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June 25, 2022

Tabloidisation of WikiLeaks in Romania

Whistleblower WikiLeaks has finally reached Romania on a fine Sunday afternoon, with the cablegrams disclosed by news agencies and newspapers bringing together nonce analysts always eager to give a more or less informed opinion in the late hours of the night.

In brief, the cablegrams, dating back to 2004-2009, make special reference to the political situation in Romania. Among other things, the cablegrams put together a ranking of local oligarchs and so-called barons, they cover President Basescu’s meeting with the FBI head, the impeachment of the president, Mircea Geoana’s relations with Moscow and businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vintu. At the same time, the documents dwell on a tensed discussion between Mircea Geoana and Basescu on Adrian Nastase’s judicial cases, Viorel Hrebenciuc’s attempts to prevent the impeachment of the president, compromising files on Dan Voiculescu, the comments on Vasile Blaga who was opposing PDL’s alliance with PSD in 2009, as well as the organised crime in Romania or the issues with the Cernavoda nuclear power station.

The actually serious matters highlighted in the documents might be the nuclear power station, the infiltration of the state by the organised crime, the energy sector’s sensitivity to corruption and influence peddling. For the rest, we can only be surprised by how inclined towards tabloid subjects these cablegrams are. It is as if we were listening to small gossiping spiced up with statements posing major suspicion of subjectivism. We watch a collage of dishonouring events, a sequence of ‘betrayals’ and stigmatisations based on internal data, of more or less inspired classifications (is Gigi Becali really one of the big moguls who manipulate Romania?!), manipulation, obscure dialogues, self-characterisations (former PSD leader Mircea Geoana: ‘I am number one’), boudoir gossip, etc.

When drawing the line, we do learn a few things but these things are not confirmed.

On the one hand, we see that Romanian politicians have inherited the appetence for ‘complaining’ to the US from the Middle Age boyars who were always turning to the Ottoman Porte when the Romanian principalities were under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. That is where Romanian rulers were being decided, where wars were started or ended and where people were beheaded. On the other hand, politicians from the entire political spectrum fully demonstrate that they have inherited the talent of former Securitate informants. The addressee may be different, but the style is still the same.

We also learn that ‘nothing is what it seems’. That Geoana negotiated with Basescu, Hrebeciuc with Elena Udrea, that Geoana was using Vintu’s plane, that the president was blackmailing PSD about Adrian Nastase’s legal cases and that the nouveau riche of Romania have a certain inclination towards Russia. There is also a phantasmagorical cablegram from the US Embassy in Kiev called ‘Ukraine/Moldova: Transdniester and causes of bilateral irritation,’ ending with the possibility of a unification of Romania with R. Moldova in a supra-national structure the name of which would have been ‘Romanova’ (!)

As far as President Traian Basescu is concerned, we find out what we already knew or suspected. ‘President Basescu was in control of the security services’ and he could gather proof of PSD’s mistakes just to be able to humiliate the opposition party before the presidential election. The fact that the head of state is the ‘Americans’ man’ we learn from the cablegram telling us that, as long as he is the president, Romania will not buy European air fighters, that he wants the FBI to be more involved in Romania as CIA is, that he is the man of the US on the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) and his absence from the meetings could hurt Washington’s interests. It is exactly what a journalist was disclosing after a discussion with the president a few years ago, when Traian Basescu reportedly said that he preferred to…have a certain intimate relationship with the big glow worm rather than having relationships with several smaller glow warms (the European allies).

All in all, the selection of cablegrams published in the Romanian media is of a nature to seriously harm the image of Mircea Geoana, Viorel Hrebenciuc, Marian Vanghelie, the Social-Democrats in general, former Liberal PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, Democrat-Liberal Vasile Blaga, the current Romanian magnates. On the other hand, apart from the confirmation of the fact that President Traian Basescu is a supporter of Washington at all levels, plus a few spicy suggestions regarding his relations with Elena Udrea and other people in PDL, all the disclosures about the president serve him more than they harm him. Romanians are too insensitive to political blackmail, especially one against PSD (see the threats regarding Nastase’s files), to the using of state institution for political gains (a well-known thing anyway) or personal relations. Therefore, the tabloidised cablegrams ‘leaked’ via WikiLeaks depict the following situation after the last election: Romanians made the best possible choice at that time.

Something a columnist states in a newspaper supporting the power therefore seems rather odd: ‘What Basescu’s opponents hope to achieve is to torpedo Romania’s good relations with the US in order to deprive him of his support in Washington.’ We do not now what cablegrams the gentleman read, but, as I was saying, the president’s opponents have been rumpled the most in this whole affair. But, as we have got used to, the tactic of self-victimisation is specific of Traian Basescu and his supporters employ it just as successfully. As a matter of fact, one of the cablegrams shows that ‘Basescu’s methods were always the same – demonise your opponents and make sure no leader will rise in your party.’
Let us therefore have no regrets – this is the wisdom that we can extract from Sunday and Monday ‘variety shows’. And, if we were to compare the statements regarding the trucks loaded with mobile phones, prepared by Marian Vanghelie (PSD) to be offered as electoral bribe with the spicy information on the divorce of various celebrities these days, the comical effect is quite the same. But maybe that was the whole idea: turn everything into the derisory, make serious information look shallow. By the way, we cannot help noticing that the US diplomats in Bucharest have a lot of spare time on their hands, as long as they so eagerly deal with subjects of pure delation, without relevance, from journalists, first-class or second-class politicians.

But there is also a serious factor in this whole WikiLeaks cablegram debate. Reading the reactions of readers posted on the websites of the various Romanian newspapers, anyone will be terrified to see just how divided the Romanian society is and how much passion it puts into all subjects. Some people would like the protagonists to be immediately arrested, some would like vengeance, the isolation of the ‘communists’ or, on the contrary, the punishment of the president over his derailments. Once again we realise that Romania in the year of grace 2011, is just as divided as the one during Ion Iliescu’s presidency. Then, the ‘anti-communists’ were fighting with the ‘communists’, today the pro-Basescu people are wrestling with the anti-Basescu lot.

If that was the intention with the cablegrams, the success is guaranteed.

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