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RUMANIA: Carol the Cocky

3 minute read
TIME

King Carol II has expected a Soviet invasion of Rumania ever since the Russians took their cut of Poland. Reports from Rumania’s border province of Bessarabia indicated that Rumanian troops were actually being withdrawn. The only explanation was that the Rumanian General Staff considered that Bessarabia could not be successfully defended.

But that was before Finland. Last week the defense picture completely changed. The General Staff poured troops back into Bessarabia and rushed construction of border fortifications. King Carol took Premier George Tatarescu and most of his Cabinet by special train on a four-day Bessarabian inspection trip. In Chisinau, capital of the province, leaders of the Rus sian, Ukrainian and German minorities were brought around to meet His Majesty. They swore : “We pledge our lives for our beloved Rumanian fatherland!”

On Epiphany, when Rumanian Orthodox Church bishops “bless the waters,” Carol spoke. He virtually dared Stalin to cross the border. “When I set foot on the soil of Bessarabia, I feel I am entering not a country which has been attached to Rumania, but a country which was, is and always will remain Rumanian territory,” said the King.

“Rumania will fight as one living wall if we are invaded. Bessarabia will always remain Rumanian by the force of our arms.” Such words from the cautious Rumanian monarch came as a sensation to the scared Balkans. Carol had got so cocky that it was evident he had assurance of support from Britain and France, if not from Turkey. Meanwhile:

» The Rumanian Navy discovered that Russia’s Fleet was holding unscheduled maneuvers in the Black Sea off the Turkish and Bulgarian coasts. All Rumanian shipping promptly tied up in port.

» In Moscow, the Soviet Union signed with Bulgaria, most Pan-Russian and most dissatisfied Balkan State, a “trade and navigation” treaty. Bulgarian rice, hides, tobacco, rose oil are to be exchanged for agricultural machinery, fertilizer, chemicals, cellulose. A Soviet-Bulgarian shipping line will probably be opened between Odessa and Varna. Not overly important in itself, the treaty nevertheless gives the Bolsheviks a friend in the Balkans.

» In the Royal Danieli Hotel in Venice, around the corner from the famed Piazza di San Marco, Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano and Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Stephan Csáky held a two-day conference to discuss the Balkan-Russian problem. From Venice sickly Count Csáky was scheduled to go for a rest to San Remo. Instead, he suddenly returned to Budapest. From there it was reported that the Csáky-Ciano talks had developed into a serious discussion of a full-fledged Hungarian-Italian defensive alliance against not only Soviet Russia but Nazi Germany, Italy’s so-called Axis partner.

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