George Friedman, President of Stratfor: “Russia is trying to manipulate the political process in Romania”
Russia, through its intelligence services, tries to manipulate the political process in Romania, as Moscow has an opportunity to establish a framework of influences in South-East Europe in the conditions in which Romania will not massively produce energy in the next two years, believes the president of the American analysis agency Stratfor, George Friedman, in an analysis published Tuesday following the visit which he recently made to Bucharest, analysis quoted by Hotnews.
“The Romanian view is that the Russians are extending their influence throughout the region, but particularly in Romania. They do it by the traditional means of using their intelligence services to try to manipulate the political process in Romania. As important, they can use commercial relations to weave networks of influence that are designed to make it costly for Romania to resist the Russians. The Russians are particularly adept at using Gazprom, its subsidiaries and other Russian energy companies to purchase and invest in Romanian and regional companies. The deals are never unattractive to either side in business terms, but they also serve to put the Russians in a position to shape both energy policy and political dynamics. This is what I call commercial imperialism: the use of deals, particularly in energy, to create blocking points within the political system when Russian interests are threatened. This is not confined to Romania; the Russians use this tool to shape the behavior of other countries. Though certainly far less unpleasant than Soviet occupation, it nevertheless poses a challenge to U.S. influence”, Friedman said, according to stratfor.com.
In his analysis “Borderlands: First Moves in Romania”, Friedman shows that European states, including Germany, depend on energy imports from Russia, which is Moscow’s sole real advantage in the power game of the region.
“There is no simple energy alternative to Russia, but one can be cobbled together from several sources, if not to replace Russian energy then to mitigate its power. Romania has energy and other resources to contribute to this, and the public statement issued by the United States and Romania included a commitment by Romania to focus on energy production as a critical element of the partnership. This is not as easy as it sounds. Romania has a reputation abroad for enormous complexity and unreliability in its permitting process”, he wrote in his analysis.
The American analyst says that the United States, through a massive export of oil, could bring its price down, which would diminish the sole advantage of Russia, the export of hydrocarbon.
“Their single advantage is energy exports, and that advantage depends on the world price of oil, where they make their real profits. They do not control that price and in the future it is possible that the United States, suddenly a massive producer of oil, will be pushing the price downward. If that happens, there is little left for them. But that won’t happen for a couple of years, if it happens at all. And the full strength of the United States will not be at Romania’s call for a few years, if it does become available. And Romania’s obligation to produce energy won’t manifest itself for a couple of years. So here in southeastern Europe, the Russians have a window of opportunity to create a framework that can withstand the winter that is coming. They cannot live without Ukraine. They cannot take Romania. With or without the Americans, the Russians aren’t strong enough for that. What they can do is manipulate, subvert, confuse and deflect. They need to undermine the Romanian entente with the United States, and they are skilled at the political maneuvering needed to do that. To many in Romania, Russia is near and strong, America far and indecisive. This was pointed out to me at one meeting. I replied: “In the 20th century, the United States have won three wars in Europe. How many have the Romanians won?”
Stratfor President George Friedman visited Romania on May 22. He met President Traian Basescu and Romanian Intelligence Service SRI Director George Maior.