The December Revolt and the Coup D'Etat - 1989

Word Of Support From Moscow

There is strong evidence that Moscow at least supported the coup in the days before Ceausescu was executed and may have considered sending in troops to prop up the new government. In the weeks and days before the revolt and coup, the Soviet press continued to carry innocuous articles on Soviet-Romanian co-operation in various endeavors. However, Moscow's public posture towards Ceausescu changed almost immediately after the violence in Timisoara erupted. On 21 December, the day before Ceausescu departed from Bucharest, Politburo member Lev Zaikov called for the Romanian government to establish a dialogue with the Romanian people.144 That same day the Romanian service of Radio Moscow offered the Soviet Union's only firm denunciation of Ceausescu before his execution with a broadcast of an interview given by the Soviet historian Roy Medvedev portraying the Romanian government as 'totalitarian '.145

On the 22nd, the day that Ceausescu took flight from Bucharest, the Soviet government moved swiftly to affirm its support for the provisional government. That day the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies received a lecture by Gorbachev on events in Romania. It later voted in favor of a resolution outlining the USSR's 'resolute support for the just cause of the Romanian people'.146 One Soviet official is also reported to have expressed his country's commitment to preventing Ceausescu's return, but stated that he preferred the Romanian Army to restore stability on its own.147 The next day, however, the Soviet embassy in Bucharest reportedly responded positively to a request from the fledgeling government to provide military assistance.148 At that time Moscow was consulting other Warsaw Pact leaders to discuss how to respond to events in Romania. It seemed for a time that Moscow might actually carry through what it had only threatened to do in 1971,149 and that this time the Soviets would have the support of France and the United States.150 However, before the request was acted upon, General Stefan Gusa, then Chief of the General Staff of the Romanian Armed Forces, told Iliescu that the Army could deal with the situation. 151 The NSF reportedly then told Moscow that it could handle the situation on its own.152 It later emerged that the Soviets had, in fact, flatly rejected a request by the NSF for military intervention.153 Indeed, the former member of the CPSU Politburo and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolai Ryzhkov publicly rejected a military option during the crisis. 154 Gorbachev and Ryzhkov ultimately decided to offer the new government only medical supplies, munitions, and other types of assistance.155

Intelligence support did flow to the NSF from foreign sources. Some intelligence on troop movements was reportedly given to the Romanian revolutionary forces by Hungary.156 Moscow may have given intelligence information to the NSF, if not directly, then possibly via the Hungarian channel. One report by TASS included Soviet denials of a Romanian press report that the Soviet Army and KGB units had conducted radio-electronic 'sabotage' beginning on 19 December.157