Romania, The Black Sea & Western Interests by Travis Brown

Romania, The Black Sea & Western Interests by Travis Brown

By Travis Brown
(This article was first published at LinkedIn Pulse)
The recent presidential election in Romania was full of epic violations. Midst a fledgling democratic society, young EU and NATO member state; Romania is still suffering Eastern Bloc growing pains from its 1989 revolution.
The following is a brief summary of Romania's 2014 presidential election within the context of Black Sea policy (Montreux Convention 1936) and why the West should be concerned.
During the Fall 2014 campaign and election, citizens took to the streets in protest domestically and in cities abroad. The result barely etched out in the people's favor, i.e., Klaus Iohannis the victor.
"In Romania, the promise of priority is economic and social development of all citizens, families and communities, and the Government is not on television, but in practice. (translation)"
Former democratic mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis won by a 54% margin. He was a part of the newly formed political party, the Liberal Christian Alliance (ACL). The sudden death overtime was only a small whisper in geopolitical news coverage. The question is why?
Granted, Romania is not typically in world news or TMZ for that matter, but it is a significant ally to the United States. Furthermore, it is a Black Sea nation that supports NATO endeavors.
The opposing party was the Social Democratic Party (PSD) who had chosen the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta as their candidate. The PSD has a lineage stemming back to the communist rule of Romania (Socialist Republic of Romania and “SovRom” agreements). The PSD was built as the disbanded communist officials re-assembled in new parties such as the National Salvation Front (FSN). The FSN was an interim government put into place after the USSR/Eastern Bloc's grip came to violent end.

Three Key Voting Violations In Romania's 2014 Election

Despite three key voting violations that should have had us all buzzing, the November 2014 elections were overshadowed by headlines such as: The Hong Kong Protests, The Ebola Outbreak (U.S. presence), ISIS, and Mexico's missing/murdered college students.
  1. Absentee/long distance voting was strategically hindered with long lines, limited polling locations, abrupt closures (limited voting time) and no mail-in or electronic ballot options. (See inCyprus, Reuters).
  2. The Prime Minister labeled Klaus Iohannis a foreigner based on his religion and genealogy. Iohannis is a born citizen of Romania, but the target of institutional, ethnic homogeneity. He is of the German-ethnic minority and not a parishioner of the majority's Romanian Orthodox Church. (See Baltic Worlds).
  3. According to statements that I received from locals, Victor Ponta gave stipends and bused his supporters to the polls.
How does rigging the votes work in this country? For starters, the Prime Minister is the office of authority that handles voting in Romania. Seeing how the Prime Minister was the socialist candidate for the election; can you hear The Church Lady (Dana Carvey) saying, "How convenient"? While running for the office of president, Victor Ponta controlled the polls.

The Turkish Straights and the Montreux Convention of 1936

With the recent acquisition of Crimea, Russia has increased its ports in the Black Sea. The waterway of the Turkish Straights could be more valuable to Russia than the Danish Straights via enclave, Kaliningrad Oblast. This interest is better depicted in the "annexation" time line reviewed later.

The Montreux Convention of 1936 is basically a Regional Trade Agreement (RTA) with plenty of peace and safety initiatives to entertain a later formed World Trade Organization (WTO). It regulates the Turkish Straights that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. In summary, the treaty and further 1982 amendments gave Turkey final say about the regulations for sea vessels during war or peacetime. Voting members must be a Black Sea nation and are allowed to present and negotiate policy change every five years.
According to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 63% of the worlds oil ships by maritime routes and is tabulated by a scale of million barrels per day. The Turkish Straights and Danish Straights are 2.9 and 3.3 million barrels per day respectively. Russia has over 50% of its budget revenues based upon oil and natural gas; export revenues are over 68% oil and natural gas.
The tabulation of the Turkish Straights is likely skewed due to data coming from the Eastern Bloc and counter data from Turkey showing its trade routes to be overcrowded and growing exponentially. Turkey has proposed to close the straights and create a new waterway that better protects its residential sprawl.
Russia has increased presence around the Black Sea via its joint efforts in annexations. This could result in more voting leverage for them in the Montreux Convention. A corroborating event showing this growing tension was issued by an independent Ukraine magazine citing: Turkey's Prime Minister threatened to close the Turkish Straights to Russia; an action that would stifle not only oil exports, but military-arms with Egypt and Syria.

Russian Growth: "Annexation" vs. Military Occupation

Way up high from the perspective of a NASA photograph, the Black Sea region can look beautiful and peaceful...and it is except for the conflicts of military annexation.
  1. 1990-1992 - Russia's military occupation of Moldova lead to a "vote" of independence for one of its regions, forming the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria). It is a de facto government not recognized by the UN. The history of the area is complicated. Romania and Moldova both having some claim to its origin as well as all three having been under USSR's influence at a previous time.
  2. 1992-1993 -The independent nation of Georgia was occupied by Russia's military, which supported the Abkhazia Conflict. The ultimate result was a "vote" for Abkhazia to secede from Georgia.
  3. 2008 - Russia and Abhkazia occupy the nation of Georgia and assist the annexation and de facto government of South Ossetia.
  4. 2014 -Russia's military occupation of East Ukraine leads to a "vote" of independence for Crimea. The United States and most of the UN members do not recognize the new de facto government.
Crimea's annexation and the recent sanctions upon Russia bring back Cold War flashbacks. If the Warsaw Pact and NATO were professional boxers, consider the current events as posturing for a rematch. The time line shows that Russia has been a busy party to new annexed territories surrounding the Black Sea. Was Romania a target during this past election? Who is next?

Conclusion: Romania and other Black Sea nations deserve our attention and media coverage. The Turkish Straights are a vital trade route and are likely under more pressure than what can be disclosed. What little we do know is already of concern. The Montreux Convention is a likely canary in the mine. Political posturing to amend this treaty will further indicate Russian expansion. Furthermore, Western allies of the Black Sea deserve our support and may be subject to additional military occupation and annexation.

Photo Credits: 1) Klaus Iohannis, public domain, featured on Facebook campaign site; 2) Romanian voters, featured at in Cyprus news; 3) Oil Maritime Trade Routes, public domain, featured at EIA.gov.

About Author: Travis primarily writes for Seeking Alpha. It is a platform for investment research, with broad coverage of stocks, asset classes, ETFs and investment strategy
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