Romania edges towards the door

Romania’s PM Tariceanu announced yesterday that he wants to withdraw Romania’s troops from Iraq.

Right now here are about 900 Romanian soldiers there — one full battalion, with the catchy name of “The Red Scorpions”. They’re deployed in the Al-Nasyria area. They don’t do combat operations. There’s an intelligence team and some de-miners. 900 non-combat soldiers may not sound like a lot, but they made Romania the fifth largest member of the coalition (after the US, Britain, South Korea and Italy).

Why were they there? Well, Romania places a high value on the security relationship with the US. (A cynic might suggest that they’re keeping up the payments on their national security insurance policy.) The numbers involved are not large, Romanian casualties have been very light (one death in three years, to a roadside bomb), so up until now it hasn’t seemed like a very expensive investment on Romania’s part.

The withdrawal isn’t a done deal, BTW. PM Tariceanu must ask the Defense Council for permission; unlike a US President, he isn’t Commander in Chief of the armed forces. And President Basescu (who until recently was saying that the troops should stay “until democracy is established”) may yet weigh in.

From a little distance, I have the impression of a government edging cautiously towards the door, floating a trial balloon and waiting to see how everyone else reacts.

Note that the new government of Italy is sharply cutting Italy’s military commitment to Iraq; the troop count there has dropped from 2,700 to 1,600, and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema says all troops will be out by early 2007. That would leave the Poles (900 troops) and the Danes (550) as the only European countries other than Britain with significant numbers of troops in Iraq. (Hereby somewhat arbitrarily defined as more than 200 men. There are a dozen or so countries with 20 or 50 or 100 there.)

European countries that had significant troop levels in Iraq, but then left:

Spain — 1,300, left April 2004 (Zapatero government)
Hungary — 300, December 2004
Netherlands — 1,300, left March 2005
Ukraine — 1,600, left December 2005 (Yushchenko government)
Bulgaria — 460, left May 2006

So, there were nine (counting Britain); five have left, one looks getting ready to go, that would leave three.

No further comment, just taking note.

18 thoughts on “Romania edges towards the door

  1. Militarily, a lot of these contingents have been doing nothing to speak of except their area cleaning and perimeter guard since the first Shia rising. The exception is the Italians. Their sector – Nasiriyah – is very strategically valuable indeed, as it’s where the main supply route for the whole US Army in Iraq crosses the Euphrates (one may recall there was a fucker of a battle there in the original invasion, when the Saddam Fedayeen and SRG let the Marines take the bridges, then ambushed them in the town).

    In the Shia rising, while the Ukrainians were driven out of Kut and the Spaniards, Poles etc. holed up behind their wire, it was only the Italians out of the MNDSC who held their ground, specifically, the bridges at Nasiriyah.

    Fortuitiously, the Japanese engineer battalion in Samawah has just left, which means the Australian battle group that was providing security for them is now available to take over this crucial role.

  2. “(A cynic might suggest that they’re keeping up the payments on their national security insurance policy.)”

    I don’t see why this view would be cynic.

    The purpose of an nation’s armed services is just that: to provide security.
    And a government might well believe that turning Iraq into a stable democracy is an investment in international security.

  3. Florian, I think your missing the point. I think he’s suggesting that far more importantly than what happens in Iraq, Romania’s national security is enhanced by keeping on friendly terms with America.

  4. You’re not a cynic, USA is Romania’s friend, you don’t have any other choice when your country has previously been occupied by Russia. Yes, it’s payments on our national security and only an idiot wold not buy insurance in Romania or Poland’s case.

    I don’t believe Romania will withdraw the troups. The president is against it and for good reasons, the PM tries to gain political advantage by forcing the president to take a stand agains this. By they, in Romani the PM has no foreign policy prerogatives, only the president does so this is like I would propose to move the troups out. It has no effect unless the president backs it up.

  5. only an idiot wold not buy insurance in Romania or Poland’s case.

    Well, Finland and the Baltic states have small commitments or none.

    Also, Poland is already an EU member, while Romania is ooh! so close! but not quite there yet.

    the PM has no foreign policy prerogatives, only the president does

    Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that — IMS final authority rests with the Defense Council, which is (in theory) indepedent of both President and PM. But you’re right, Basescu’s position will make a huge difference.

    Doug M.

  6. Finland and the Baltic states have small commitments or none

    Considering population the initial Baltic contribution was roughly on the Romanian level. And of course, allies in the EU can pay their security contributions politically. Romania cannot.

  7. “Well, Finland and the Baltic states have small commitments or none

    Finland has none, and Estonia has about 100 troops in Iraq, iirc

  8. I have heard that the euro troops are so worthless that the americans and brits have just been putting them up in hotels lest they hurt someone or themselves with their own weapons. As an american ex-pat I get really angy when preachy euros defend their pacifism when the ability to be pacifist is largely based on the US military deterrent and paid for by the US taxpayer. Preach-on euroweanies. Not listening anymore. Incredible that some EU member states actually continue to disrupt peoples lives by drafting them into their useless militaries.

  9. What do you mean with European pacificm The EU spends about as much money as the rest of the world ex USA. Doubt we need any American deterrence to protect us.

  10. Sorry. It was just a bad joke stirred by the rivalry between the PM and the president. Now, the same rivalry made the president deny the withdrawal at any cost, just for the sake of not obeying to the PM. I think he would deny the withdrawal even if there would be no reason to keep the troops there and a thousand reasons to withdraw.
    Regarding the Romanian or Bulgarian or whatever contribution, there is a historical embarrassment in the American history. The US always needed to pretend they are not acting unilaterally, but leading a coalition. Of course, that will always be the coalition of freedom, or the coalition of justice, or the coalition of truth, because these guys are infallible, like the Pope. This war, as usually since WWII, has no support from almost any country that can pretend some legitimacy for its external relations (meaning that, even if they are written by a dictator, at least, it is a local dictator and not an echo for Condi Rice’s wishes). USA leaders think that, by packing some tens of nations like my Romania, the lie will not be that obvious. And, of course, the “coalition of truth” doesn’t make any real use of the inexperienced soldiers.

  11. > I have heard that the euro troops are so worthless

    Oh, bullshit.

    Cite for this? Eh, didn’t think so.

    > ability to be pacifist is largely based on the > US military deterrent

    1) Europe as a whole is the world’s third biggest military power after the US and China.

    2) Remind me again what the US military deterrent is supposed to be deterring, from a European POV. The Soviet threat?

    Man, there is some crazy out there.

    Doug M.

  12. “1) Europe as a whole is the world’s third biggest military power after the US and China.”

    Since when is “Europe” a military power?

  13. “Since 87 when the German and French shared an army.”

    Oh I see, so by “Europe” you mean the Franco-German alliance…around which the rest of the EU is supposed to revolve. How quaint of me to presume otherwise.

  14. Britain is a laky of the USA, Spain and Belgium joined Eurocorp somewhat later. Italy is Italy. Holland has issues with France though they share an army with the Germans and the rest don’t count.

  15. That’s nice, so “Europe” is to be defined by only the most stagnat and sclerotic of welfare-states, whilst all of the most vibrant, dynamic, and rapidly growing econimies in the EU “don’t count”? One does wonder how long that delusion can last.

  16. They don’t count because nobody lives in them. Luxembourg, Portugal, Ireland, Austria and Finland together are less than 20 million people

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