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Hungary Table of Contents


Threat from Romania

During the 1980s, the Hungarian government broke its silence about Romania's oppression of its Hungarian minority, numbering about 2 million to 2.2 million people (see Relations with Other Communist Neighbors , ch. 4). Under Soviet pressure and for the sake of socialist solidarity, the Hungarian government had refrained from criticizing Romania, but increasing domestic pressure forced it to act.

As the war of words between the two countries heated up, so did the potential for armed conflict. In July 1989, Der Standard, published in Vienna, reported that a secret meeting of the Hungarian state and party leadership had taken place in November 1988 in which the military was asked to assess the strategic balance between Hungary and Romania. The resulting report, published in February 1989, revealed Hungary's "striking military inferiority." Hungary had no fortifications on its border with Romania, and in a private meeting Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu allegedly warned Karoly Grosz, Hungary's party leader, not to install such defenses. During the summer of 1989, Hungarian diplomats hinted at fear of attack by Romania. Der Spiegel, published in Hamburg, reported in July 1989 that Hungary felt threatened by the Condor intermediate-range missiles that Romania had acquired with "German and Argentine help." At a July 1989 Warsaw Pact meeting in Bucharest, Ceausescu was said to have threatened Hungary with war, although representatives of both countries agreed that steps had to be taken to stem the rising tension. Ironically, by this time the Hungarian opposition had stopped insisting that Soviet troops leave the country because they were seen to be the country's main protection against Romania.

Data as of September 1989