The military conflict near the country's borders has brought the discussion about Romania's defensive capabilities back into focus, and now that Romania is about to celebrate its National Day on December 1st, the sovereignist propaganda resumed its discourse, announcing the systematic loss of state independence, this time symbolized by the fact that only foreign soldiers would participate in the December 1st parade. In reality, units of the partner armies, and not only from NATO, but even from the ex-Soviet space, are constantly invited to the parade.
NEWS: “The military parade on National Day will no longer be Romania's. The Ministry of Defense has decided to invite 600 NATO foreign soldiers to march in place of the Romanian Army. Reserve officers’ representatives say that it is a disgrace and this means that Romania no longer has an army, being also a clear signal that the territory of our country has been made available to NATO”.
NARRATIVE: Left without resources, capital, labor force and an independent justice, Romania has also lost its last bastion of sovereignty, the army.
CONTEXT: Ever since the days preceding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a string of disinformation regarding the Romanian army (which is allegedly preparing for war, mobilizing its reservists), as well as false narratives related to the defensive capabilities of the Romanian state (it has a weak army and obsolete equipment) have been released in the public space. Their intensification is, in fact, intended to discredit NATO and undermine the trust people have in it. Most of these pieces of disinformation and false narratives have been debunked in an interview for Veridica by the head of the Information and Public Relations Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Brigadier General Constantin Spînu. The information under discussion now is no exception, being just another piece in the disinformation puzzle originating in Moscow.
PURPOSE: To promote a sovereignist and anti-Western discourse, to undermine trust in NATO.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The December 1st military parade has been a constant in the events by which Romania celebrates its National Day, with the exception of 2020, when, due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it was cancelled. With the accession to NATO and the signing of other treaties and bilateral military partnerships, now foreign soldiers also participate in the parade alongside the Romanian armed forces, in an approach based on reciprocity. It is obvious, however, that the number of soldiers participating in the parades of other states is lower than that of the foreign soldiers who parade in Romania, because we are talking about a comparison between the forces generated by several states and the forces of a single country.
To state that “we no longer have troops” is obviously false information, as currently the Romanian army has approximately 75,000 active soldiers. Adding to that are some 55,000 paramilitary (mainly gendarmes), and the military reserve forces, approximately 50,000 strong. The statement “[...] Americans, French, Poles and those who are still around the country are now more than us” is equally absurd. The foreign military forces present on the territory of Romania account for no more than 5,000 people, and that in the context of the conflict in Ukraine. Before February 24, there were approximately 3,300 foreign soldiers in Romania. Poland, one of the states often given as an example of independence by the nationalist propaganda, hosted 10,500 foreign soldiers, but this fact did not seem to destroy Polish sovereignty at all in the eyes of the Romanian patriots.
Last but not least, the Government Decision referred to in the article in question approves the invitation of a maximum of 600 people who will be part of the detachments of the armies of NATO member states and partners. It is quite clear, we believe, that the imposition of a limit does not imply reaching it. And, since we are still talking about hundreds of people, we have as an example the 2019 parade, in which 500 soldiers from 21 allied or partner states participated. It is true, however, that at that time, not faced with either the pandemic or the war, nationalist propaganda had somewhat lost its momentum: in the absence of Russian aggression , three years ago it wouldn’t think of “us becoming a visible target for Russia” or that NATO troops parading in Romania would represent a challenge for Moscow.
Regarding the status of “territory occupied” by NATO forces, here we are dealing with a thesis promoted intensively by Russian and pro-Russian propaganda and it is a direct continuation of the Cold War theses regarding the usurping and exploitative West. Romania is the one that asked to be accepted into NATO and made a commitment that, as a member, it would accept and adopt the common rules for all member states. Although Romania's military and political strength is not as great as that of most member states (which may translate into less influence at the NATO level) it is, legally, a member that has exactly the same rights and obligations as and the others. It can be argued that, upon joining NATO, all countries surrendered part of their territory to NATO armies, but this is a voluntary act and not the consequence of a territorial invasion.