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Détente and Beyond

Anglo-Romanian Relations in the Aviation Industry (1966-1993)


Mauro Elli

By the mid-1960s, the whole European aviation industry had begun looking at two main solutions in order to survive competition from the USA: European cooperation, and exports to markets still closed to the Americans. Against this background, Anglo-Romanian dealings in the aviation industry over a period of almost thirty years are a case of converging politico-military interests with major interpretative potential. This holds true for the history of East-West relations and infra-Western commercial competition, but also for the transformation of domestic decision-making patterns and the change in economic priorities. While Britain became Romania’s first commercial partner in order to offer a new outlet to the aviation industry, Bucharest was looking at the U.K. to pursue a strategy of industrial modernisation and political visibility. The story of their intersection sheds light on the lower-level reality of Détente in Europe. The degree of collaboration across the Iron Curtain was not just the product of a generally improved diplomatic atmosphere, but – at least in the present case – the result of a peculiar mixture of political ambition, economic viability, and technological expertise. Indeed, the change of economic paradigm in the UK (from Neo-Keynesianism to monetarist Neo-Liberalism), along with President Ceauşescu’s fixation with foreign debt, played a crucial role in the vicissitudes of Anglo-Romanian relations in the aviation industry in the period between the demise of Détente and the end of the Cold War. This points to a reasonably articulated model, which is hinged on the category of ‘transfer’, rather than on the category of ‘cooperation’.

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Chapter 3. Military Aviation: JUROM and Beyond


Chapter 3

Military Aviation: JUROM and Beyond

In 1987, in the well-known book Red Horizons, the former Acting Chief of the DIE (Departamentul de Informații Externe, Department of External Intelligence) and Ceauşescu’s close collaborator, Ion Mihai Pacepa, who had enjoyed political asylum in the United States for nearly a decade, revealed how, at a meeting in Brioni in 1973, Tito had proposed to the Romanian leader a secret partnership between the two countries for the development of a military aircraft to be exported to the Third World. The JUROM project, a name made up by the initials of the two countries, was supposed to benefit from Western aid thanks to the attitude maintained by Belgrade and Bucharest towards Moscow.1

Pacepa’s account is inaccurate and deliberately misleading, although it is true that the JUROM represented one of the most important elements of the Romanian-Yugoslav cooperation of that period.2 The project had originated years earlier and it formed part of the Romanian programme of recovery of its aviation industry, as devised in the late 1960s. As such, the JUROM project shows not only the relevance of Yugoslavia in the eyes of Ceauşescu’s Romania, but it also turns out to be the origin of a network of military aviation relations between London and Bucharest, which allow to gauge both the degree of impatience reached in the 1970s towards the constraints imposed on East-West trade, and – at the same time – the lasting effects of the...

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