Courtesy Reuters

Is Bessarabia Next?

WITH the dramatic shift of Soviet foreign policy from an ostensible line of "peace and democracy" to one of territorial aggrandizement the future of Bessarabia becomes again a matter for prognostication. Speculation has been intensified by a mysterious episode of December 6, 1939, when a leading Moscow periodical published a bitter attack on Rumanian rule in Bessarabia, only to be disavowed promptly by an official communiqué. But the political augurs are far from unanimous as to the direction which the new Soviet policy will take in that corner of Europe. Some Balkan observers foresee a new Russian attack on Bessarabia, both as a means of recovering territory lost in 1917 and as a step towards Istanbul and the Straits. According to another school of diviners, Hitler and Stalin have already decided, as a corollary to the Soviet-German Pact of August 1939, on the partition of Rumania, with Bessarabia and perhaps Bucovina staked out as the Soviet share. Still other commentators are convinced that, in order to ensure an uninterrupted supply of Rumanian materials, especially of oil, Germany has secretly guaranteed Rumania's integrity against Soviet attack. The only public guarantee which Rumania has received is that of England and France, and it is presumably directed, like the guarantee to Poland, against Germany alone. Bucharest is supposed to have sought, so far in vain, for a guarantee from Turkey and from the Balkan Entente as a whole.

Guarantees or no guarantees, Bessarabia seems likely to live up to its reputation as one of the most contested areas of Europe. After several centuries as part of the principality of Moldavia under Ottoman suzerainty, Bessarabia was ceded to Russia in the Russo-Turkish treaty of 1812. In the Treaty of Paris of 1856 the southwestern districts (indicated on the map) were returned to Moldavia and thus came to form a part of the united principality of Rumania; in 1878 the Congress of Berlin handed them back to Russia over the protest of Rumania, which was forced to accept northern Dobruja in compensation. During

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