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Robert D. Kaplan speaks about Romania’s history and significance within Europe

Robert D. Kaplan, best-selling author and Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, spoke at The Institute of World Politics on March 3 to discuss his new book In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond.

As Mr. Kaplan explained, this book is an unusual one for him. The reason is that his books almost always have a much broader geographical focus, but this one focuses on just one country. Romania, he felt, is the key to the complex history of the Balkans. His travels to Romania, from his first visit in 1981 to his most recent in 2014, let him to witness first-hand the change from a grim country still mired in the grips of a ruthless leader to a flourishing country with a bright future.

A large part of the talk was about how Romanians care about things that those in Western or Central Europe take for granted — that is, rule of law, transparent institutions, democratic governance, individual freedoms, and financial wellbeing. For many in the EU, those features are not groundbreaking, but for a country where “World War II didn’t end until 1989,” it is very significant.

Mr. Kaplan also focused on how much faith Romania has in American military initiative and leadership. As he said, “In pretty much any war-game scenario, it is almost always the U.S. Government leading NATO to action.”

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