Grigore Gafencu (30 January 1892, Bârlad - 30 January 1957, Paris)


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Utopia versus realism
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Scientific context and motivation

The drawing of sound foreign and security strategies represents one of the key goals of a state. They represent fundamental tools regarding the defining of the most important objectives envisaged by that state and of the most effective means by which these objectives can be achieved. The strategies are thought and adopted by taking into account a certain international and regional situation and a series of important domestic factors and potentialities. Therefore, these are normally drawn with the co-participation of numerous state institutions and presuppose the permanent cooperation of such institutions as the foreign affairs, the internal affairs, the finance and defense ministries, the secret services etc. All this large effort is generally speaking coordinated by the institution of the chief of state and by the legislative. The strategies elaborated this way can take the form of documents debated and approved up to the highest level (be they either secret or public or a mixture of the two possibilities). However, they can be also informal meaning political constructions thought of by taking into consideration hypothesis and presumptions regarding the international political and security landscape and the domestic capabilities elaborated by consultations between the main political and military actors, without however being drawn and approved a formal document in this sense or being drawn not only but a few documents in this sense. Regarding both the formal and informal strategies the ability of the most significant state institutions to comprehend and operate with their underlining principles can be considered as an attribute of the successful states and can influence on a smaller or bigger scale the regional, continental and global developments. Among these factors, can be mentioned the geographic and strategic position of a state, its demography (which can be indicative for the physical limits of its influence and power, the state in case being a small, mid-sized or bigger entity), its technological capacity, in both its civil and military industries or its capacity to influence either positively or negatively the international developments (which manifests through the ability in causing a state or a regional actor to take or not a certain stand, for instance to conclude or not an alliance). Other aspects, revealed in a recent study by Franz von Daniken, are represented by the cultural scientific reputation of the state in case, the contribution of respected personalities on the international arena to promote its politics and image, but crucially important its ability to join those international institutions where the challenges and risks of the modern world are experienced and dealt with. Naturally, the drawing of a coherent and adequate strategy to the international situation, the achieving of a realistic presumption concerning the international developments (very difficult, when the international political climate suffers the impact of influential and powerful centrifugal forces, envisaging its change) and the domestic potential plays a fundamental role in following a foreign policy capable of successfully expressing regionally and internationally a country’s values, scopes and ambitions.An insufficient attention given to one of these factors may have very dramatic repercussions on the destiny of a given country or nation (as the history of Poland’s foreign policy during the 1930s shows).
According to Paquette, a state strategy is ‘an imaginative idea that orchestrates and/or inspires sets of actions (tactics) in response to a given problem’. Strategy ‘does not change much’. ‘It is different from policies, plans or programs’ because ‘uses a single idea to organize all of the state’s actions usually by developing some slogan or symbol’. It ‘has a core idea that is effective in coordinating even complicated tasks’. This core idea ‘directs all the subsequent actions or tactics when it is implemented’. Strategy ‘involves a high degree of flexibility and creativity’. By saying that a strategy is flexible, Paquette does not mean that strategy changes often, it rather means that ‘strategy involves constant adjustments of tactics’. Strategy means abstract, tactics means practical. ‘Tactics are always in need of adjustment, strategies do not change nearly as much’, Paquette stresses, noting that ‘any model of strategy has to allow decision makers to move easily between the abstract and the practical and back again’. In this context, policies, plans and programs are forms of organizing for action.  The components of strategy, according to Paquette, are: the goal – the object to be accomplished by actions; the tactics – the actions to achieve the goal; the core idea – a metaphor or analogy expressed by a slogan or image; the style (sometimes called principles) – general ideas that guide the selections of tactics.  Paquette argues that ‘a strategy is national when it uses a broad spectrum of the means available to the state and tries to achieve objectives important to the whole rather to parts. In other words, the strategy must cut across several area of state behavior: economic, political, cultural, military etc.’
Consequently, it is necessary that the foreign policy of a nation to be defined in realistic coordinates, but it must also obey certain values in order to be able to successfully promote the cause and security of a political entity. As the diplomat, professor and theorist of international relations E.H. Carr has shown, the utopian and realistic ways are not only two different attitudes in pursuing the foreign and security policy, they represent divergent attitudes in almost any single political issue: the utopian is voluntarist, the realist is determinist, the utopian makes out of the political theory a norm to which the political practice is subordinated, while the realist considers the political practice as a kind of codification of the political practice, the utopian is generally-speaking intellectual, the realist bureaucrat, the utopian thinks that there exists a universal international morality, the realist thinks that there does not exist absolute standards and that morality in international relations can be only relative (E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis, Palgrave 2001, pp. 12-25). This is a very important distinction from the perspective of our study which aims at analyzing, besides the evolution of Romania’s foreign and security policy strategies from World War I to 1975 and the type of political, military and bureaucratic actor who played the most important role in defining and promoting these strategies, while also looking into the changes occurring at the level of the political, military, diplomatic and bureaucratic elites who debated, adopted and pursued a certain foreign and security strategy. Our supposition is that an important gap separated for instance in the Romanian foreign policy of the forth decade the promoters of a utopian line (among whom the most outstanding figure was Nicolae Titulescu who described himself as accomplisher idealist – “Realisierenden-Idealisten”) from the supporters of a realistic foreign policy line (the most important of whom was King Carol II). Each of these political lines has shown its limits and it seems that what Romania lacked during this decade was a good balance between realism and utopia. Personalities which can be presumed to number among the utopians such as Titulescu and I.G. Duca have considered that the fundamental institution around which the Romanian state was necessary to anchor its foreign policy was represented by the League of Nations and the Great Powers with the highest potential to guarantee its security architecture were the Western Powers of Britain and France. They believed there existed a universal or at least European morality (even a juridical one, as Titulescu believed, see Walter M. Bacon, Nicolae Titulescu si politica externa a Romaniei, 1933-1934, Institutul European, Iasi 1999) and that, therefore, this moral order must be taken into account when the foreign and security policy is defined and promoted. For instance, this was an important factor in Titulescu’s decision to take part in the sanctions imposed on Italy following its Etiopian adventure. Conversely, realistic personalities such as Gheorghe Bratianu, King Carol II, General Ion Antonescu have promoted the vision of a policy of adaptation to realities, starting from the consideration that dominant in the international relations was not order and morality but anarchy and interest. In-between the two paths, the foreign policy pursued by Armand Calinescu and Grigore Gafencu between spring 1938 and spring 1940 was a policy of adaptation to realities, maintaining however the trust in the potentiality of cooperation (at least regionally) in eliminating the danger of war in the south-eastern corner of Europe. The same applies of later stages of Romania’s foreign policy, especially in the 1960s.