Romania was officially recognized as an ally of the Entente at the end of December 1918 by France, Great Britain, Italy and the US, just a few weeks before the beginning of the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919.
The decision of the Russian Bolsheviks to conclude peace with the Central Powers, at the end of 1917, exposed Romania to a dramatic situation. Surrounded by enemies, with no possibility to be resupplied by its allies in the Entente, Romania had to either continue the war with the Central Powers by itself or, as it happened, to try to negotiate a cessation of hostilities. The extremely harsh terms of the peace imposed on Romania, through the treaty signed in Bucharest (May 7th, 1918), dismayed not only the Romanians (the country, practically, lost its independence), but it also was a red flag for the Entente: the war had to end with Allied victory. However, Romania’s decision to exit the war would provoke some negative reactions among the Allies.
The re-entry of Romania into the war
Drained by years of war and under the military and economic pressure of the Entente, the Central Powers began to collapse one after the other in the second half of 1918. Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on September 29th in Thessaloniki. It was followed by Austria-Hungary, which concluded an armistice with the Allies in Padua on November 3rd, and Germany on November 11th in Compiegne. The end of the war found Romania again firmly in the camp of the Entente. Following suggestions and pressures from French General Henri Berthelot, King Ferdinand of Romania ousted the pro-German government that made peace with the Central Powers, led by Alexandru Marghiloman, with a government headed by General Constantin Coandă, who declared war on Germany on November10th, 1918.
On December 14th, 1918, King Ferdinand appointed Ionel Brătianu to head the government. The news was not well received by the Allies, as they would have preferred Take Ionescu at the Peace Conference as a negotiating partner.
The US: The Romanian government was once more at war with Germany, prior to the signing of the November 11th armistice
The Entente (France, Great Britain, Italy and the US) officially recognized Romania’s status as an allied country the end of December 1918 and the beginning of January 1919. The US Secretary of State Robert Lansing wrote to Congress: “On November 9th, 1918, the Romanian Government, after informing the Allies, ordered the German army to leave its territory in twenty-four hours. This did not happen. The Romanian army was mobilized on the night of November 9th, with hostilities beginning and continuing until all German armies were taken prisoner of war or driven out of Hungary. The Romanian government, as stated above, decreed the mobilization on November 9th; thus, the Romanian government was once more at war with Germany, prior to the signing of the armistice on November 11th (…). My conviction is that the King of Romania never signed the Treaty of Bucharest and that the Treaty was never promulgated. I am informed that, in accordance with Romanian law, no treaty is valid until it has the royal signature. Considering the fact that the Allied governments never recognized the Treaty of Bucharest, that its validity is doubtful and that through the armistice the Germans were forced to denounce the treaty and that, from the point of view of the associated governments, Romania’s status is the same as if the treaty would never have been concluded, I consider that Romania was at war with Germany and should be considered as a cobelligerent in the documents of the Congress”.
The Entente allowed all nations that had made “heavy sacrifices for the Allied cause” to participate in the proceedings of the Paris Peace Conference, but access to small states, including Romania, was to be limited to discussions on their own interests.
Margaret MacMillan, Făuritorii păcii. Șase luni care au schimbat lumea [Peace makers. Six months that changed the world], Trei Publishing House, Bucharest, 2018.
Glenn E. Torrey, România în Primul Război Mondial [Romania in the First World War], Meteor Publishing House, Bucharest, 2014.
Robert Gerwarth, Cei învinși. De ce nu s-a putut încheia Primul Război Mondial, 1917-1923 [The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923], Litera Publishing House, Bucharest, 2017.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa